Caroline McMullan (12) – Angler, daughter and sister
Brayden McMullan (8) – Angler, son and brother
Rube McMullan- GooRube, Father, Grandpa and guest star for the Rumble tournament
The 2017 tournament season brought renewed interest and enthusiasm for Team OIFC: The Kingfish Cup was established and 100 of the region’s top teams had joined to the tune of over $280,000 in available prize money. But it wasn’t all about the prize money for our team. We fish very hard and take fishing competition very serious, but actually winning 1st place in a tournament is the culmination of many things, including great luck. However, having a series whereby you accumulate points over a season to accomplish an objective is driven more by consistency of skill, and for Team OIFC, that was the goal going into the 2017 Kingfish Cup season.
Capt. Brant McMullan
Jolly Mon 2017:
Brant, Caroline and Brayden headed offshore while Amy stayed back at the Jolly Mon tournament site to direct the event’s weigh-in. The threesome fished 90-110’ of water and caught lots of Kings, but they were all cookie cutter 10 pounders. Through the day the team caught over a dozen Kings along with Mahi, Cobia, Sharks and Jacks, but they could not get the big bite they needed. They weighed in an 11.2 pound King to put up points to start the Kingfish Cup season. They ended the event in 15th place in Kingfish Cup standings.
Got’em On 2017:
Brant, Amy, Caroline and Brayden fished day 1 in less than great conditions and battled hard fishing the 80-90’ depth range. They had a scare from a Barracuda that acted like a King, and caught a dozen or more Kings in the 10 pound range, but opted not to weigh for hopes of better results on day 2. Caroline had dance on day 2, so Brant, Amy and Brayden headed out again with much better seas conditions. They started the day in 90’ and caught a 15 pounder, followed by a 24 pounder. At that point, the 24 was the biggest fish the team had seen all season and provided some comfort in knowing they had a decent fish to go towards Kingfish Cup points. They made a move to another spot in 90’ and on the first pass the downrigger at 40’ was taken. The fish made a short burst, but didn’t do much. Amy worked the fish while Brant redeployed and continued fishing. To the surprise and pleasure of the team, the fish came by on its first circle and showed itself to be a nice King, one which would weigh 34.51 pounds and win the team some Kingfish Cup money. But more importantly, it gave the team a strong fish going into the Fall that would almost certainly guarantee an invitation to the Championship and keep them in the hunt for Team of the Year. Team OIFC ended the event in 6th place in the Kingfish Cup standings.
Fall Brawl 2017:
Brant, Caroline and Brayden once again headed offshore while Amy stayed on shore to direct the weigh-in for the Fall Brawl. The father and two kids started at the Old Sea Buoy position in the Cape Fear but shortly after got a call from Capt. Barrett that the bite was on at Lighthouse Rocks. The team wound up and made the quick one mile jump and redeployed. It took about 10 minutes to work their way into the fish, but after that, it was game on. Brant’s job was to deploy baits and maneuver the boat while Caroline and Brayden either took turns or simultaneously battled Kings. It was a great bite from quality fish. The team put a low 30’s in the boat right out of the gate and around 10:30am put their 35.5 pound weigh-fish in the boat. The fishing allowed for Caroline and Brayden to get a lot of great practice on the rod and to have a lot of responsibility for the success of the team. The young brother and sister proved their worth and were critical to the team’s success in the Fall Brawl. Team OIFC finished 15th overall in the Fall Brawl and had all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the Championship. There was but one goal now, win Team of the Year. Team OIFC ended the event in 2nd place in the Kingfish Cup standings.
Brant, Amy, Caroline, Brayden and Rube joined forces in this final event. There was palpable pressure as Brant knew they had a shot at the Team of the Year title, but they would have to perform. Brant was aware of a hot bite of decent Kings that took place off Kure Beach the day before. He knew that he was going to need 28 pound or better fish to have a chance at taking Team of the Year. Thus, instead of going to Lighthouse Rocks where the chance of a winning fish might be greater, Brant opted for what he felt was a safer choice in trying to catch an upper 20s to low 30s fish. Upon arrival at Kure Beach the shark bite was red hot. Every bait was eaten shortly after deployment. The seas had kicked up in a 15 knot East wind and the water had dirtied some. 6 Sharks in and no King bite, Brant decided to leave after fishing less than an hour. The team started back towards Lighthouse Rocks but made a stop off the tip of the East beach of Bald Head to give it a quick try. The Xcessive Risk boat was working the area and had their gaff out, so possibly there was action. This spot had yielded several nice fish in previous week’s tournaments. 5 minutes in, the medium Bluefish was taken and the fish made a good run. Rube brought the fish to boat side and Brant gaffed what would turn out to be their 29.6 pound weigh fish. The team continued to fish and had a couple more mid 20’s fish before the bite turned cold. The crew rebaited off Bald Head and then headed to Lighthouse Rocks at noon. Once there they immediately began catching fish and watched as several boats around them boated very nice fish. The team worked multiple hookups on multiple occasions, but they could not get a bite from a big fish. It just wasn’t their turn despite a fevered effort. Brant anguished as he felt they needed one of the big bites to insure Team of the Year honors. As it stood with the fish in the bag at current, it was going to be close.
