Ocean Isle Fishing Center Team is the 2009 Open Class National Champion! Sets New Records.By Jack Holmes
* BIGGEST KING MACKEREL WEIGHED IN SKA COMPETITION.
* BIGGEST TWO FISH AGGREGATE EVER WEIGHED IN SKA EVENTS … INCLUDING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS!
* NEW MISSISSIPPI STATE KINGFISH RECORD!
Biloxi, Mississippi - Brant, Barrett, and Rube McMullan came to Biloxi, Mississippi to fish the 2009 Mercury Tournament Trail’s National Championship after qualifying through the Pro ranks. It was a long drive for them from Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina but well worth the trip
Little did they know that they were about to make history in a very profound way.
Because of the threat of storms in the Gulf of Mexico, I decided to make the ’09 Championship an “either/or” event, meaning that teams could weigh two fish on Friday, or one fish on Friday, then one on Saturday, or wait till Saturday and weigh two fish. The Nationals are always a two-fish aggregate event.
The sun had already set when the Ocean Isle Fishing Center team slid up to the weigh-in dock Friday evening. After a short picture taking session, Brant and Barrett each grabbed a strap on the bulging fish bag and headed for the scales. Rube took the Ocean Isle Yamaha powered Contender to their dock at the Point Cadet Marina.
After waiting and watching two teams weigh in front of them scale nice kings, one a fifty-one pounder, it was their turn.
There was no emotion shown as they carefully opened half their bag to reveal their first fish, a nice 44.03. After the SKA weighmaster, Chris Rose, slid that fish out of the way, Brant, who had his back to me, turned as he revealed the second king, and asked, “What do you think of this one?”
The only thing that came out of my mouth was “Oh my God!” After weighing fish for nineteen years I immediately knew this was the biggest king I’d ever seen.
Chris Rose shouted to the scorekeepers, 74.10, and the crowd who had seen the weight flash on the scale’s electronic board, literally rushed the stage. I have never seen this much camaraderie shown for any team in SKA’s nineteen-year existence. They too not only wanted to high five the McMullans, but also be a part of this enormous page in history.
For the next ten minutes all activities on the stage came to a halt to pay homage to the McMullans and of course their spectacular king mackerel.
Ultimately, as the scales closed on Saturday, the McMullans were pronounced Open Class Champions with a record 118.13 two-fish aggregate. On Sunday morning, after elaborating about how they caught the fish, they were presented the keys to a twenty-one foot Mercury powered Contender boat, with a Loadmaster Custom Aluminum Trailer, by Contender’s Billy Cordes and Mercury’s Michele Kilburn and Scott Beatie.
They also won eight custom rods from American Rodsmiths, a West Coast Net, Ocean Waves Sunglasses, and a custom National Championship logoed beanbag chair and fish bag made exclusively for them by Ocean Tamer.
Now, before you think they lucked into this incredible fish let me tell you a story and you be the judge.
First, I think you and I would agree that the McMullans are pretty savvy fishermen.
“Like most other tournament fishing teams, we checked out at 6:40 a.m. and pointed the bow of our Yamaha powered Yellowfin south,” said team leader Brant McMullan. “Our destination was eighty miles away, an area known as the Horseshoe. This area has produced big kings for the past three years during the Championship.”
When they arrived, there were only a dozen boats ahead of them and they were already experiencing the bite. As fast as these teams and other arrivals could get one or two baits in the water they would hook up. It was the same for the McMullans, however after a few minutes in a spot, they would move at least a quarter of a mile from where they were.
“At 1:30 we were out of bait and had a two-fish aggregate of about eighty-five pounds,” Brant told me. “We knew we were at least in the top ten but we really wanted to win the title so we went in seven miles to 120 feet of water to re-bait. We thought if we had fresh bait and could find somewhere to fish for our remaining time we just might nail one good king to push us to the top.”
