In order to win a major kingfish event, SKA teams will need to employ a variety of fishing patterns that attract better than average size king mackerel.
The last day of the 1998 Southern Kingfish Association's National Championship had just begun when "That's My Dog" hooked into a good sized Fort Pierce king mackerel.
"After gaffing the fish, I estimated his weight at close to thirty-five pounds," said Forrest Taylor. "At the same time, one of our outboards was acting up and would not start, Keeping in mind that we had already weighed in a 44.8 pound kingfish on the first day of the two day event, I told my crew that we needed to get the boat and equipment ready for the one hour trip back to the weigh in scales."
"How big is your king?" fellow Donzi teammate Roy Byrd questioned over the VHF marine radio.
"Roy, I think it weighs around thirty five pounds," answered Forrest. 'We are having some minor motor problems, so we are contemplating heading back to the scales."
I think you might need a bigger fish to go with that monster you caught yesterday, before you head in," answered Byrd, captain of the "Wild Injun." It I were you, I would stick it out and try to catch a bigger fish!"
I think we have already made our minds up, we just dumped over close to four dozen live goggle eyes," answered Forrest. "At one hundred dollars per dozen, I think we have pretty much made up our minds that we have stopped fishing for the day and are going to lay our cards on the table with this fish and the one that we caught yesterday, for our two day, two fish aggregate."
Placing the hook of his handheld scales between the gill plate and the gills of the big king, Forrest Taylor watched anxiously as the needle of the scale passed the thirty-five pound mark. The fish scales finally rested at just over forty pounds!
Forrest once again called the "Wild Injun" on the VHF radio and gave the Fernandina Beach-FL. based team the good news.
"Boy are we glad that we threw those expensive goggle eyes overboard, our king weighs just over forty pounds," said Forrest! "We estimate that we have close to eighty five pounds for our two day aggregate. We hope you have good luck fishing, we are headed for the SKA tournament scales!"
By now, the Ocean Isle, North Carolina-based fishing team had figured out the problem with their outboard. The fuel had simply drained out of the bulb and the fuel line. Forrest's father, William Taylor, had found the problem and was now pumping fresh fuel into the outboard by squeezing the primer bulb. Once the bulb was hard and full of fuel again, the Mercury outboard fired right back up and once again, ran like a finely-tuned Swiss watch.
Back at the SKA National Championship scales, "That's My Dog's" kingfish weighed 40.2 pounds, giving them a two fish aggregate of eighty five pounds and the 1998 SKA National Championship!
"I really owe all the credit to my fishing team members," said Forest. "Winning big tournaments is definitely a team effort and all of our team members contribute to eventually weighing in a potential winning king."
"That's My Dog" fishing team includes William Taylor Sr., Don Ewing, Richard McCrea, Forrest Taylor and son, Adam Taylor.
"During practice, we had caught a kingfish that weighed over fifty pounds," said Taylor.
'We had actually found a good number of big kings just north of Fort Pierce, holding over a hard bottom and in forty feet of water. Here we developed two patterns for catching big fish".
"Our first pattern included trolling ribbonfish down deep, just a few feet off from the bottom. I rigged the ribbonfish with a "Captain Brown Hook-up Jig". Here, we would barb the stainless steel hook of the leadhead jig right through the bottom of the mouth and up through the top of the head, which allows the ribbonfish to troll straight. In this case, when fishing deep with downriggers, we would use the 1/2 oz"Hookup"jig. A four- to six-inch section of number four wire was used as a shock leader and a # 10 barrel swivel was haywire wrapped to the tag end of the wire shock leader. Next, we use a ten toot section of 15 lb. fluorocarbon which is tied to the end of the barrel swivel and to the tag end of our terminal fishing line."
But in the case of many successful Southern Kingfish Association teams, there is always one factor that keeps these teams in the winner's circle.
"Our confidence is really made when we attach the tag end of our fifteen pound, "High Seas" fishing line to the shock leader," explains Forrest. 'We use High Seas "Black Widow" brand fishing line, which I guarantee you can not see it in the water!"
