Joe Gittinger of Dunn Loring places first in historical first known fishing tournament in the country to offer a designated cash purse for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He collected $250 with the 1st place prize of the Travis Smith Special Angler Award. The designated cash purse was added to this year’s Lancaster County Little
League Spanish Mackerel tournament on Saturday, Aug. 24th. The tournament is based in Kilmarnock, Va., located in Virginia’s Northern Neck, with 56 vessels competing in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Joe, along with his father Bruce Gittinger, competed for over $35,000 in prize money aboard the Liquid Assets II (LA 2), a 46’ vessel captained by Billy Pipkin and mated by his son Billy Pipkin, Jr. His mother, Jone Gittinger, was also on hand dockside dispatching leader board updates from the weigh station at the Chesapeake Boat Basin.
Joe is a 2013 graduate of the Options program at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, where he excelled in a number of sports that included soccer, basketball and track and field. Although he came into the tournament with little saltwater fishing experience, he quickly caught on to the nuances of landing Spanish mackerel.
He and his family declared in May for the Liquid Assets II team, sponsored by Fish Dispatch USA. They competed alongside four other families with special needs children. The Gittingers having been hosted for the tournament weekend by a family in White Stone, Va., had to awake at 5 a.m. Saturday morning for a clandestine departure at 6:15 a.m. from the Ingram Bay Marina located in Wicomico Church.
THE SPECIAL ANGLER TEAM, loaded with pre-tournament fish catch intelligence data, had kept the departure location secret to avoid tipping off other competitors that large schools of mackerel were available just south of the Smith Point Lighthouse near the mouth of the Potomac River.
Early catches of Spanish mackerel and bluefish were made by the team.
Captain Billy Pipkin reported that “The team had to overcome early obstacles that most novices experience They made great strides in learning how to catch and carefully reel in mackerel without losing them.”
Although the historical feat seemed all but certain by 9 a.m., the team continued to compete for additional catches and prize money up until the 3 p.m. deadline. They also created a bit of additional drama. By 3 p.m. the Liquid Assets II was still near the mouth of the Potomac River, some 15 miles away from the official tournament weigh station in Kilmarnock. The entire success of the effort was now totally upon the LA II crew to get the vessel to the dockside weigh station. Having undergone a recent $34K + overhaul of the Caterpillar engine the previous week, the LA II, whose engine was not fully broken in, was not permitted to run full steam. Captain Billy Pipkin called in to say that arrival by the deadline would be “touch and go.” With a raucous crowd having formed on the docks, the LA II cruised in past the designated Boat Basin buoy with no more than five minutes to spare.
BY SEVEN O’CLOCK that evening, four Special Anglers would receive the coveted tournament award plaques: Gittinger, 1st (1.45 lbs, $250), Sarah Capp of Centreville (1.40 lbs, $150), Jessica Dietrichson of Dumphries, Va., 3rd (1.35 lbs, $100), and Tasha Adkins-Blanch of Arlington (1.2 lbs, $100).