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Amazing Kingfish Journeys

Terry Lacoss

Imagine running over 400-miles of open ocean waters in a single day of Southern Kingfish Association tournament competition.


Imagine running over 400-miles of open ocean waters in a single day of Southern Kingfish Association tournament competition.  Or, running bow first into 8-foot seas for 3½ hours! SKA kingfish teams, boats and motors live to challenge both long hard runs and giant king mackerel too!

Navigating ninety-five miles of open ocean with winds blowing up to twenty knots is both dangerous and unheard of for most king mackerel fishermen.  However, through the years, boat and outboard motor manufacturers have designed boat hulls to run faster and tame seas that would send lesser boats back to their home port.  Outboard motors have also been designed to produce awesome low end torque when keeping the bow of a thirty to thirty-eight foot kingfish boat in a positive running position.  With this in mind, kingfish teams in recent years simply don’t care about the weather and high seas, they go fishing and in faraway places.

“During the 2001 Opry Land’s 100th Anniversary Kingfish Tournament, the winds were blowing from the east at a solid twenty knots,” Marcus Kennedy remembers.  “With a full field of 500 SKA teams, we decided to leave the crowded, near-shore kingfish waters and run ninety-five miles straight west from Clearwater, Florida.”

With west winds, Kennedy ran his 36-foot, Yamaha powered Contender kingfish boat right through six- to seven-foot waves to reach a far offshore fish haven.  Also fishing on board were team mates Max Williams and Steve Shook.

“The ride out was actually not a problem with the offshore breeze,” Marcus said.  “It was the ride back in against six- or seven-foot head seas that made for a bumpy ride.  However, the 47-pound king mackerel that was iced down in our kingfish bag made the ride bearable!”

Team Kwazar based from Mobile, Alabama went on to top all competitors and win the $100,000 first place prize.

“During the 2008 FLW Orange Beach Alabama Kingfish Championship, we ran eighty miles offshore in solid eight-foot seas,” Kennedy related.  “The waves were actually breaking over the bow of our 36-foot Yellowfin when we gaffed a 51-pound king mackerel.  During the second and final day of the two day event, we made the same run in the same rough water conditions.  Our largest king weighed 28 pounds and we once again took first place honors.”   

Team Kwazar’s 36-foot Yellowfin center console fishing boat, powered by triple 250hp Yamaha 4-stroke outboards, weighs 10,000 pounds fully outfitted and loaded.  Fuel cells hold 525 gallons with a top speed of 60mph.  Fully outfitted, she burns 44gph, at a crusing speed of 50mph.  This gives Marcus Kennedy’s Kwazar Yellowfin a range of 600 miles!     

Jacksonville, Florida’s A-Team/Season Ticket took back-to-back Southern Kingfish Association wins in Georgia recently while weighing in back-to-back fifty-pound kingfish.  Alden Thorton heads up Jacksonville’s A-Team/Season Ticket with team members wife Alison, Brad Butler, David Butler, Conrad Lau, and Carl Carder.  Winning back-to-back kingfish tournaments with fifty-pound king mackerel is a feat in itself, but how the team accomplished this incredible feat, was even more amazing!

This amazing fishing adventure began with the SKA sanctioned Sapelo Kingfish Tournament, held from Shellman’s Bluff, Ga., July 30-31, 2010.

It was a “no-checkout” event, meaning tournament teams could launch their kingfish boats anywhere they wished, as long as they navigated back to the tournament check-in location by water.

“We towed our 38-foot Fountain, powered by triple 300-hp Mercury Verado outboards to Cape Canaveral, Florida where we met Lee’s Live Bait at 1:00 the morning of the kingfish tournament,” Thornton said.  “After purchasing enough live goggle eyes for our day of king mackerel fishing, we launched our kingfish boat, tied it up to a dock, and placed the live baits in a live bait pen.”

“We then spent the rest of the night in a nearby motel.”

Early the next morning, A-Team/Season ticket navigated from Cape Canaveral and ran a few miles north to the popular kingfish waters, called the Rock.

“At 10:30am, Brad Butler was free-lining a live goggle eye just off from the transom when a smoker rolled up on the live bait,” Thornton said.  “After several power runs by the big king, the big king was gaffed, placed in our fish bag and we headed for the tournament scales!”

A-Team/Season Ticket faced a 250-mile ocean run back to Shellman’s Bluff, but they made the 4:00pm check-in time with minutes to spare.  Their 50.99-pound king mackerel took top honors and was crowned a new tournament record.

The next week, Thornton delivered a brand new Mercury powered 38-foot Fountain fishing boat to former President George H.W. Bush.  It was a long drive to Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

“It was very gratifying to meet the former President and relive our past fishing experiences,” Thorton said.

President Bush is an avid outdoorsman and, during his term, signed an executive order to rebuild redfish and striper stocks.  One of his greatest catches came on April 19, 2008 when Florida Keys guide, Captain George Wood, guided the President to a 135-pound tarpon.  After the big silver king was photographed and released, President Bush, 84-years young, was ready to fight an even larger silver king!

Still pumped up from winning the Sapelo kingfish tournament and inspired by delivering a Fountain fishing boat to the former president, A-Team/Season Ticket entered the Golden Isles kingfish tournament, August 12-14, 2010.

However, the St. Simons Island, Ga. SKA event, required teams to first check-out from the local fishing pier, then run to their kingfish waters.

“We were faced with a 396-mile round trip run back to Cape Canaveral’s Rock,” Thorton said.  “The first day of the two day tournament we did not weigh in a single kingfish.  Now we had to make a crucial decision, we chose to run back the next day, 396-more miles of open ocean!”

This time A-Team/Season Ticket ran twenty-five miles past Cape Canaveral to an area called AA Reef.

“During mid morning, David Butler once again was free lining a live goggle eye off from the transom when a big king once again rolled on the live bait and smoked the kingfish reel in an easterly direction,” Thorton said.  “After a few strong runs, we saw the big king dive deep at boat side where the king tail-whipped the 20-pound kingfish line.  The second time the king surfaced, we were able to gaff the big king and head for the tournament scales!”

A-Team/Season Ticket topped all competitors with a second 50-pound king that hit the scales at 50.17 pounds. Their two-fish aggregate weight of 101.16pounds also took top honors in the Open Class for SKA Division 4.  Alden Thornton is Regional Sales Manager for Fountain Power Boats and Fishing Team Manager.

Thornton’s newly designed 38-foot Fountain boat weighs 11,000 pounds.  Add 460-gallons of fuel, gear, and crew, and the total gross weight becomes 16,200 pounds.  Depending on seas, the 38-foot center console Fountain, powered by triple 300hp Mercury Verado outboards, runs from fifty-eight to sixty-two miles-per-hour and burns 60 gallons of fuel per hour.  Do the math: 460 gallons of fuel divided by 60gph gives the 38-foot Fountain a range of just over 460 miles. At an average speed of 60mph, the amazing 400-mile kingfish run gave the A-Team/Season Ticket just a couple of hours of king fishing! 

Angler magazine, October 2010

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