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Coastal sports tradition sails on (one week late)

October 23, 2007

Coastal Carolina University has two traditions unique in American collegiate sports. The oldest of these, now in its sixth decade, 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, now it its fourth decade.

Chanticleer, the Chaucerian 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 Coastal has faced over the years. The university's college fishing match, first run in 1974, has been featured in The New York Times as well as in Field & Stream and Salt Water Sportsman magazines.

The 34th Annual Coastal Carolina Invitational, still the only and certainly the oldest college fishing match in the United States, will be held Friday, Nov. 2 (one week later than originally scheduled, due to bad weather) out of Captain Dick's Marina in Murrells Inlet. (There were two matches in one year, which is why the math isn't exact.)

Clemson University and the University of South Carolina (the defending champion) will again be the guests of Coastal Carolina University with an assist from Captain Dick's Marina. Capt. Jack Orr will be the students' guide, skippering the "New Inlet Princess."

Northern schools Yale University and Western Ontario participated for the first two decades of the Invitational when it was a three-day match with seminars on angling. Japan University also sent a team one year. But the Invitational was switched to a two-day affair in the mid 1980s to make it more manageable, and that cost the tournament the participation of the Ivy League and Canada. In those days the event was the guest of the Leroy Springs Company at Springmaid Resort in Myrtle Beach. (One of the advantages of Springmaid was that on a bad day for offshore fishing, the collegians could catch spot off Springmaid Pier.)

The Coastal Carolina Invitational is also unique in that all the teams fish from one headboat, drifting live 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.

The tournament is open to male and female students, graduate and undergraduate. Past tournaments have honored the memory of Coastal Carolina fishermen including Gov. Carroll Campbell and professors John Scalf and Don Kelley, who coached teams from UNC-Wilmington and Francis Marion University, 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, professor of biology at Coastal, has been the judge for all the tournaments. Donald Millus, professor of English at Coastal, started the tournament when he first joined the Coastal faculty in 1974 with help from Moore and Mitch Godwin of Conway National Bank. The Coastal Educational Foundation provides financial support.