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Coastal tradition keeps making history

October 19, 2006

Coastal Carolina University has two traditions unique in American collegiate sports. The oldest of these, now in his 50th year, is its mascot, Chanticleer. Not far behind in both age and fame is the Coastal Carolina Invitational, the nation's oldest intercollegiate fishing match and seminar.

Chanticleer, the super stud rooster who quotes from the classics and learns from his mistakes, has been written up in USA Today and in the hometowns of every college athletic team that Coastal has faced over the years. The school's college fishing match, first run in 1974, has been written up in The New York Times, as well as in Field & Stream and Salt Water Sportsman magazines.

The 33rd Annual Coastal Carolina Invitational, still the only and certainly the oldest college fishing match in the United States, will be held Oct. 27 out of Murrells Inlet.

South Carolina, Clemson and Francis Marion will again be the guests of Coastal Carolina with an assist from Captain Dick's Marina in Murrells Inlet in this tournament which is now in its fourth decade. (There were two matches one year, which is why the math isn't exact.)

Yale University and the University of Western Ontario participated for the first two decades of the Invitational when it was a three-day fishing match with seminars on angling. It was switched to a two-day affair in the mid 1980s to make it more manageable, and that cost the Invitational the participation of the Ivy League and Canada. In those days, the tournament was the guest of the Leroy Springs Company at Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach.

The Coastal Carolina Invitational is unique in that all the teams fish from one headboat, drifting live or frozen baits anywhere from 16 to 35 miles offshore. King mackerel move inshore in early fall, and the catches can be extraordinarily good, with up to 55 kings being taken on one trip. Student anglers and their coaches -the latter are allowed to fish'- average over a dozen kings per trip.

In addition to the kings, the participants bottomfish for black seabass and take an occasional grouper. The bottom fish are filleted, the kings steaked, and the traditional awards dinner at the Hot Fish Club in Murrells Inlet features fried blackfish for the first course, and blackened and grilled king steaks for the main course.

Eligibility for the tournament is open to male and female students, graduate and undergraduate. Tournaments have honored the memory of Coastal Carolina fishermen including the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, and professors John Scalf and Don Kelley who coached teams from UNC-Wilmington and Francis Marion, respectively.

Prizes for the student anglers everyone gets something include rods and reels, fishing knives, tackle boxes, line, and hooks supplied by leading manufacturers. Richard Moore of Coastal has been the judge for all the tournaments. Donald Millus, professor of English, started the Coastal Carolina Invitational when he first moved to Conway in 1974 with help from Moore and Mitch Godwin of Conway National Bank. The Coastal Educational Foundation provides financial support.