However, as the results show, the 29.6 was enough to propel Team OIFC to a 99.61 pound aggregate, 3 fish total and Kingfish Cup Team of the Year honors; winning over Strictly Business by 1.02 pounds. Team OIFC had not won any events. They had not even placed in the top 5 in any of the Qualifier events. But they maintained consistency with quality fish to take the honors by the skin of their teeth. It should certainly be mentioned that epitome of consistency was on display in the efforts of the Strictly Business team. They weighed a 30 pound or bigger King in all 4 of the Qualifier tournaments, which is an incredible accomplishment.
And thus was the 2017 Kingfish Cup journey for Team OIFC; at least thus far. The team is excited about the fishing and the opportunities that lie ahead in the Ocracoke Championship. No more thinking about consistency and strategy in this one. Very simply, catch the biggest fish and win!
Team Clearly Hooked Wins The Fall Brawl and Stays Hot
“I’m a big fan of the Kingfish Cup. We fish that and the Cape Lookout Series too, and these more specialized trails are good for the sport. They have brought the competitiveness back to king mackerel fishing.” Austin Eubank, Team Captain of 2017 Fall Brawl Champion Team Clearly Hooked.
For Austin Eubank and Team Clearly Hooked, the situation was dire, bordering on desperate. Going into the Fall Brawl, the third qualifier of the year, they had yet to weigh a fish worth a single Kingfish Cup point. Two summer tournaments and two goose eggs. There were a lot of boats in the field with the same or very similar circumstances, but on the second day of the two-day, captain’s choice event hosted out of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, their luck changed distinctly for the better.
According to Austin, they fished the epic fall bite in the tournament, “Just like everyone else.” This writer interprets that to mean big, naked baits, in the vicinity of the Cape Fear River Channel. Austin said that the team got lucky and got the right bite at approximately 1:00 pm. They saw what had inhaled their bait, so he made the quick decision to reel the rest of the spread in, knowing what size of a fish they had on the line. They made the right call. The king they had hooked was helpful as well, and they were able to gaff and boat the 45.6 pounder with relative ease. The fish was good enough to win the 2017 Fall Brawl by 1.6 pounds over Team Grip Flip in an absolutely stacked weigh-in. As stated previously, there were 45 king mackerel weighed in this tournament that were 30 pounds or heavier, along with a multitude in the upper 20s. To be at the top of this leaderboard is no doubt an honor, and of course brings with it automatic qualification for the Kingfish Cup Championship.
When asked about his chances at the Championship, Austin remained humble. “We’ve got as good a chance as anyone else up there, which is 1 in 26.” He’s a fan of the 1 fish per day format that will be used in the next event, and Team Clearly Hooked is definitely on the right trend.
Clearly Hooked was able to replicate their Fall Brawl success at the Rumble in the Jungle to a large degree. It was back to the same blueprint for the team, and while they struggled for most of the day, they finally got the bite they were looking for at 3:30 in the afternoon, on a double pogie rig tight to the boat. At that point, there was nothing to do but make a streak for Captain Archie’s and the scales in Little River. This fish went 11 pounds lighter than the previous week at 34.6 pounds, which was good enough for 12th place. Perhaps most importantly, though, this fish vaulted Clearly Hooked into 13th place overall for the Kingfish Cup, meaning that Clearly Hooked had qualified for Ocracoke both ways, both by points and as a standalone event overall champion. Not too shabby for a team that was tied for last going into the third qualifier!
When it all comes down to it, Team Clearly Hooked might be one to watch out for on the second weekend in November. Obviously they are on a hot streak (otherwise they wouldn’t be going) but perhaps their biggest advantage would be their experience with the area with the Cape Lookout series. Several of those tournaments provide an opportunity to fish to the east of the Lookout Shoals, and that is exactly where the field will be headed in just a matter of days. Clearly Hooked is clearly a team to watch out for at the Kingfish Cup Championship!
Just go fishing!
Capt. Chris Burrows
Team GripFlip Rides an Incredible October Through Little River to Ocracoke
“What makes this all so special is that we know we’re one of the smallest boats in the Kingfish Cup.” Gaston Hughes, Captain of Team GripFlip, the 2017 Rumble in the Jungle Champion.
