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A bittersweet Jolly Mon King Classic

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

This past weekend the annual Jolly Mon King Classic took place from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. This tournament has proved over the years to be one of the region’s favorite and most-attended events, due in part to its pick-your-fishing day format, fishing boundaries and family-oriented atmosphere and prizes. However, with gas prices approaching $5 a gallon and a general pessimistic fiscal attitude, I expected the event’s participation to be severely down.

Friday evening registration continued into the evening, and fishermen and their families just kept coming to take part in what many consider an annual tradition. And when all the pogy’s had been bobbed and all of Guy C. Lee’s grilled chicken had been eaten, an impressive 294 boats registered to compete in the 2008 Yellowfin/Yamaha Jolly Mon King Classic. That is an incredible showing of support from area fishermen, and my family and I are honored by the continued support the tournament has received. By Friday night, a large field of boats was set to compete for more than $50,000 in cash.

As most tournament fishermen agree, the weather forecast often determines whether they choose to compete in an event. This particularly is the case with the Jolly Mon, as many of the fishermen bring their wife and kids along to have chances at all the family prizes the tournament offers. The forecast was for southerly winds at 10 to15 knots on Saturday and southerly winds at 15 to 20 knots on Sunday with a chance of scattered storms both days.

The forecast was typical for any summer fishing day, and the 10- to 15-knot wind and 2- to 3-foot seas forecast for Saturday was nice enough to lure 250 out of the 294 boats to fish on Saturday.

However, on Saturday morning a worst-case scenario unfolded. Fishermen awoke to relatively calm seas and clear skies. They went about the normal business of catching bait and heading offshore to any of a variety of fishing locations along the Brunswick and New Hanover coast lines.

At about 9 a.m., a large thunderstorm developed over the Whiteville area and began to intensify and expand to the east toward Wilmington. The storm was more or less stationary as it intensified and grew to extend from the North Carolina and South Carolina border all the way to Wrightsville Beach. And then it started moving offshore, toward all the fishermen participating in the tournament.

Many saw the storm coming and ran inshore to seek safety in the Intracoastal or mouth of the Cape Fear, while others stayed offshore to ride out the storm. I have been fishing as a captain for 15 years, and this scenario is not uncommon.

In the summer, it is a reality you may have to contend with storms, and the majority of the time I choose to ride out the storm, as it typically passes very quickly. As fishermen up and down the coast battened down to ride out the storm, one particularly intense cell came off Holden Beach and Long Beach and moved in on the fishermen fishing the Cape Fear River area.

I have spoken to several people fishing the Lighthouse Rocks area, an area of rocky bottom some 2 to 3 miles offshore of the Cape Fear sea buoy, and they have all echoed the same comments. It was the worst storm they have ever seen or been in in all their years of boating, bar none.

The wind went from light south to north at 40 to 50 knots and it began to hail and rain sideways. The seas went from 2 to 3 feet to more than 6 feet in a matter of seconds, with the waves coming from all directions.

During this time, one of the tournament boats, Spring Run, owned and captained by Scott Hewett took a wave over the stern and began taking on water. The wind and seas were so intense other boats in the area could not see the distressed vessel and the boat eventually capsized.

Three men clung to the overturned Spring Run as they rode out the storm. According to one of the crew members, Scott began experiencing chest pains and had a heart attack and died while clinging for his life. The Coast Guard was on the scene shortly thereafter to pick up the two surviving crew members, but Capt. Scott Hewett had lost his life, his body later recovered and brought to shore.

Fortunately, there were no other boats that capsized or lives’ lost as a result of the storm, but many fishermen were thankful for their well-being after such an experience.

As for Scott, I knew him very well. He lived in Supply and boated out of Holden Beach Marina. He had been tournament fishing his boat Spring Run since at least the early ’90s, when I had my first encounter with him. We were both kingfishing in a tournament around Yaupon Reef, and there was a hot bite going on. Scott and I passed each other very close going opposite directions, when his T-top rod bent double and the reel began screaming from the run of a big kingfish. Somehow, Scott managed to reach and dive for the rod and fall overboard with the rod at the same time. I can clearly remember the boat driving away and Scott floating behind the boat with rod in hand trying to catch that fish. I didn’t know Scott personally back then, but I never forgot the boat or the incident.

A couple of years ago Scott introduced himself to me and inquired about an opening I had available to work as a charter captain out of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. I did some research on Scott and quickly learned he was a very reputable man. I also learned he was the captain of the Spring Run, and I was finally able to put a face with a memorable fish story. I figured if he was willing to go overboard for a fish, he was willing to do what it took to put his clients on fish.

He worked as captain of the MacMarle’n out of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center the entire 2007 season and did a great job as a fisherman. His character and attitude improved the entire business. All the captains and mates enjoyed Scott’s presence.

During his time working with me here at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, I came to know and respect Scott very much as a man of honor. He always said what he was thinking and did what he said. He was upfront and personable and, as I said, a generally nice guy who was fun to be around.

We have unfortunately lost a fellow fisherman and a good friend. He died doing what he loved, and we will never forget him. He will forever be memorialized as part of the Jolly Mon King Classic. May his baits stay lively, lines stay tight and rods continue bent — here’s to you, Capt. Scott.

As the world continues to turn, so life goes on. Many fishermen headed back out or continued fishing after the storm passed, and there were quite a few nice kings brought to the scale.

First in was David Henderson on his 23-foot boat Ain’t Life Grand. He was grinning from ear to ear—and for good reason, as he and his team posted a 36.50-pound king to take first place. He reported catching the king in the morning before the storm while fishing in the vicinity of the Shark Hole.