At two o’clock they left heading back to the area that was so productive. Brant changed their course more to the south, heading to some new rigs and looking for anything out of the ordinary. “We found it,” said Brant. “A huge school of menhaden so tightly wrapped they were forming a funnel at their center. Birds were working the school hard.”
Instead of just putting out their fresh bait, Barrett insisted they throw the net on the school. He got more than they bargained for, a net so full of bait they had to cleat it down and remove over half the bait before they could even begin to get the bulging net in the boat.
After deploying a spread of baits including a double pogy rig, they hooked up to a good king only to have a hammerhead shark eat half of it. But that didn’t deter the team; their confidence level remained very high.
They caught teenagers and watched a fifty plus sky on a bait and miss it. With just twenty minutes left on the clock before they had to leave to make the 5:30 deadline for check-in, Barrett sent a pogy down rigged with a Yee Haw Fish Call and set it at forty feet.
Minutes later Barrett was hooked up with Brant and Rube still tending to other lines in the water. After all, time was running out and Barrett had things under control. “That fish made one huge run then it was just winding him in, but it seemed a long time,” Barrett explained. “When she came up and I saw the head, I hollered get the gaff.”
“As she came in the boat we were in awe. It was the biggest king we had ever seen,” said Brant. “We put her in the bag and headed north at forty-five miles per hour knowing we had a humongous king and a deadline to meet.”
The McMullans caught the biggest fish ever in the history of the SKA. Ironically, I was sitting with The Isle’s Bobby Carter before weigh-in started on the bleachers. “The SKA big fish record will be broken and it will happen here in Mississippi waters,” he told me matter of fact. I didn’t disagree for I, too, believed if the record was to be broken this is where it would happen.
I also believe that based on what the McMullans told me and the large crowd gathered to watch the weigh-in, the circumstances they put themselves in, their choice to use bait that they had just netted, and even after a shark attack on a good fish, they kept working the area they had confidence in. They adapted and applied knowledge that strengthened their chances. This is the mark of Champions!
As Brant summed it up, “We are honored by the title of being National Champions and we are honored with the greatest catch ever made in the history of king mackerel tournament fishing. I can’t believe it, we can’t believe it!”
They will make great champions.
Now to the fishery, I believe and have proved over the years, that this is a great fishery. Yes, you have to make long runs, however we also know of years that fish were within forty miles of the tournament site. It depends on when the mullet come out of the estuaries. We also know that winning kings are within twenty miles of Dauphin Island and it’s the same every year. Any time you can scale ten kings in the fifty-pound range and sixty-seven kings in the forties you must pay attention.
Then look at the pre-fishing. A pair of blue marlin were caught with one coming to the boat on film. One team caught a bunch of tuna while another team brought in a 160-pound tuna. Wahoo were also plentiful with lots of filets ending up in coolers for transportation back home. It’s a remarkable fishery!
Runner up in the 2009 National Championship was Jim Naset, Kyle Weaver, Kenny Larrison, and Eric Merchadante all from Redington Shores, Florida. Fishing Jim’s Yellowfin named ProMarineUSA.com after his marine engine parts company, the team scaled a 53.66 and 47.05, both on day one.
“We were late getting out to where everyone was fishing due to one of our motors going into guardian mode,” said Naset. “We basically got out late and had to leave early.”
The team fished an area by the Horseshoe that they fished last year and earned eighth overall. “We did well there so we started there and never left,” Jim added. “We caught at least fifty to sixty kings with the most of them in the forty to forty-five pound range.”
At one time they counted seventy-five boats in the area.
When asked what they used for bait, Jim responded, “You name it, we had it and it all worked. Bluefish, blue runners, dead mackerel, and even dead mullet.”
Their second place aggregate was still four and a half points better than last year’s winning aggregate of 96.15 pounds.
“We certainly wanted to congratulate the McMullan’s and their record king,” Naset added. “We came to win, but if we were to lose it was good to lose to their efforts to scale that spectacular fish. Biloxi is an amazing place to fish!”
