“One aspect of the Kingfish Cup that separates itself from others, is that while it’s mainly a competitive, tournament angler-driven circuit, there’s still a family-friendly feel to it. With divisions for ladies, seniors, and youth, everyone has a chance to be involved and compete.” David Ittner, Tournament, Sponsorship, and Pro Staff Manager, in collaboration with Connor Megan, Regional Marketing Coordinator, Yamaha Marine Group Company.
Whatever engines you chose to fish with, you cannot deny the impact that Yamaha’s sponsorship has had on not only the Kingfish Cup, in its inaugural season, tournament king mackerel fishing overall, and even saltwater fishing as a whole. Former sponsors of a highly successful professional tour, the last few years have seen a bit of restructuring of the tournament kingfish scene. With the creation of the Kingfish Cup, Yamaha jumped right on board, becoming not only a title sponsor of the Cup, but sponsoring each individual event in the series. Their commitment to not only the series, but the qualifiers (which form the pillars of the scene in the true home of live bait king mackerel fishing) is second to none.
I was able to pick the collective brains of Connor Megan and David Ittner this past month and I appreciate them both being able to take some time away from their travel schedule in the Mid-Atlantic to share some thoughts on their product and the Kingfish Cup. I asked directly why tournament king mackerel fishing was important to the Yamaha brand. To quote directly:
“Tournament King Mackerel fishing is important to the Yamaha brand for several reasons, the first being that it’s the most competitive tournament circuit that we’ve seen in saltwater year after year. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of passionate anglers that compete throughout the season from the Carolinas all the way down to FL. These King Mackerel events are and have been the cream of the crop for saltwater tournament fishing for years now, and thus, important events for Yamaha. Plus, when you consider the evolution of the outboard powered boat in the tournament fishing industry, it makes sense for Yamaha to concentrate in this market. There was a time when a center console powered by a single 300 was the standard but that has all changed now. We’re seeing more and more larger boats powered by twin, triple, and even quad offshore outboards competing in these events today.”
The pair went on to state that while they were impressed with how the Kingfish Cup sold out online in five minutes, it did not come as a particular surprise, mainly because of the previous success of the existing tournaments. It is the opinion of Yamaha that the new tournament trail brought together four of the most prestigious kingfish tournaments sponsored by Yamaha, and has provided the perfect platform that anglers were looking for.
I also posed the question about the format of the series, with limited entry and controlled qualification for the championship. Yamaha has experience with this style of fishing, as it has been used elsewhere, and it is their feeling that those who do qualify for a championship have a more meaningful experience that under other formats.
It’s probably quite satisfying for these two representatives, and for Yamaha as a whole, to have so many fishermen who run their engines taking up spots on leaderboards and taking home checks at each event. Yamaha has a strong following in the saltwater markets in both Carolinas, and they attribute a lot of their commercial success to king mackerel circuits. For a company that lives and breathes life on the water, they are certainly making an indelible mark on the sport that we know and love!
In short, Yamaha is certainly on board with the Kingfish Cup, and they have gone out of their way to make each qualifier so far and to come a success! It’s hard to know where the Kingfish Cup would be without them, and we hope they are a part of this series for a long time to come!
It hasn’t been exactly a typical year with regards to weather patterns. The extremely powerful systems for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma unleashed extreme fury on Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Before anything else is said, our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims, many of which who live in areas where king mackerel fishing is prevalent. We have been extremely lucky here in Kingfish Cup territory, and no one is forgetting for a moment how blessed we have been so far this fall.
Even with the storms being misses/near misses in Brunswick, Horry, and New Hanover counties, the weather systems still have had their impact on fishing. The intense amount of rain dumped inland has to make its way to our coast through the rivers and then into the Atlantic, so we have seen dirty water and scattered bait on our southerly-facing beaches in right up until press time. With that being said, the signs of fall are upon us.
Early September came and the first reports of good king mackerel fishing from the ends of piers rolled in, all from the piers to the east of the Frying Pan Shoals. The Jolly Roger pier fired off first, and it wasn’t long until kings were being hooked from the end of the Carolina and Kure Beach piers as well. On September 23, the bite started at Ocean Crest, with two fish over 20 pounds being caught that weekend. Cherry Grove pier reported their first king mackerel catch of the fall season just a few days ago. Apache Pier hasn’t seen any action yet, but they are still in dirty water at the end of their tee. When it clears, the bite will most likely fire off there as well.
This is typical of the fall pattern on the NC/SC line, the crazy weather non-withstanding. It is easier for the beaches to east of Frying Pan to see the action first, as their easterly orientation means that the dirty (and less saline) water is dissipated more quickly. With the salinity being lower, and the water murkier below the shoals, dirty water can hang around a bit longer, pushing the bite back a few days or even a week. In this case, it is delaying the hottest action until when it is most important, that being the tournament month of October. As of right now, the tropics are clear, so there should be no interruptions to the schedule!
