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National Championship: Small Boat Biloxi, Mississippi 2012 SKA MERCURY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP November 8-11, 2012

Reel Thrill / Team Bone Suckin’ Sauce Tops Small Boat Class at National Championship!

By Jack Holmes
Managing Partner

Biloxi, Mississippi—The biggest challenge in our sport is to win a National Championship. Certainly many have tried, but each year the SKA can only honor one Championship team in each class. That said, let's all congratulate our newest Champions, Captain Vaughn Ford,  Graeson Ford, Walt Nelson, and Don Poling, teammates on the Mercury powered Onslow Bay named Reel Thrill/Team Bone Suckin' Sauce. The team also won the Small Boat Championship in 2010 and they are the first team ever to win the title twice in the Small Boat Class!

"The first day we went to the Exxon rig which was alive with good fish," Vaughn began to tell me. "We went through a lot of low 30-pound fish, but at eleven o'clock, I brought our 42.51 to the boat. Normally I let the others catch the fish." That was the king the team scaled at the end of the day.

Day two was different. The biggest king the team has ever caught, a 54.55, ate the first bait deployed at 9:30, a blue runner. Don Poling grabbed the rod and watched as line disappeared off the reel at an alarming rate. "I had to get on her hard," he said. "We had re-spooled our reels with heavier line for Biloxi fish, but this king just wouldn't stop her initial run. It took us 20 minutes to bring her to gaff. Heavier line and wire is a must!"

The two-fish aggregate totaled 97.06 pounds, almost ten pounds heavier than the second place aggregate. A great tribute to a great team!

"This is wonderful," said Ford. "Graeson did a super job on the boat as did Walt and Don. We worked hard and it paid off. I especially want to thank Onslow Bay Boats and Mercury Outboards, which we relied on and had a lot of confidence in. Of course, thanks go to Cape Fear Sportswear and Bone Suckin' Sauce who also contribute to our passion."

This team from Youngsville, North Carolina sets an example for others to follow who fish our sport. They deserve all the accolades the SKA and the fishing community can bestow on them!

Another great team from Charleston, South Carolina earned second place with a two-fish aggregate of 88.10. They also made it into the 50-pound Club during Nationals week.

Team Sperry/Net Profit with Bryan Baxter, Trey Groves, and Matt DeAntonio also fish an Onslow Bay boat, but this one with Suzuki power.

"We moved all around on day one," said Baxter. "We started at the old CA rig, went to 108, then to the City rigs, and ended at the Horseshoe. We had a three-degree temperature change as we moved around."

The team ended up with a nice 51.58, the biggest they've ever caught in a tournament but almost lost her to a shark, which were very prevalent throughout the whole Nationals week. "As she came to the boat, a ten-foot shark came out of nowhere," Baxter explained. "We immediately let the king run and she got away from the shark. Next we smoked the reel getting her back to the boat."

Day two they had the same thing happen with a big king, but this time the shark won. "It was every bit the same size as our day one fish," said Baxter. They settled for a 36.52. "It was disappointing, but the thrill of having two great fish on can't really be explained. You have to love this fishery!"

"I personally want to thank Brad for building such a great boat and helping all the Onslow Bay teams stay together in the marina. It really is special," Baxter added.

Third place went to a Florida team fishing a Yamaha powered Contender, Gatorfan.

David Albritton told me that a young lady named Ashley Coe, who is the daughter of David King, a noted angler from central Florida who was supposed to fish with Albritton but had to cancel, was the reason they earned third.

"Ashley, a fifth grade school teacher, did everything on the boat anyone could expect," Albritton told me. "We went to the Horseshoe both days, lost five kings to sharks, caught and scaled a 45.37 on day one, added a 39.48 on day two to our score using a ribbonfish 100 feet down, and had a motor beak as we got in on day two," Albritton said. "We also caught a 60-pound wahoo which I caught but Ashley gaffed and flipped into the boat."

It was good to see David do so well. He is considered to be one of the all time best Small Boat Class fishermen in our sport!

The Edens, who won a Small Boat Class title in '08 and are considered to be one of the top teams in the Carolinas, earned fourth place. In fact, they caught the biggest king of the tournament on day one—a 58.14.

"That king was the biggest we've ever caught," said Randall Edens who fishes with his dad George and son Cole. Also on the team was Chris Gaddy and Jeremy Newton. They hail from Hampstead, North Carolina, home to many top fishing teams.

"We started out rig hopping before we got to the Horseshoe, but had nothing to show for our efforts," he added. "When we got to the Horseshoe the big king hit a flat line, went straight down and literally wouldn't come to the boat. We finally persevered and the fish was loaded in the bag and we fired up the Yamahas on the back of our Onslow Bay and headed to the scale. We made one stop to get bait for day two."

Day two the team made the two-and-a-half hour run back to the Horseshoe in rougher seas, which was the right thing to do. However, the best they could do was a 24.55. I could see the depressed looks on their faces when they handed the fish to the SKA weighmaster, Darrin Waldkoetter. "Yes, we were depressed, but that's fishing," added Randall. "It wasn't for lack of effort."

Everyone knows that every time this team enters an event, they'd better bring their A-game or settle for second place.

The King Seeker team from St. Marys, Georgia rounded out the top five. Cal Lang, Jr., his son-in-law Miles Hendrix, and Tripp Lang fished both days in the 108 block. "We got both of our fish, a 37.71 on day one and our 42.91 on day two, in the same spot," said Cal. "Our first king ate a large mullet on the surface. On the second day we put out a ribbonfish with a gold skirt we bought from the SKA trailer and drug it just below the surface. After we got her in the boat we came in."

This was a great season for the King Seeker team having won the Division 5 Small Boat Class and now earning fifth fishing against the best small boat teams in the country.

Cal also wanted to thank Tim Haney from Yamaha who helped him get new motors and to Panama Jack who is also a team sponsor.

"A big thank you to the SKA team. We had such a great time with friends and new friends in Biloxi. It's such a great place, we just love the Isle," Cal added.

Finishing sixth was Peter and Robert Weisburg plus Freddy Rodriquez from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Strictly Fishing, Yamaha powered Contender team could only muster a 19.10 on day one but roared back on day two with one of the nicest kings of the week, a 56.71.

"We had problems on day one and didn't get to really fish much," explained Peter. "We got everything fixed and even though it was rough on day two we still ran to the Horseshoe."

The team caught a couple of 35s right away, had a shark on, then using a mullet on the downrigger got a big strike. "She acted like a shark but we kept on fighting the fish," said Peter. "I had a fish on at the same time which I got to the boat, a mid-30s, and released it to turn all efforts to Robert's fish. We chased her up from the depths and knew when she came up it was what we were looking for. We determined after she was in the boat that she was the biggest we'd  ever caught."

Next came the Reel Buzz/Brookelyn Cigars team from Hampstead, North Carolina. Chip Nifong, Brian Schoenwiesner, Morgan Lawson, and Kyle Drinkuth scaled a nice 45.03 and a 30.15 on day two for a seventh place 75.18 aggregate. They fish a Yamaha powered Contender.

Rounding out the top eight was the Beerability team from Charleston, South Carolina. The Yamaha powered Sailfish team with Dow and Cole Suggs, Kenneth Nelson, and Danny Boulware scaled two kings in the upper 30s, a 38.47 and a 36.36.

Fishing the upper Gulf waters in November is usually challenging. This year day one was not rough and very fishable, but on day two it became challenging for the teams. However, the boats manufacturers are building for the Small Boat Class are far superior to what we were in ten years ago so it's manageable. Kudos to our top eight in the Small Boat Class. They deserve the honors bestowed on them.


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