Outer Banks boat-building innovator Paul Spencer receives 2023 IGFA Tommy Gifford Award

Outer Banks boat-building innovator Paul Spencer receives 2023 IGFA Tommy Gifford Award

October 26th, 2023

Famed Outer Banks boat builder Paul Spencer has been honored by The International Game Fish Association as a member of the Tommy Gifford Award Class of 2023.

Spencer began his career in the industry at the age of 12, working during the summer as an offshore mate.

Raised on the waters of the Atlantic, throughout his youth he gained offshore experience from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, and earned his captain’s license at 19 years old.

Paul Spencer [courtesy IGFA]
Following a decade of running one of the best charter operations at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, Spencer and his wife, Shelly, set out to modernize the world of boat building in 1996 with the founding of Spencer Yachts.

Drawing on his years of charter boat experience, Paul’s boats marry function and performance with elegant “Carolina Style” craftsmanship.

Spencer 70′ – Hull #226 – Critical Mass

Spencer Yachts has become known for being progressively innovative and masterfully crafted fishing yachts. Shelly was the original bookkeeper for the company. She developed some of the systems that are still in place at the company today.

Paul and Shelly have been married for over 50 years, they have five children, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild (to date). [courtesy SpencerYachts.com]

The result is the world-renowned Spencer Yachts, recognized for their “Carolina Style” craftsmanship and unmatched sport fishing performance.

Spencer Boats operates two main facilities, with hulls constructed in Manns Harbor and then transported to Wanchese for completion.

The Manns Harbor facility has five bays reserved entirely for new hull construction, where cold molding method is used.

They have six more construction bays and 12 docking slips in Wanchese to enable rapid completion. Also located on site is an in-house paint shop, a metal machine shop, and a carpenter’s shop to accommodate custom specifications.

The award is named for Tommy Gifford (1896-1970) considered one of the most innovative bluewater anglers who ever lived, and one of the greatest charter skippers to guide anglers to the major game fishes of the sea. 

Gifford was the first to use spreader outriggers on the U.S. East Coast and the first to catch an Atlantic blue marlin with the new devices.  

Over his 50-year career, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of game fish and techniques to catch them, and he served as guide and consultant to some of the most famous names in saltwater angling:  Ernest Hemingway, Michael Lerner, Charlie Lehman, and Van Campen Heilner.

Tommy Gifford Award recipients are chosen by a panel of 11 legendary captains and crews.

Other members of the Class of 2023 Gifford Award winners include Capt. Karl Anderson, Capt. Ray Rosher, Capt. Brad Simonds, and Capt. Gene Vander Hoek. The induction ceremony was held Thursday in Fort Lauderdale.

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