High Seas is an IGFA tournament grade fishing line that employs multiple colors to camouflage the fishing line. Using line colors of red, black and grey prevents any light reflection, which actually camouflages the fishing line.
'To complete the ribbonfish rig, we use #6 single-strand silver wire and # 4-4X, silver treble hooks in stinger fashion right down the side of the ribbonfish," instructs Forrest .
"I knew that trolling ribbonfish down deep and just off from the bottom would be a winning fishing pattern at the National Championship, but we had a second pattern that we also planned to use as well. A good friend of ours, Brent McMullen, captain of the "Carolina Contender", fished off Fort Pierce last winter and caught several 40-50 pound kings while trolling for sailfish with live goggle eyes. I had often heard that live goggle eyes were a premier live bait for kingfish, so we planned to have plenty of live goggle eyes in our live well during the tournament."
During the first day of the SKA championship, the 44.8 pound kingfish hit a "Captain Brown Hook-up Lure" and ribbonfish combo down deep. During the second day of the event, the 40.2 pound kingfish hit a live goggle eye, which was fished right on the surface and some twenty yards off the stem of the team Donzi boat,
"I think every boat fishes differently and develops different fishing patterns," remarks Forrest. "For example, I have kept close records of where in our trolling pattern that we have caught big kingfish and nine times out of ten, larger kings have been caught in the same place in the spread."
"Most of our larger fish have hit flat lines, fished some twenty yards off from the stem of our Donzi. This is exactly where the 40.2 lb. kingfish hit the live goggle eye during the final day of the SKA national championship. We have yet to catch a big king right in the prop wash of the Donzi, yet when I fished out of my last boat, a Mako, we caught all of our big fish right in the prop wash or way back and down."
"Thats My Dog" fishing team also had a winning fishing pattern when fishing the 1998 SKA Kingmaster 100 tournament.
"Another major factor in winning major events is having lots of help," said Forrest. "The Donzi fishing team members, particularly Steve Shook, gave us plenty of help when we fished over in the Gulf. One of our winning patterns there was to fish with big blue runners down deep. That pattern produced a 55 pound kingfish and a 2nd place check for $28,000.00!"
Like most successful kingfish teams, "That's My Dog" has produced a wide variety of winning patterns for each destination that they fish.
"In the Carolinas, we like to fish with menhaden during the warmer months, said Forrest. "One of our most successful fishing patterns has been to fish the inlets with menhaden and try to target a major feeding period. These big bites normally last between thirty minutes and a hour, then they are over. When this happens, we might run to the next inlet down and hope that the bite will take place there once again. During the fall of the year, we will normally fish with mullet at these same inlet mouths. Naturally the fall mullet run is in full swing and kingfish are often thick at most inlet mouths, waiting for the outgoing tide to push the mullet schools out into the ocean."
Another successful pattern that Forrest and his fishing team has developed is jigging up live baits off the bottom while they are king mackerel fishing.
'We always try to determine what the fish are presently feeding on," said Forrest. "A good way to determine this in a hurry is to drop down a baitcatcher rig and start to jig up baits down on the bottom. When we have determined what kind of baitfish are most prevalent on the bottom, we will begin to fish with them. One of our favorite baits is the "Lizard" fish. Kings just love them, but I will bet you that not very many fishermen will fish with them!"
Finally, one of the best fishing patterns that Forrest Taylor and his team members have developed is simply changing their trolling spread frequently in hopes of finding a winning pattem.
"When things slow down, we are constantly changing our trolling spread," explains Forrest. "Some changes include dropping our baits back further or bringing them in closer, or simply fishing deeper or shallower with our downrigger baits."
There are simply hundreds of techniques to catch kingfish, but there are only a few patterns that catch the big winning kings. Forrest Taylor and the "That"s My Dog" fishing team use winning patterns, and that's why they are our 1998 Southern Kingfish Association National Champions."