By Jack Holmes
Sarasota, Florida-Mark, Joshua, and Crockett Henderson came down from North Carolina to pick up their new 38' Intrepid from the factory in Clearwater for a shakedown run and to put some hours on the triple 350hp Yamahas sitting on the transom. Then they thought, what better way to determine how the new design was going to fish, than to christen her on the playing field of the NBOA Gulf Coast Open in Sarasota?
They started their learning curve in the Big Pig event, a winner-take-all event with a $1,000 entry fee, a "fishing on Friday" prelude to the Open on Saturday. In their first combat they scaled a two-fish aggregate of 70.60 and finished fourth. "I thought that was pretty good especially since we were just trying to settle into the new boat," said Mark. "You have to remember this was our very first fishing trip and we were in unfamiliar waters. We really wanted to do well for Intrepid, showing off this great new boat." It worked!
The NBOA Open began early Saturday morning and the Hendersons were ready. "This boat is incredibly fast, but when you roll back the throttles a little, she gets great fuel mileage," Mark explained. "The seas were relatively calm, maybe a one- to two-foot chop, but I'm sure this is going to be a respected performer when the wind blows as we found out early in the week. This boat has features many other companies haven't even started thinking about."
Henderson's Liquid Fire team was in town for the entire week, but were held in check from Monday through Wednesday with small craft warnings. They still found out just how well this boat runs in five- to six-foot seas.
On Saturday, after their Friday stint, the team ran 60 miles offshore, fishing in water 155 feet. "It was close to 11:30 when she ate a short lined runner," explained Mark. "Crockett is our designated angler and he was quick on the rod." Within fifteen minutes Crockett had most of the line back on the Accurate reel and Joshua was ready with the gaff.
As the big king hit the fish bag it was quickly stored till they reached the scale. "I swear to you I thought that fish would be a 42 or 43," Mark went on. "We probably should take a minute to check out our catches. None of us thought that fish would go nearly 48 pounds. We sure were happy when the scale settled!"
The Liquid Fire team won $12,000 and a $10,000 Contender Boat voucher, which is transferable, to take back to North Carolina. They're off to a great start again this year in a beautiful new ride!
Second place fell to Matt Tarrance, Jerry Solovskoy, Mike Penny, and Rick Hipes on the Idle Time, a 39' Mercury powered Nor-Tech, with a nice 44.91. This team now finds themselves in the lead in the Division for both the Division 6 Open Class and the Professional Kingfish Tour!
They, too, fished both the Big Pig Shoot-Out, where they finished third, and the Open. In the Big Pig, which was a two-fish aggregate event, they scaled a 34.43 and a 36.17 for a 70.60 aggregate. Then in the Open they scaled a nice 44.91, which earned them second place.
"We fished just off of the middle grounds in 130 feet of water," he added. "She ate a blue runner at 12:30. Jerry brought her to the boat and Mike was on the gaff. We caught a lot of fish all day."
"We are just 28.97 pounds away from breaking the Division 6 all time record of 119.54 set in 2010 by Arik Bergerman's team," Matt related. With three events left, it's a good bet it will be broken!
Matt and his team won the Division back in '07 and were second in '09. This team works very hard and is certainly the team to watch this year!
Third place fell to the Ocean Isle Fishing Team from Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.
"We just took a week off before the season cranks up at Ocean Isle," said Rube McMullan. "We thought we'd also get in a Pro Tour day before the Tour gets to our area."
“We ran south off Ft. Myers and fished in 100 feet of water,” Brant told me.
It was a very smart move for the team, Brant, Barrett, and Rube McMullan, who fish a Yamaha powered Yellowfin.
Now, before you read about where they fished, you've really have to congratulate both the Henderson and McMullan families. Two North Carolina teams, the Hendersons who won an Angler of the Year title in 2008 and the McMullans who have just won back-to-back National Championships in Biloxi and hold the all time SKA big fish record of 74.1 pounds. They both are great teams who represent our sport in the best possible light. Fishing in unfamiliar waters and doing so well more than proves my point!
"We ran south off Ft. Myers and fished in 100 feet of water," Brant told me. "We caught eight or ten fish but it was the one who ate a blue runner about ten o'clock that gave us third place."
Team Delosa's won the Shoot-Out event on Friday with a two-fish aggregate of 84.42 pounds, a super aggregate. Their biggest king was a 47.49. However, in the Open they could only scale a 39.12, which was good for fourth place. Jim Breazeale, Morgan Domingue, Hale Wilson, and Frank Quinto decided to fish the event at the last minute and walked away with a lot of loot. Good decision!
The Sea Dog, a Yamaha powered Hydra Sports, earned fifth place with a 38.28. Chad Bixler, J.J. Hoyle, Billy Wert, Jay Hughes, and Trevor Tilton watched as Chad's wife Karen walked up on stage to collect the accolades for being the Top Lady Angler in the event. This is a very good fishing team and should have no problem qualifying for the big event in November.
John, Justin, and Jason Ford, plus Mike and Brian Burnett picked up a check for a grand for their 37.83 which was the best in the Small Boat Class but it wasn't easy. When they went to their boat on Saturday morning they found a big hole in their bait pen and all their bait gone.
"We just went back to the spot west of the Pass where we caught bait the day before," said John. "We still lost a couple of hours but we didn't give up. We were fishing a spot in 90 feet of water when at 1:30 our 37.83 hooked up. Justin went to work and within a short period of time Jason stuck her. We also had a nice 25-pound tuna."
This was another great event put on by NBOA. From the great Thursday night party at the Powell Crosley Estate, to the Captain's Meeting at the Bearded Clam waterfront restaurant at Sara Bay Marina, and the Ramada Waterfront Hotel Sarasota, everything went very well and Make-A-Wish, the tournament's charity, came out on the plus side also. Congratulations to all who fished the event!