The idea of staging an early spring wahoo tournament concocted by North Myrtle Beach residents Jeff Martini and Ace Parker is becoming a rite of spring among offshore trolling enthusiasts along the South and North Carolina coasts.
The 3rd annual Martini's Hook-A-'Hoo Rodeo will be staged April 17-25 and serves as a kickoff of sorts for the bluewater trolling season.
"Everybody I'm talking to has cabin fever," Parker said. "There were a few days in January where people caught some monster fish (wahoo) but there hasn't been a lot of time to get offshore this (past) winter. Everybody's rearing to go now if we can get some warm water to push in. Most of the warm water has been offshore of the ledges, which is pretty well out of range. This is about the time of year we see the weather pattern change."
Years ago, both Martini and Parker had family members receive life-changing assistance from Shriners International and the Shriners Hospitals for Children which - along with the duo's love for catching wahoo - served as the impetus for the tournament.
Their mantra has been to "give back" in thanks to the Shriners and the first two tournaments have raised a combined $22,000 in contributions to the organization.
"Jeff and I have fished for wahoo for a number of years," Parker said. "They are a powerful fish, we just enjoy them, and we love to eat them. Nobody has a wahoo tournament, so we got together and said 'Let's do one and give something back to the Shriners.' From there it has done quite well."
The original tournament was scheduled for the first week in April but has been moved to later in the month.
"We backed the tournament up two weeks to take advantage of the possibility of better weather and maybe we'll get in on the front side of the mahi (dolphin) migration," Parker said. "It's normally late April-early May when the mahi start pushing in. We're hoping to take advantage of better conditions for those fish, too."
The Captain's Meeting for the tournament will be held at 6 p.m. April 12 at Martini's Continental Cuisine & Piano Bar on U.S. Hwy. 17 in North Myrtle Beach. Entry fee is $420 and entries will be accepted through April 16.
The fishing days have been spread out over nine days - encompassing two full weekends - with each competing boat able to fish one day.
Weigh-in is set for 4 to 7 p.m. each day at Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach. The awards ceremony is set for 6 p.m. April 26, also at Martinis.
The winning wahoo will earn $10,000, the second-place wahoo $3,000 and the third-place wahoo $2,000. The optional tournament within a tournament is also available for wahoo, dolphin and tuna.
Parker, who expects a field of 50 to 60 boats hailing from Brunswick County, N.C., to Charleston, has taken heed of the current unseasonably warm weather on the heels of an unusually cold winter. The offshore waters were surely tested the last few days and will be again over the weekend.
"I'm sure there will be some people fishing to give us a better idea of what's happening out there," Parker said. "It's all right around the corner now."
For more information on the tournament, call Parker at 843-241-0646.
Upper slot reds aplenty in tournament
There was plenty of Lowcountry red drum that toed the 23-inch line during The Redfish Tour's stop in Charleston on March 20.
Case in point - the escapades of Pawleys Island angler Rob Beglin and his partner Jamie Reynierson of Augusta, Ga.
Beglin and Reynierson made the considerable run from St. Johns Yacht Harbor - the tournament headquarters southwest of Charleston on the Stono River - to the Bulls Bay area near Awendaw. The duo worked mainly three-inch Gulp Shrimp (pearl white or natural) on the Intracoastal Waterway in 58-degree water.
First, Beglin boated, measured and happily placed in the live well a redfish that, as he said, "was touching the line" of 23 inches.
With each competing team able to weigh in two redfish within South Carolina's slot limit of 15 to 23 inches, they kept fishing for another keeper, hopefully as close to 23 inches as possible.
Near the deadline to make the run back in time for the weigh-in, Beglin stopped fishing and was putting gear away for the long ride. Then, Reynierson hooked up with another fish that also wound up being right at the 23-inch mark.
"They were as long (as they could be)," said Beglin, who has previously finished fourth at the tour's Charleston stop. "I've never (weighed) two fish in that were perfect like that."
At the weigh-in, Beglin and Reynierson were stunned when their two perfect redfish only managed to land them in 10th place.
Their two-fish aggregate of 8.51 pounds (for fish weighing 4.32 and 4.19 pounds) was a mere .59 pounds, or about 9 ounces, off the aggregate of 9.10 pounds weighed in by the winning team of Richard Stoughton and Durrette Wooten.
In this case, the fattest fish won.
"It was so pretty that day, there was no wind in the morning," Beglin said. "It was absolutely gorgeous. I said 'There's going to be a huge catch today.' It was probably one of the best turnouts we've had and one of the best catches."
Other top local finishers in the field of 67 boats were the Georgetown team of Ben Alderman and Chris Condon in 12th place and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center team of Barrett McMullan and Kyle Hughes in 14th. A total of 33 reds tipped the scales at over 4 pounds at the weigh-in including a large fish of 5.09 pounds.
As per all Redfish Tour events, all fish weighed in were rejuvenated and released in a creek adjacent to the weigh-in site.
Odds and ends
Caudle Reef Foundation: The Seacoast Anglers Association of Little River donated $1,000 to the Jim Caudle Memorial Reef Foundation recently at a ceremony at the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. The money will be used to help create more habitat on the sprawling Jim Caudle Artificial Reef, located about three miles south of the Little River inlet.
"Seacoast Anglers has always worked with us, and it's refreshing to know they're behind a community effort like the reef," said Ron McManus, Chairman of the Dixie Chicken Fishing Funament which also supports the Jim Caudle Reef Foundation.
The mission of the Seacoast Anglers Association of North Myrtle Beach and Little River is to share knowledge and teach the basics of saltwater fishing to their members. The club promotes boating safety and ocean and wildlife conservation.
The money donated to the reef was raised by the club collecting aluminum cans.
S.C. brook trout mark challenged twice: After holding strong for 30 years, two South Carolina anglers hooked state record-setting brook trout less than a month apart.
The state Natural Resources Department says 9-year-old Riley Dunn of Tigerville hooked a 2-pound, 6.08-ounce brook trout in the South Saluda River on Jan. 22. It officially matched the 2-pound, 6-ounce state mark since existing records must be exceeded by at least two ounces to land in the record book.
Bryan Lee of Mauldin captured the mark on Feb. 12 with his 2-pound, 12-ounce brook trout that he caught practicing for the Lake Jocassee Trout Tournament.
L. Dean Chapman of Salem landed a 2-pound, 6-ounce prize on the Chattooga River in 1979.
The Associated Pres contributed to this article
Contact GREGG HOLSHOUSER at 843-651-9028 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.