SKA HISTORY – PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
There was a time when king mackerel tournaments were little more than enjoyable local events – big deals for individual communities, but lacking the cohesion to unite different events in various geographic regions. Then came the Southern Kingfish Association; the galvanizing force that harnessed an incredible synergy and transformed fragmented local efforts into a nationally-recognized force in competitive fishing.
Like ocean currents, shaping the seascape, breathing life into vast waters and gathering the forage needed to perpetuate life; the SKA organized, amplified, nurtured and promoted an already popular activity and gave it new direction, new meaning, new status.
Founded in 1991 on the Georgia coast, this membership-driven organization has been the premier sanctioning body for king mackerel tournaments. The name added credibility, bolstered participation and ushered in a new sense of purpose without ever losing sight of the fact that fishing is first and foremost about having fun with family and friends.
Through ambitious growth, fueled by burgeoning participation, the SKA created a national presence for competitors from Texas to Virginia. Combining a high-stakes Pro Tour with regional competition for national championship berths, the organization created a stage for anglers of all skill and participation levels. A grassroots mentality with heavy emphasis on family participation has long defined the SKA’s appeal.
Along the way, the organization’s influence has positively impacted several key areas of the sport-fishing scene:
Boat and Tackle Development: As with any pursuit, rising competition demands greater performance. Recognizing this, manufactures have tapped into the experience and insight of the SKA’s highly-competitive anglers to push the boundaries of innovation. Today’s kingfish boats with spacious open bows, massive baitwells, bristling rod holders, advanced electronics and blistering speed owe their modern design largely to SKA influence.
The same can be said for the high-speed reels, custom rods, long-handle gaffs, insulated fish bags and specialized rigging components necessary for contemporary competition. As the sport has grown, so has angler education. Success now demands fine-tuned tactics and the folks who make the tools of this trade have done a fine job of providing what anglers need to get the job done.
Professional Image: SKA anglers have also learned that playing on a national stage requires sponsor support and that, in turn, demands a polished presentation. From wrapped boats and tow vehicles, to stylish sponsor-friendly clothing, the modern kingfish tournament team is well-presented both on and off the water. Add to this, the strategic use of digital media for team marketing and sponsor promotion and it’s easy to see how the SKA has helped develop the sport’s image.
Charities: SKA anglers continue to assist various entities serving those in need with their participation in this great sport. Many sanctioned events direct a portion of their proceeds to charitable and/or benevolent organizations. Also, events often donate the fish entered by competitors to local food banks.
Conservation: Although the catch-and-release tournament format lends itself better to species other than king mackerel, the SKA promotes the boat side release of non-competitive fish that anglers don’t need for the dinner table. Competitors don’t gaff every fish they hook and many captured kings swim off to fight another day.
Harvesting a relatively small number of fish affords the organization an engaging platform of visibility through which to promote the conservation ethics we espouse. By focusing a spotlight on this magnificent resource, the SKA leverages the attention garnered to influence anglers toward environmental stewardship. Fostering personal and collective appreciation for king mackerel and the waters in which they live will help us bequeath this family-friendly sport to future generations.
Widening Demographics: By promoting family involvement with youth, lady angler and senior angler divisions, the SKA has strived to expand the sport’s participation with a place for everyone to compete. The same can be said of the Small Boat Division, which recognizes the differences in range, speed and capabilities for boats 23 feet and under. Fair, fun competition for all – that’s the SKA way.
At the Helm
SKA ownership has written different chapters, each of which has carved meaningful facets into this sport-fishing gem. Founder Jon Jones got the ball rolling in 1991 by partnering with Jack Holmes of Fort Lauderdale-based Holmes Communications. Jones and Holmes soon brought in a third partner, Jim Armstrong, who continued with the organization for six more years after Jones left in 1993.
SKA member Sid Steverson bought the organization in 1999, but two years later, sold it back to an ownership group led by Holmes. For the next 13 years, Holmes and his wife Deona ran the organization, along with various staff members, a board of directors and regional coordinators.
April 2014 saw the National Boat Owners Association take the wheel with a hearty blend of respectful appreciation for past accomplishments and enthusiastic vision for the organization’s future potential. Based in Sarasota, FL, NBOA had long enjoyed a productive relationship with the SKA as one of the trail’s title sponsors. Stepping up to a leadership role was a natural transition through which NBOA has brought its seasoned management team, multimedia marketing expertise and creative talents to the competitive fishing arena.
Committed to melding the best of what the SKA has achieved with the brightest hope for what this endearing organization can become, the NBOA stands firmly committed to these core principles:
· Providing maximum visibility and benefit for the dedicated anglers who continue to support SKA competition.
· Promoting the sponsors who graciously invest in this sport.
· Advancing environmental stewardship of the magnificent natural resources that grace us with a worthy challenge.
It’s a new day at the SKA with new ideas and new objectives; but none of this would be possible without the foundational years of this great organization and the combined influences of the many fine anglers who have braved the big waters in search of a toothy opponent.
The tales would lack their briny essence if we had not seen the ups and downs of growth and expansion.
The face of the sport simply wouldn’t wear the same weathered confidence had we not lived through the winds of change.
Our complete story is a work in progress that is only possible with anglers like you. We hope to see you along the Trail this year as we head back to Biloxi MS for the National Championship. The bite’s on, so grab your gear and step aboard. See you at the Scales!