13-year-old Apex student records billfish grand slam

tstevens@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2013 

Front to back George Powell Jr., Will Kilpatrick, mate Michael Bradshaw and mate Ryan Powel with one of Will's catches.


Will Kilpatrick, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Apex Middle School, caught a blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish on June 22 during his first deep sea fishing trip.

He is the third person from North Carolina to record the billfish grand slam, according to the International Game Fish Association, whose records go back to the 1964. A grand slam consists of catching three different species of billfish in the same day.

“Catching those three specific species of fish, whether you are a novice or an experienced fisherman, is extremely rare,” said Jack Vitek, the world record administrator at the IGFA. “To do that on your first day of deep sea fishing is incredible.”

Russell Nelson is a scientist with the Billfish Foundation, a conservation organization. He said he had never heard of a first-timer coming close to a grand slam.

“I know of an awful lot of billfish fishermen who are 40 or 50 years older who are working on getting a lifetime grand slam,” Nelson said.

Will got his chance because he made good grades last year.

George Powell Sr. of Virginia Beach, Va., had taken Will duck hunting around Currituck as a part of a youth day hunt and promised that they’d go fishing on Powell’s boat, Friendship, if Will improved his grades. Will made the honor roll.

“I was a little worried about being seasick until I got on the boat,” Will said. “But once we got out on the water I decided it was like a roller coaster, only slower. I like roller coasters. I was fine.”

Powell pulled away from the Hatteras dock with Will, Powell’s 6-year-old son George Powell Jr., and Ryan Powell (Powell’s nephew) and Michael Bradshaw. Since it was Will’s first trip, they agreed that he’d do most of the fishing.

The ride to the fishing grounds took about three hours, but they almost immediately hooked a dolphinfish, known as mahi mahi and not to be confused with the porpoise-like mammal. Will, who has done a lot of freshwater fishing, wound the fish in and thought it had been a successful day.

Minutes later, a blue marlin weighing an estimated 200 to 250 pounds hit. Will was strapped into the fighting chair and taught how to lean back and lean forward, winding in the line as quickly as he could.

“I was really fatigued,” Will said. “I got tired. They said, ‘That’s a big one. He ain’t no sardine.’ ”

He got the fish to the boat, the hook was removed, and the fish freed.

Will was so tired that he wasn’t interested in reeling in the next dolphinfish so little George landed about a 30-pounder. “It was bigger than mine,” Will said.

About that time, a Hatteras charter boat, Native Son, reported on the radio that it had seen six marlin at another location, and the Friendship headed that way.

As they trolled, Will noticed the Friendship had several lines out and asked Powell what they would do if more than one fish bit at the same time. “Catch more than one at a time,” Powell answered.

Within minutes, the Friendship had four white marlin hooked. Little George, Will and Bradshaw landed fish in the 60 to 80-pound range after the marlin had made several leaps. “They were jumping around,” Will said.

“About the time we got the baits back in the water, a pair of sailfish appeared and we hooked them, too,” Powell said.

Will was tired, but took the rod, bringing in a sailfish of about 40 to 60 pounds in about 10 minutes.

“I am not really sure he knew what he had accomplished,” Powell said. “To get a personal grand slam is a fantastic lifetime achievement and to do it your first time offshore is unheard of.

“I am 33, and have fished my whole life for marlin around the world, and it is my first (captain’s) grand slam.”

They fished a while longer, hoping for another blue marlin to give little George a grand slam, too, but went in when the ocean got rougher.

Will immediately fell asleep. “I was tired,” he said.

As they neared the docks, Powell explained what Will had done and that they’d have a lot of paperwork to fill out.

“Then he told me that even though we’d fill out the papers, it really wouldn’t be really official until they threw me into the creek,” Will said. “So Mr. George and Ryan took my shoulders and feet and threw me in.”

Mike Kilpatrick, Will’s dad, said he expects the day to be registered with the IGFA, which is headquartered, along with the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, in Dania Beach, Fla. Approval is pending.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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