According to Gaston Hughes, the U.S. Open was unkind to Team GripFlip. They found slow fishing on the beach during the first weekend in October, and no payout at all. This made their situation going into the final two qualifiers of the year dire, as they had absolutely no qualifying points and dwindling funds. A dizzying nine day stretch changed the situation considerably, to say the least.
The 44 pounder that Team GripFlip weighed in at the Fall Brawl went a long way into stocking the team’s treasury. That fish was good for a second place overall finish in the tournament, but (at the time) Grip Flip was still well short of qualifying for the tournament. This was their first fish weighed in a qualifier, and having only 44 points would have left them on the outside looking in, as only first place finishers get automatic bids. Then it was time for the Rumble in the Jungle.
Team GripFlip went to work, choosing Sunday to fish the Rumble, with bait they had penned up previously. They weren’t thrilled with the condition of their baits after the overnight storage, so they attempted to get some fresh pogies, but the bait off of Oak Island on Sunday morning was “Scattered and patchy.” Instead of wasting more time chasing bait, they eventually decided to pick through what they had and put a spread out. After short stops at Ocean Crest Pier and the Old River Channel, they eventually settled on Lighthouse Rocks, where a group of four boats appeared to be catching teen sized fish.
GripFlip was just about to give up on Lighthouse Rocks as well when another boat next to them got a decent bite, a king in the low 20s. This fish piqued their interest just enough to convince them to stay put and wait it out. It was then that they got their own first bite, a fish that ran directly immediately at the other boats, within 200-300 yards of their position. According to Gaston Hughes, “We immediately knew it was longer than our Fall Brawl Fish,” meaning that they were dealing with no small king. They knew that this was a potential tournament winner.
Maybe it was boat positioning, good luck, or just being in the right place at the right time, but this king’s run stopped just short of the other boats in the pack, and did not get tangled with a downrigger ball or another boat’s line. It also did not circle the boat like the Fall Brawl fish had, but came more or less directly to the gaff in the bow. As soon as it came on board, Team GripFlip knew that they had qualified for the Kingfish Cup Championship. They also knew that they had a potential tournament winner in the bag, so off to the scales they went. When the scales at Captain Archie’s tipped at 47.85 pounds, GripFlip had bumped Bruce Martin and Ante Up from the top spot in the Rumble in the Jungle. The team also had the foresight to enter everything they were eligible for at the Rumble, meaning they took top honors in the General TWT, the High Roller TWT, the Single Engine TWT, the Small Boat TWT, and the Family Award. Talk about a clean sweep in Little River!
So now it’s on to Ocracoke for the team on the biggest hot streak in tournament king mackerel fishing. Whatever happens at the Kingfish Cup Championship, Gaston Hughes and Team GripFlip have gone a long way towards proving the point that the fish don’t care the size of the boat you’re on, the make of the hull, or who manufactured your motors! You have to know what you’re doing, and be in the right place at the right time!
Just go fishing!
Capt. Chris Burrows
Life On The Cut Line
Life on the cut line of any competition can be exciting at its best, and cruel at its worst. For John Sims and Kryptek, they were able to hang on to their spot at the Kingfish Cup Championship, by a mere 74 hundredths of a pound. Their final aggregate of 69.96 kept them in 25th place, so they will be part of the field heading to Ocracoke, with a clean slate and the biggest payouts of the year still in play.
John said he was sweating the results down to the last second of the Rumble in the Jungle, where Krypek was unable to weigh a fish. To stay abreast of the chaos, he created his own Excel spreadsheet to track the field. Still, he wasn’t completely sure that Kryptek had qualified for the main event until final standings came out late that Sunday evening. Only then did he really breathe a sigh of relief.
Looking back, John says that the near disaster they had at Carolina Beach, with their fish falling into the water before a speedy and efficient retrieval, is “still a running joke on the boat.” At this point, he has seen how fortunate they have been to get that fish back, with all of its 34.86 pounds counting towards the extension of their season. Now, they can concentrate on working on the logistics of Ocracoke, and finding the fish up there.
On the other side of the coin, Team Wilmington Auto/King Hunter was the first boat out of the Kingfish Cup Championship. Team captain Robbie Roberts, however, was unfazed by missing out on the trip to the Outer Banks. “We’ll definitely be fishing it next year, because if we weren’t, then I’d be a quitter. And I’ve never given up on anything in my life.” Robbie had especially hard luck in the Rumble. He caught a 34 pounder that Saturday, but it was going to another tournament. King Hunter’s Rumble in the Jungle fish day had already been declared for Sunday, where the team scaled a 17.3. Either the Saturday fish or an extra three quarters of a pound on Sunday would have made all the difference in the world. Sometimes it’s just that close.
