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Wilmington based brothers, Mark and Billy Emmart fished aboard their boat, Moon Doggie, in the annual Fall Brawl King Classic, hosted this weekend out of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. One hundred seventy fishing teams from across the Southeast entered the event and aspired to win the top prize of over $15,000, but this year the Emmarts punched their ticket and walked away with the big money.
Mother Nature did a pretty good job for the fishermen, providing much lighter than expected winds and seas Saturday and Sunday. On the other hand, the NOAA weatherman did not do a good job at all, as predictions of heavy rain and winds were forecast for the weekend. Fortunately for the tournament and its competitors, many teams saw through the forecast and chose to compete, making the Fall Brawl the fourth-largest kingfish event of the year hosted in the Carolinas.
The event offers a captain’s choice format, which allows teams to choose to compete one out of two days, either Saturday or Sunday. Given the terrible forecast for Saturday, only 17 out of the 170 teams chose to fish Saturday.
Randy Spainhour and Buster Gunter, aboard the Steel Fishing out of Southport, took the early-day lead with a 35.25-pound king. They caught their fish early Saturday morning on a live bluefish while kite. They fished at Lighthouse Rocks.
Sunday the remainder of the fleet hit the water. Winds had shifted to the north at 10-15 knots, which enabled fishermen to fish in near flat calm seas due to the wind blockage from land. Luckily, the majority of bigger kings were close to shore, so even the smallest boats were able to compete.
The first-place team of Mark and Billy Emmart chose to fish an area of ledges and hard bottom six miles offshore Bald Head Island on the east side of the Frying Pan Shoals, known as the Fairway Ledges. They had put the boat into a downsea drift, and at about 1:30 p.m. the winning king, a 41-pounder, skyrocketed a medium top-lined pogy.
Billy Emmart went to work on the rod while Mark Emmart steered the boat toward the fish and 20 minutes later sunk the gaff into a fish worth more than $17,000 to the brothers.
Second place fell to local Holden Beach fishing team Sea Byrd, including Ricky Byrd, Brian Matthews, Danny Matthews, Jenny Matthews and Will Richardson. Their king weighed 38.55 pounds and held the lead until the final hour. While slow-trolling between Yaupon Reef and Ocean Crest pier, the team caught its king. The king skyrocketed the propwash pogy and headed for the hills. Brian Matthews did the angling duties while Ricky Byrd drove and Will Richardson eventually put the gaff into the fish.
Randy Spainhour and team were bumped to third, which was their final finishing place. Fourth place fell to local Ocean Isle Beach fishing team of Toby, Andy and Rusty Russ, fishing aboard the Mr. Goodhands. They caught their 32.90-pound king at Lockwood’s Folly inlet on a triple pogy in the propwash. Fifth place was won by the family fishing team of Frank, Caroline, Horace and Brice Byrum aboard the Wishful Thinking. This team is truly a family team, as Horace is the father, Frank and Caroline are husband/wife/mom/dad and Brice is the son. While fishing one mile west of Shallotte inlet, this team caught its 31.35-pound king. Frank Byrum reported he had not gotten all the lines out when the king hit the medium top line and nearly spooled the reel. Frank Byrum angled the fish while Horace Byrum drove and Brice Byrum gaffed. It was the family’s first fishing tournament.
The tournament’s top junior angler was Brice Byrum, fishing aboard the Wishful Thinking. Top lady angler was Ginny Matthews aboard the Sea Byrd, and the top Senior angler was Randy Spainhour aboard the Steel Fishing.
Thanks to all the teams that participated in the event. Also, thanks to sponsors such as Yellowfin boats, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Sea Tow, JP Russ & Sons, Bell & Bell and Ocean Isle Marina for their support. The event offered fishermen and their families a great atmosphere and opportunity to compete together for big prize money.
Oh yes, and the spot derby, of course, took place. This year’s grand champion was 6-year-old Maddi Stevens, who teamed with one awesome spot to win the round-robin format event and take home top honors.
Congratulations to all. See you on the water.
BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.