Next in was Keith Logan on the 21-foot boat Logan’s Love. He and his team scaled a 36.65-pound king to take over first place. He also caught his fish early, before 7:30 a.m., while fishing the General Sherman wreck. The Reel Action later weighed a 34.95-pound king to take third spot.

By day’s end on Saturday, 10th place was 26 pounds and 30th place was 17 pounds. There was still another day of fishing, and the remaining 40 boats were poised to try to beat the fish weighed on Saturday.

The weather forecast had improved and was calling for southerly winds at 10 to 15 knots and seas of 2 to 4 feet with a chance of scattered storms. Boats headed out, and despite the morning starting out a little rough, the seas calmed by midday and there was never a sign of any storms all day.

By all accounts, it was a great day to go fishing—especially for Cameron Bowers and crew of the Takin It Easy, a 22-foot bay boat that weighed a 39.75-pound king to take the lead in the tournament.

Jared Floyd on the Keepin It Reel scared the leaders with a 33.35-pound king that ended up in fifth, and so did Jay Bucklen on the Cape Contender, who weighed a 33.15-pound king to finish sixth.

There were only a few boats that chose to weigh-in on Sunday, so the leader board stayed close to the same. However, it was the Takin It Easy team of Cameron Bowers and Cody Davis that made a clean sweep of the event. They won the first-place overall, first place in the 23-foot-and-under division, first place in High Rollers TWT and first place in 23-and-under TWT to win $31,785.

Complete results (place, pounds, boat, angler, town):

1. 39.75, Takin it Easy, Cameron Bowers, Raleigh

2. 36.65, Logan’s Love, Keith Logan, Longs, S.C.

3. 36.50, Ain’t Life Grand, David Henderson, Charlotte

4. 34.95, Reel Action, Jeremy B Harrelson, Hope Mills

5. 33.35, Keepin It Reel, Jared Floyd, Murrells Inlet, S.C.

6. 33.15, Cape Contender, Jay Bucklen, Wake Forest

7. 32.15, Tailwalker, Stuart Ballard, Georgetown, S.C.

8. 29.80, Hot Rod, Brett A Barnes,Wilmington

9. 29.60, Dirty Girl, Renny DelosSantos, Inman, S.C.

10. 29.60, Coon Dog, Samuel J Cernugel, Wilmington

11. 29.00, Got-Tu, Charles Randy Smith, Carolina Beach

12. 27.55, Rawhide, Terry Godwin, Wilmington

13. 26.35, Strickly Business, Jeff Crouch, Bolivia

14. 25.30, Trick C, Jeff York, Burlington

15. 25.05, Contend This, Hunter Woodell, Sanford

16. 24.05, Eren’s Addiction Too, Jack Bracewell, Summerville, S.C.

17. 23.25, Oil Slick, Jack Kyle White, Shallotte

18. 22.85, Sea’n is Believe’n, Anthony Queen, Rock Hill, S.C.

19. 22.45, Four Sons, Douglas David, Ocean Isle Beach

20. 22.15, Reel Nautie, Fred Trull, Midland

21. 21.65, Iron Man, Ironman Fishing Team L, Georgetown, S.C.

22. 21.15, Wrench Head, Kevin W Lawson, Ramseur

23. 20.90, Simply Storage, Michael Kennedy, Winnabow

24. 20.85, Mad Mouse, Robert Ferris, Harrisburg

25. 20.80, Hooligan, Joseph R Winslow III, Sunset Beach

26. 20.60, Cash Flow, James Shackleton, Sanford

27. 20.45, Schneider Stone, Tommy Schneider, Asheboro

28. 19.25, Total Chaos, Jamey Cauble, Belmont

29. 19.10, Tide Line, Dieter W Cardwell, Winston Salem

30. 18.85, Orange Crush, Jody Clemmons, Holden Beach

HHH

In other Jolly Mon highlight news, the Jr. Jolly Mon tournament took place on Friday before the main tournament captains’ meeting. Results as follows: First king: Griffin Canady (12), 15.15. Second king: Jonathan Pugh (9), 12.5. Third king: Layton Perkins (12), 11.75. First dolphin: Tanner Junker (12), 6.55, Second dolphin: Matilyn Wilson (7), 4.10. First sea bass: Tanner Junker (12), 1.55. Second sea bass: Jaqcob Starnes (4), 1.05. Third sea bass: Jonathan Pugh (9), 0.85.

Also, the annual Pogy-Bobbing Contest took place. Results are as follows: First: Brandt McGilliwie (9), 9.15 seconds. Second: Nick Chase (13), 9.70 seconds. Third: Austin Aycock (9), 14.88 seconds.

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Jolly Mon and thanks to all sponsors who helped to make the tournament more enjoyable for all the fishermen. I hope to see you back at next year’s tournament.

HHH

In local fishing, the king mackerel bite has definitely been the main improvement over last week. As you can see from the results of the Jolly Mon, some larger fish have begun to move inshore and are biting strong in the 55-to 65-foot depth range. Locations such as the Shark Hole, Jungle, 390/390 and General Sherman are producing fish. The Spanish mackerel continue to be plentiful along the beach as well.

The offshore action for Mahi-mahi has slowed some, however you can find scattered mahi from 60-feet deep on out to the Gulf Stream. There have been a few early season sailfish caught inshore in the 60- to 80-foot depth range thus far, but I look for that to pick up considerably over the next month. All in all, fishing is getting better every week as more bait moves inshore. See you on the water.

Brant McMullan is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at captbrant@oifishingcenter.com.