All it will take is the first taste of cooler, crisp weather, combined with the clearing water, to put the fall kingfish bite into overdrive in Brunswick County. Starting with the last weekend in September, there is a four week stretch where there is a tournament every weekend. The Shallotte Point and U.S. Open tournaments will set the stage for the final two qualifiers of the year in the Fall Brawl and Rumble in the Jungle. Expect improving fishing as October progresses, almost a crescendo, building to the apex of the bite in the second and third weeks of the month. This should be all-out beach fishing as conditions continue to improve. Even if the wind howls out of the north, it won’t matter. Most of the Cape Fear River Channel will still be in the lee of the beach, and it can be almost like fishing in a lake. This, folks, is what we wait an entire year for! This is the best king mackerel bite the region has to offer. Do well in the fall this year, and you’ll get to experience the best bite the southern Outer Banks has to offer as well!
One final note to all anglers, please exercise caution when you’re running in the dark. These storms have put a whole lot of random debris into the ocean, and we all know that it generally flows from the south to the north. You don’t want to end your day prematurely by hitting a free floating tree, so be careful!
It had been over two years since Lee Frick had fished a king mackerel tournament with his friend Ben Connor. The layoff probably won’t be quite so long the next time. Lee and Ben just took home top honors in the South Brunswick King Classic with a 39.07 pounder. This accomplishment makes another strong argument for defining the Kingfish Cup as an elite series. When the smoke had cleared, 8 of the top 10 teams on the leaderboard at the South Brunswick are Kingfish Cup teams. It doesn’t count for series points, but as we were told before “winning is never a bad thing.” The payout doesn’t hurt, either.
Lee said that he and Ben had a difficult time catching the scattered bait on the morning of the tournament, which was a single day affair. When the Sea Bandit team had gotten about 35 baits in the livewell of their Onslow Bay, they realized they were burning precious fishing time, so they made the decision to run offshore to 100’ of water. They allotted 30 minutes of time to their first spot, which didn’t pay off with a single strike. Spot two, however, a mere five miles away, was a different story entirely.
The first few minutes on the second spot paid off with a bite for the Sea Bandit, but they quickly realized that it wasn’t what they were looking for. They played around with an amberjack for a few minutes, which resulted in the team having to reset their spread. Three baits were in the water and they were getting ready to reset the downrigger when the top line started screaming. Lee was on the reel as the fish took over 200 yards on its first run, leaving both fishermen pretty certain that this was not another amberjack. They made the decision to pull the other lines in and make sure that their first good bite of the day made it into the boat. It took 15 minutes for Lee to angle the fish boatside after several, shorter runs. Ben’s expert gaff shot, even after a two year hiatus, ensured that the king went over the gunwale and into the bag.
Initially, Sea Bandit kept right on fishing, hoping to capitalize on a hot bite that they thought they might have found. After 45 minutes without any more action, however, they realized that they might have found a loner. At that point they checked to see how big their first (and only) fish was, and they realized that it was bigger than they both had thought. The fish was 53 inches to the fork, and they knew they were on the dance floor. So off to the scales they went. According to Lee, it should always be this easy!
When I asked Lee about the two Kingfish Cup events the team had fished earlier this year, he laughed and declined to comment. When prodded, he said his proudest accomplishment in the series to this point was “making it through two events and still managing to be tied with Barrett McMullan.” It looks like this team is heating up at the right time. They’re planning on sitting out the Shallotte Point tournament, but they’ll be back in action for the U.S. Open, the Fall Brawl, and the Rumble in the Jungle. In theory, just a single fish in either of the latter tournaments listed and they could be on their way to Ocracoke, where the multi-day, multi-fish format is the style of king mackerel tournament that Sea Bandit enjoys the best.
When you’re going down the leaderboard at the South Brunswick, you have to go to 8th place before you find a team that’s not fishing in the Kingfish Cup. There are a lot of teams we have recently discussed in newsletters who found success again at this event, such as Lil John, Beeracuda, and Windy Conditions. We haven’t covered Bug N A Rug Exterminators in detail yet, but if Stan Hollingsworth can have success similar to his 37.35 pounder in the Fall Brawl or the Rumble, you can bet that we will. Altogether it was another great leaderboard for Kingfish Cup teams, and another notch in the belt for the series. It’s good to see teams sharpening up for the stretch run.
Click on the tournament below to view photo galleries from that tournament. All photos copyright © 2019 The Kingfish Cup Series
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