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By Keith Logan
Special to The Beacon
In the Southern Kingfish Association Nationals in Biloxi, Miss., Team Instigator finished 14th out 109 boats in the open class. The open class consists of boat 24-39 feet long. Instigator was one of 10 boats fewer than 29 feet long fishing the open class and it was the only boat fewer than 29 feet long that finished in the top 30.
We pre-fished and caught bait on the Nov. 8, the day before the SKA Nationals. We started out at some oil rigs about 50 miles offshore in 120 feet of water to jig up big blue runners for bait. We loaded the live well with about 50 2- to 3-pound blue runners caught on Barefoot Fishing Sabiki rigs. Next, we ran offshore a few more miles and found a large school of 30- to 40-pound kings. We caught those fish the way we catch 12- to 15-pound kings here in the Carolinas.
On Friday, the first day of nationals, we were able to run with most of the pack of boats 72 miles to the Salt Dome area, in 223 feet of water.
We pulled up about
9:10 a.m. and started putting lines out. As Kelly Fisher was letting out the second line, a king hit it and smoked line off the reel. We turned the boat and started chasing it. When we got over it, it had gone deep. Fisher pumped it up to the surface and it shot out of the water like a missile. I had the gaff and made a perfect gaff shot just behind the head in the meat. I brought the king on the boat and said, “Boys we are in the running—she’s 52 pounds. Bag her!”
We put lines back out and caught and released 30- to upper-40-pound kings the rest of the day. We saw a lot of nice fish get caught, too. We even saw a 58-pound king caught by Randall Edens, of East Coast Sports.
About 2 p.m., we headed to catch bait for Saturday, and weigh in before the rest of the fleet arrived. When we weighed our king, it weighed 53.71 pounds—not bad for the first day. We were in fourth place for the day. We knew we had to catch a big fish on Saturday to stay in the running. Our 53-pound king hit a 3-pound blue runner on a Blue Water Candy Skirt.
On the second day, we decided to go back to the same place. In rough conditions, it was long ride out, for sure. We passed a 35-foot Wellcraft sinking, with just its bow sticking out of the water about 30 miles out. Team Choice of Two had picked up the crew from the boat.
We got back to the Salt Dome about 10 a.m. and put lines out. We had kings on before we could get all lines set. We caught a 30-pound king, so we gaffed it, bagged it and kept fishing. We caught a few more small kings we released.
The rod on the deep downrigger went off, screaming line. The deep downrigger was 100 feet down. It was rigged with a ribbonfish on a Pink Pirate Plug. Fisher was standing by the rod and grabbed it. He said, “Not a another shark.”
We had already caught a few large, 250-plus pound sharks on the downrigger. He worked the fish up and it was a king. I gaffed it and put it in the boat. It was bigger than the one we had in the bag. It was about 32 pounds and it was about 2 p.m., so we decided to make the run back to the hill because it was going to be long run and we wanted to make it in time for the weight in. The king weighed 32.52 pounds, and that was good enough to put us in 14th place.
“Not bad for a rookie crew,” I said. This was Scott Smith’s, Ryan Bright’s and Fisher’s first year fishing together and their first time to the Nationals.
Fisher is from Charlotte. Ryan Bright is from Dallas, Texas. Smith, from Charlotte, is the grandson of musician and songwriter Arthur Smith. Arthur Smith is also one of the founding fathers of what we know today as a king mackerel tournament. In 1977, Arthur Smith was called upon to help raise money for the Little River jetty project and other marine conservation efforts. To do so, he started the Arthur Smith Tournament.
I congratulate all the teams that did well in Biloxi this year. It was great seeing old friends and making new friends on the docks. We love the atmosphere of SKA tournament king fishing, the awesome boats, different venues and, most of all, the people. It’s the people that keep us coming back again and again.
Captain Keith Logan, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the owner of North Myrtle Beach Fishing Charters, Little River, S.C.