The Texas team of Gary and Linda Hiles, John Gastian, Matthew Kern, and Bobby Schoenfeld, earned third place honors after scaling a 59.43 and a 39.62 for a 99.05 aggregate. They fished a Yamaha powered Contender named Terminator.
“Same story,” said team leader Gary Hiles. “We were right there with everyone else. We had caught five small kings after we got lines in, then the 59 hit. When she rolled up I said, that’s as big as the one we caught in the Palace tournament in September.” Gary was referring to a sixty pound king his team caught in the Biloxi tournament which gave him the Division 7 Open Class title.
“We went through a lot of hard tails, bluefish, and ribbonfish,” he added, “and wore ourselves out catching kings. It was an incredible bite.” He also gave credit to Bobby Schoenfeld, another Texan who fished with them.
“I have two theories about this sport which we practice: one, we keep our lines in the water and don’t move much, and second, I do a lot of homework so I don’t have to move. It’s worked well for us over the years.”
Certainly one of the best teams in the upper Gulf and a past Division 7 Open Class winner, earned fourth in the event.
Neal Foster and the Intense team scaled a 52.97 and a 39.95 for a 92.92 aggregate.
With Mark Collier, Josh Collier, Andy Dormois, and John Tabor, the team worked the same area as the rest of the eighty teams at the Horseshoe area.
Rounding out the top five was the Louisiana team of Bill and Mike Butler, Rick Ryan, Donald Bourgeois, and Steve Jenkins.
The Venice Marine team who fish a Yamaha powered Invincible named Crawgator scaled nice 48.33 and 44.45 pound kings for a 92.78 aggregate.
This year the SKA and its Corporate Partners paid out over $390,000 in cash and prizes including TWT’s at the Championship. The raffle pulled in over $7,000 for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). We were ecstatic and so was Gary Caputti who represented them.
The next five in the standings certainly need mentioning because of their great aggregates.
Mark Maus and Dowling Granberry certainly have had a great year earning third overall in the Pro standings and now sixth overall in the Championship. Team Simrad, out of Sarasota, Florida, scaled a 54.54 and a 37.82 for a 92.36 aggregate or an average of 46.18 pounds. That rates an A-plus in my book any day.
Everyone was happy when I announced that we would do the either/or format, however would the scores actually been higher if we fished both days? Mark and Dowling weighed both fish on day one. Could they have improved on the 37 on day two? Obviously we’ll never know. Only thirty boats left the dock on day two and, yes, it was a little rougher.
John Thomas qualified out of Division 10 near the bottom of the standings but still qualified, came to Biloxi, and earned seventh with a 51.09 and a 41.00. He and the team fish Team Walleye II. That’s a great story!
Richard Iwanicki, David Tennyson, Keadie Higginbotham, and Mike Syrakis, came to the event prepared to fish their Mercury powered Yellowfin, Salt Life / Foul Hooker out of Division 5. Eventually they did but not during the early part of the week. Seems a gremlin got into their motors and the factory had to send parts in. They got them just in time.
They scaled their first fifty, a 52.33 and a 39.50 to earn eighth overall. That’s a great story also!
Moon Doggie is another super story. After winning the Fall Brawl, Billy and Mark Emmart, who have never missed a Championship that I know of, told Don Ewing they were coming to Biloxi. They invited Stacy Wester to come along. The North Carolina team scaled a 47.39 and a 43.90 for a 91.29 aggregate and collected ninth place money and prizes.
John Smith Sr. and his Team Marlago.com team, all from Division 6, caught a great 57.21 and a 30.55 for 87.76 points. With Mike, Leeann, Mikey, and Landon Howes, they earned tenth overall. What’s ironic is that John fished with Arik Bergerman on Caliente and earned ninth overall in the Pros, but wanted to fish the Nationals with his team. Good call!
When you sum it all up, Biloxi is still the place to be at that time of year. Those big kings are there in numbers waiting for the mullet to exit the estuaries and spawn. The numbers over the years have more than proved that!
Congratulations to all who fished. This year we made history!
|2009 NATIONALS OPEN CLASS TOP 25|