By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The Ladies Kingfish Tournament (LKT) Bay and Offshore grand champions had one thing in mind after they collected their trophies on Sunday afternoon: sleep.
Ericka Kinney, the Offshore Grand Champion, and Kelsey Garcia, the Bay Grand Champion were all smiles during the awards luncheon. When asked how they would celebrate their wins, both women laughed, saying they were looking forward to taking a nap.
“It was a great tournament,” said Kinney, of Port Mansfield. “You don’t know how fun it is until you actually get out there and try it. And once you get out there, you’re hooked,” she said.
Kinney, who has been fishing LKT for seven years, described the moment she brought in the last species of fish she needed to try for Grand Champion, saying, “We thought it was a blackfin (tuna), it was fighting so hard. And we brought it in and saw it was a bonita and not a blackfin. And it was so big!”
“But once we got it in the boat and saw it was a bonita, we were ecstatic,” she said. Kinney took home a first place trophy for the bonita, which weighed in at 23.65 pounds and measured 30.5 inches long.
For Kelsey Garcia, winning grand champion was a pleasant surprise. A Harlingen resident, Garcia has been fishing LKT for20 years, she said. This was her first time earning the Bay Division’s top prize. “I was shocked, completely shocked, but it was an amazing feeling,” she said.
Part of the thrill of competing comes from trying to figure out where the fish are biting, Garcia said. “You never know where the fish are. You’re constantly looking for fish. They move and you just have to go find them,” she said. But fishing is also an escape. “Being on the water is one of the most peaceful experiences that you’ll ever experience and makes all your worries go away,” she said.
Garcia plans to return to LKT next year. “I’ve got a title to defend,” she said with a laugh.
This year’s tournament marked the 34th time the all-women’s event took place. A total of 303 anglers registered to compete — 55 more anglers than in 2014, according to a statement released by the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce. Of those anglers, 193 fished the Bay and 110 competed in the Offshore division. The anglers fished from 102 boats.
Bay anglers competed to draw in the largest redfish, trout and flounder. The angler who brought in all three species with the highest combined weight was named Bay Grand Champion. Offshore anglers battled to bring in kingfish, bonita, blackfin tuna and dolphin, with the angler hauling in the highest weight of all four species combined being named the Offshore Grand Champion.
Garcia, who won the Bay division with a total weight of 12.5 pounds, also took home a second place trophy for redfish, with a catch that weighed 7.65 pounds and was 27 and 3/4 inches in length. She fished aboard the boat, Tail Chasers, with Charlie Buchen.
Kinney also earned trophies for kingfish (4th place: 31.7 pounds, 48 and 1/8 inches) and dolphin (2nd place: 5.1 pounds, 25 inches). Kinney fished aboard the Bamm Bamm with Chad Kinney.
Trophies were presented to the top four finishers in each species. Winning anglers were presented with a trophy containing original artwork specific to the species they won. The artwork was created by local artist, Dinah Bowman.
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