By Bob Flocken
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina – Skip and Sandy Conklin's Mercury powered Privateer, the Ocean Athlete, idled up to the McCurdy's Restaurant dock just as the scales opened on the first of two days fishing at this year's addition of the Bluewater Promotion's Atlantic Beach Saltwater Classic. They carried their big king up the dock and handed her over to tournament director Terry Adkins to be weighed. When the scales settled down, Adkins shouted out 43.53 pounds, the crowd cheered and Skip and Sandy crossed their fingers as ninety other teams still had a couple days to weigh a bigger fish. When all was said and done, the first fish weighed at the event would hold on to the lead for the entire tournament and earn the Ocean Athlete the event's top prize as well as a $15,000 certificate for the purchase of a new Contender. Sandy would also capture the cash and jewelry awarded to the tournament's Top Lady Angler.
Skip told me that on Friday they started the day fishing east of the shoals near the 30 Minute Rock one of the four or five spots where tournament winning fish are often caught. Their fish ate a naked menhaden fished off the t-top around 8:30 over some live bottom in sixty feet of water. It took forty-five minutes to land the big king because the fish was hooked in the top of her head and the rough conditions created by a squall with twenty-five to thirty knot winds that came through right after they hooked the fish. They caught one other small king, a couple big Spanish mackerel and a couple dozen sharks on Friday and would weigh a 24 pounder on Saturday to take home the heaviest aggregate prize. Skip wanted to thank the Crow's Nest Service Center for doing a super job keeping the Ocean Athlete on the water and to Mercury for building such a great outboard.
For the past couple of years, the Ocean Athlete has been one of the teams to beat in their home waters and weighed some great fish along the way. In 2010, they carried a 51.26 to the scales at the Raleigh event to finish in second place. They would end the year second in the Division with a three fish total of 84.49 points. In 2011, they edged out the Logan's Run by just over a pound for the Division 1 win, winning the Raleigh tournament with a super 60.30 smoker and taking the top prize home in Snead's Ferry with a 46.49 pound king. Skip and Sandy also finished first in the Division in 2007.
A non-member team weighed a 38.00 pounder on Saturday to finish in second place.
The Reel Destruction, skippered by Cecil Holcomb, was the second boat to the dock on Friday. Fishing with Mr. Holcomb on his Mercury powered Fountain sponsored by Cecil Holcomb Demolition, Inc., were his son, Calvin, along with teammates Marvin Leveridge and Eric Barnowski. They caught their fish around 9:30 along the edge of the crowd of boats fishing around the 1700 Rocks. Calvin caught their 37.37 third place finishing king after it ate a pogie fished on a flat line in seventy-five feet of water. On Saturday, they fished an area off of Drum Inlet but other than several sharks, they could only find one small kingfish.
Mark, Joshua and Crockett Henderson, fishing on their Yamaha powered Intrepid, the Liquid Fire would catch a 36.94 to take home the Classic's fourth place award. Mark told me that on Friday they started the day fishing on the Summerlin Reef without finding any fish so they tried several other spots and spent the morning catching one small king and a whole bunch of AJ's, bonito and sharks. Around 2:00 they joined in with all the boats fishing the 1700 Rocks and at 2:15 something ate a double pogie rig fished in the middle of their spread and swam slowly away. Crockett picked up the rod and since the fish didn't put up much of a fight, they were really surprised when they got the fish close enough to see that it was a king and how big it was. Joshua grabbed a gaff and stuck the fish as it circled under the boat. The Liquid Fire is proudly sponsored by some great companies including Intrepid Powerboats, Yamaha Outboards, NBOA Insurance, Accurate Reels, Cannon Downriggers, Simrad, Ameratrail and Stevenson Automotive.
Finishing in fifth with a 34.39 was the Justified, Thomas Justice's Yamaha powered Nautic Star sponsored by Nautic Star Boats, Cape Fear Sportswear, Fishizzle Tackle, and New River Marina. Fishing with Thomas were Derrick and David Hansley. Thomas told me that they fished the 1700 Rocks on Friday but only caught a sailfish, so they decided to try an area near the 30 Minute Rock on Saturday. "We had the best day's fishing that we have had in a long time!" said the excited skipper. "We had a 23 in the boat by 7am and caught four other fish in the high twenties before noon." At 9:45, their 34.39 ate a pogie fished on the surface in the middle of their spread. Doug fought the fish to the boat for Thomas to gaff.
Sixth place would go to the Final Approach, James Demyan's Contender dressed up with a couple F16's on his fancy new wrap and powered by a pair of Yamaha outboards. Fishing with James was his buddy, Jason Tierney. Because they had some local information from a friend, they had made the decision to run north to an area just south of Portsmouth Island. Along their way, James told me that they ran past fifty boats at the 1700 Rocks and were just north of Drum Inlet where they saw four boats fishing in a school of menhaden in sixty feet of water. They stopped and put out their baits. At 9:55 their 33.54 pound king would eat a double mullet rigged in their propwash. After a twenty minute fight James had the fish close enough for Jason to stick the fish and load it into their open fishbox. James would like to thank Demyan Roofing, Tailwalker Marine, Contender Boats, Yamaha, and Penn Reels for all their help and support.
Henry Moore's Yamaha powered Yellowfin would finish in 7th place with a 29.97 followed by the Open Wide Contender skippered by Benson Ybanez would weigh a 29.56 to finish in 8th place.
The Release, Mike Williams Yamaha powered Yellowfin finished in 9th place with a 29.22 and finishing in the 10th place spot was Kevin Norris' Mercury powered Fountain, the G's Machine with their 24.61pounder.
The Unbelievable, William and Sherry Littleton's Mercury powered Bayliner would weigh a 33.93 pound kingfish to take home the top small boat prize and the $10,000 Contender Certificate that went along with the cash.
Ashley and Mark Jones fishing on their Mercury powered Palmetto, the Miss Teny, would weigh a 27.24 pound king to finish second in the small boat division with Randall and Cole Edens and crew finishing in third with a 26.04 on their East Coast Sports, Onslow Bay. Cole would earn the event's Top Junior prizes as well as the SKA second place junior award.
The Atlantic Beach Saltwater Classic also awarded three cash prizes to the top finishing single engine boats with the 1st place qualifying vessel receiving a $5,000 Contender certificate. Two non-member teams would earn both the first and second spots with John Lewis taking home the third place award for the 25.20 caught on his Yamaha powered Contender, the Second Chanze.
I can't say enough about the guys at the Atlantic Beach Fire Department. They worked their tails off making sure that everything was up to snuff at the Captain's Meeting and during the weigh-in. The citizens of Atlantic Beach are lucky to have such a fine group of young men keeping them safe. Thanks gentlemen!!
Also, many thanks go to Murphy-Brown and Smithfield's for the great food. I don't know how they can cook those inch thick pork chops like they do.
As usual, Terry and Regina Adkins and Jennifer Murray from Bluewater Promotions put together a well run, fun and exciting tournament.