by Mark Henderson
BRASS BANDS AND SCREAMING DRAGS… FIGHT SONGS OF THE SPORTS WORLD!
Most all institutions of higher education have a “fight song” that is bellowed by a thundering brass band during a celebration of each of its team’s touchdowns! The sport of king mackerel tournament fishing is not unlike these schools of higher education; the thundering, high-pitched, screaming clicker from a cast-aluminum conventional fishing reel bellowing the arrival of a welcome visitor…
…rewind to the 20th Annual Sneads Ferry Rotary King Mackerel Tournament on Saturday, August 20, 2011. This event has been one of our favorite stops among the numerous sanctioned events by the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) for years.
Our day began with any early morning 45-mile run to a known big king mackerel fishing spot out of Drum Inlet, NC. After deploying our spread of live blue fish and menhaden at 7:00 a.m., we fished the area for over three hours and caught one small king. Although the area looked very “fishy,” with a lot of bait and good water temperature, we decided to try another location in about 90-feet of water over 20 miles away.
Once we arrived at the new chosen grounds, it didn’t take long for us to hear the king mackerel tournament “fight song”… a screaming clicker from one of our Accurate BX600-X reels!!! The long, blistering run indicated that we were chasing down our targeted species, until… the speedy creature appeared and the iridescent glow of vertical blue stripes showed just before Joshua planted the gaff behind the dorsal fin. Never had we been more disappointed to pull a 25# wahoo over the gunwale!
After pouting for a while, we sent our six-bait spread back out, hoping to capture the interest of our intended razor-toothed target this time. Shortly, we noticed the long bait dragging on the surface. Once we got it to the boat, we found that it had been sliced into three pieces by a sneaky predator. I immediately launched another blue fish on the medium line; Joshua skillfully turned our vessel back on the same trolling pattern.
Within 10 minutes, the long-lined pogy was hit by a slow-moving "bus." A couple minutes into the fight the bait thief showed itself, and as we suspected, a seven-foot shark appeared on the surface attached to our line.
Not to be discouraged, I floated the medium-lined blue fish back long, and Joshua made a third pass through the active spot. In a matter of moments the blue was attacked, and Crockett grabbed the rod in time to hear the KMT fight song once again!! After the fish made short work of exhausting our Accurate of about 250 yards of Yo-Zuri Hybrid smoke purple line, I placed the boat on top of the fish less than five minutes into the fight, and Joshua was able to identify it as “a good one.” Indicating that it was a king mackerel we would be proud to have.
That’s when the fun and excitement of hearing a long, spine-tingling run turn to shear anxiety and tension. The big girl decided that she wanted to make our efforts daunting… she dove deep and stayed there for over 30 minutes! The normal king mackerel fight for our team is generally from about eight to 20 minutes. Thus, once the fish hit at 12:40 p.m., the ensuing tussle seemed an eternity as the minutes clicked by from our GPS.
After Crockett patiently worked the big girl close to the surface, our team was able to see her size, and it gave us an opportunity to get really concerned because of her perceived innate ability to stay just out of Joshua’s range with our Aftco 12-foot gaff. Finally at 1:13 p.m., she came close enough to the starboard bow, and Joshua plunged the hook eight-feet into the water, made the short but smooth gaffing motion, and pandemonium broke out!!
Even after the 33-minute fight, she still had enough spunk in her to try to pull the gaff from Joshua’s grip. However, he was up to the task and brought the 42.51# beast over the gunwale for a resounding THUD! When putting the big girl in the fish box, the three-hook rig fell from her mouth without having to be removed, which indicated a true professional angling effort by Crockett. , our prized smoker was a welcome passenger once Joshua placed her in the fish box after a skillful gaff shot!
After setting another three-bait spread while we got the boat cleaned and straightened, Joshua took the helm at 2:30 p.m., powered up the twin Yamaha F350s and proceeded to New River Inlet and the weigh-in at New River Marina and Power Marine Outfitters for an early end to our fishing day. We collected nearly $1,700.00 for our daily efforts, and the king placed us 4th in the event's overall standings, as Crockett claimed his FOURTH JUNIOR ANGLER TITLE of 2011. He also took home third place in another event earlier this fishing season.
As we began our hour-long drive to our home in Cape Carteret following the awards ceremony, I’m almost positive I heard the faint melody from across the intra-coastal waterway of a brass band bellowing the KMT “fight song” of a screaming drag from a cast-aluminum reel... In a year that was as tough for catching king mackerel as we can remember, we have a family memory that will last forever… and a “fight song” that will not soon be forgotten!
Mark Henderson is the captain of the Cape Carteret, NC-based Liquid Fire Fishing Team sponsored by: Intreptid Powerboats, Yamaha Outboards, Cannon Downriggers, Accurate Fishing Products, AmeraTrail Custom Trailers, Simrad, Best Buy Marine, Optima Batteries, Yo-Zuri, Ocean-Tamer Bean Bags, Sportsman’s Toy Store, Crystal Coast Graphics, SPRO/Gamakatsu, Pro Chips, Columbia Sportswear, Costa Del Mar, Lee’s Livebait and Stevenson Automotive Group.