For Bruce Martin and Donna Gurganus, coming close took another form entirely. Their 44.2 pounder very nearly secured them an automatic qualifier spot. When that fish came over the gunwale of the Ante Up, they knew it was going to be close. Donna put it this way: “We knew it was a great fish, but also knew that we were fishing against great fishermen… We also knew that it’s very hard to have a first day fish hold up for the entire tournament…” The couple, who had always talked about how great it would be to catch a forty plus pounder in an actual tournament, stayed in the lead for the entire event, right up until Team GripFlip stole the show with their stud. With only 18.5 points in their Kingfish Cup season, winning the Rumble was the only way for Ante Up to get in, so their hopes evaporated when the scales stopped at 47.85 for the eventual champion GripFlip.
Bruce and Donna took the news with their heads held high. They also got a nice check for second at Little River, which went a long way towards easing the sting of their hard luck. No doubt they’ll be back at it in 2018, vying for their spot in the final 25.
Ultimately it was consistency that put boats in the field for the Kingfish Cup Championship. Team OIFC won the points overall without winning a tournament, finishing 7th on the Kingfish Cup money list. Perhaps the most consistent of all, Jeff Crouch and Strictly Business were so consistent that their drop fish was 29.95 pounds! Strictly Business didn’t win a single event either, but their multitude of fish over 30 pounds was good for 2nd on the money list. The field is full of teams who were able to repeat success with multiple good fish. Now, we reset everything. As Shane Britt from Team Shock Wave said, “There’s nowhere to go but up.” We’re headed up the beach to see who really wants the big payday. On to Ocracoke!
Just go fishing!
Capt. Chris Burrows
“I weighed a 7.1 pound king at the Jolly Mon this year just because I was hungry.” Tim Gray, Captain of Team Beeracuda
On big, slow, diesel boats, having hot food isn’t really that hard. Captain Roger Gales was famous for his culinary skills, which centered around wrapping leftovers in aluminum foil and heating at about 1,100 rpms (trolling speed) for about two hours on one of the the engine’s manifolds. Then you simply put on gloves, opened the hatch, and grabbed your lunch. In my years of charter fishing at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, we enjoyed basically everything short of fondue. I have heard it rumored that more plush boats even have microwave ovens.
Outboard powered center consoles, necessary for king mackerel tournament success due to their speed and fishability, don’t quite lend themselves to offshore cooking the same way. Most of the time, everything you eat during a day of hardcore king fishing has either sat in a cooler, on ice, or is stored in a bag somewhere. You can get your calories, for sure, on the usual assortment of chips, cold sandwiches, or Vienna sausages straight out of the can, but something is always missing. Bring a fish to the dock, however, in either the Jolly Mon or the Fall Brawl at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, and you get fed. There have been experiments with sausage dogs and pizza, to be sure, but the tried and true old standby is the OIFC dock hot dog.
In this day and age, Amy McMullan and Janelle Dawson are fixtures at the weigh-in (when they’re not fishing with their respective teams, of course) when it comes to the hot dogs. Once upon a time, they were joined by Pam “Nanny Bird” Beck, the mother of two time Jolly Mon Champion Jeff Beck, who runs the 27’ Contender “Do Work.” You’ll hear a lot of people refer to the hot dogs as “Bird” dogs, just because so many people remember her handing them out at the tournaments. She was as loved as they get, and a mother to many others in the kingfish scene. She was there to see her son win top honors in the Jolly Mon in 2010 (“Do Works” first major tournament win) and no doubt she was proudly looking down this year to see Jeff not only take first in the tournament, but to qualify for Ocracoke with the same fish.
I caught up with Jeff to talk about his culinary experience on the tournament docks. As a fitness freak who works out at Crossfit Ocean Isle, Jeff is usually pretty particular about what he eats. He made it clear though, that he’s never going to turn down a Bird dog when he comes in with a fish. Not only does it stir up fond memories, but it’s a great indicator that he just had a successful day on the water. Team Do Work weighed a fish in both OIFC tournaments in the Kingfish Cup this year. He went on to say, “There’s nothing like putting some hot food in your stomach after a long day on the water. I do have to say though, the dog in the Jolly Mon this year tasted one hundred percent better than the one in the Fall Brawl. I guess that’s only because the 42.75 we weighed in June had us in a much better mood than our fish in October.” Yeah, victory will do that.
It’s good practice to go to the weigh in, even if you think your fish won’t place. Every year, some team will miss out on a check because they decided not to make the trip, only to find they were in a better position than they thought. With the OIFC tournaments, the deal is even sweeter. Head to the weigh in and get a quick hot snack, then possibly a check later in the day. It’s not a bad setup at all, and just one of the little extra tidbits that makes our sport special.