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 1964. A grand slam consists of catching three 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.
Kilpatrick got his chance because he made good grades last year.
George Powell of Virginia Beach, Va., had taken Kilpatrick duck hunting around Currituck as part of a youth day hunt and promised him that they’d go fishing on Powell’s boat, Friendship, if Kilpatrick improved his grades. Kilpatrick made the honor roll and they arranged a fishing trip.
“I was a little worried about being seasick until I got on the boat,” Kilpatrick 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 Kilpatrick, Powell’s 6-year-old son George Powell, and mates Ryan Powell (Powell’s nephew) and Michael Bradshaw. Because it was Kilpatrick’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 in restaurants. Kilpatrick, 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 300 pounds hit. Kilpatrick 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,” Kilpatrick 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.
Kilpatrick was so tired that he wasn’t interested in reeling in the next dolphin, so little George landed about a 30-pounder. “It was bigger than mine,” Kilpatrick 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 toward the other boat.
As they trolled, Kilpatrick 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 said.
Within minutes, the Friendship had four white marlin hooked. Little George, Kilpatrick and Bradshaw landed fish in the 200-pound range after the marlin had made several leaps. “They were jumping around,” Kilpatrick said.
“About the time we got the baits back in the water, a pair of sailfish appeared and we hooked them, too,” Powell said.
Kilpatrick was tired, but took the rod again, bringing in a sailfish of about 100 to 150 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 headed in when the ocean got rougher.
Kilpatrick immediately fell asleep. “I was tired,” he said.
As they neared the docks, Powell explained what Kilpatrick 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,” Kilpatrick said. “So Mr. George and Ryan took my shoulders and feet and threw me in.”
Mike Kilpatrick, Will’s dad, said he expects the extraordinary day to be registered with the IGFA, which has its headquarters, along with the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, in Dania Beach, Fla. Approval is pending.