The REEL Magnolias

25th Annual KWLA Tournament Winners

“We felt God’s hand on this from the beginning. It was like everything fell into place so beautifully. We’ve all had a really tough few years, and this was just what we needed to show that there is nothing we can’t overcome. To show that there must be darkness in order to see the light.” Alli

The REEL Magnolias, sailing on the CAN DO TOO, are the official winners of the 25th Annual KWLA Tournament (the number one marlin fishing tournament in the world.) After two incredible hooks, a 400lb marlin caught by Hunter Gentel and a 750lb marlin caught by Meredith Spears Hinton, the team took the top spot in both the Level I and Level III Release WTA Division. They fought like girls and took home a whopping $108,800!

The team consisted of an incredible group of women: Hunter Gentel, Meredith Hinton, Emily Payne, Sarah Beth Overton, Andrea Terrill, and resident Allison Terrill. We had the opportunity to speak with Meredith and Alli about their experience, and this with what they had to say.

Tell us what led you to enter this tournament!

Meredith: I took part in this contest a few years ago and have wanted to do it again. I posted on the website a while back that we had a team, but we did not have the boat. Three weeks ago, Sid Gold, owner of the CAN DO TOO, gave me a call, held a quick interview, and told us to come on down. 

Alli: Meredith called Andi and me (they have been best friends since college) and told us that we had to meet her in Morehead City and join their Lady Angler team. We had no idea what we were getting into and asked questions until we were blue in the face, but Meredith knew that we were coachable and determined – exactly what they needed.

Ok, spill. Tell us everything about the tournament!

Meredith: So the way it works is similar to a batting lineup – the strongest anglers go first. Hunter, who was fishing in honor of her dear friend Rhona Howell who passed away from breast cancer, was first up. We said a prayer, she cast her line, and the moment we said “amen,” there was a bite.

Alli: I’m telling you, God’s hands were all over this. Many of us have an app that gives us a daily scripture, and the one for that day was Isaiah 43: “I will be with you in deep waters.” Hunter was able to reel in her 400lb marlin in 40 minutes.

Meredith: I was up next. Similar to Hunter’s story, the minute we said “amen,” there was a bite on my line. I needed all the prayers to get this bad boy in. The first time the marlin broke the surface, the crew said it looked like a plane crashed into the water from its size – it was huge. 

Alli: Another rule is that the angler that gets the bite has to be the one to reel it in, or it won’t count. No hand-offs. Our Captain (Captain Skip) said to me, “if she pulls this in, you’ll win.” I asked him two questions. First, how confident was he in that statement? Second, can I tell her this? They didn’t want to psych her out, but I knew that would be a huge motivator for her. 

Meredith: Our team has the best cheerleaders. They got me through. Then Alli yelled, “Meredith, you’ve got this. Don’t give up. If we get it in, we will win!” So that’s what I did. I reeled in a 750lb marlin in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Alli: Captain Skip said that he was going to talk about Meredith every day for the rest of his life. Sid was even tempted to change his boat name to the “Miss Meredith!”

The whole time, we were fueled by chicken salad and pimento cheese from the Friendly market (a delicious, family-owned market in Morehead City), a powerful playlist, and our beautiful tribe. We came. We saw. We conquered. It was the adventure of a lifetime.