Sometimes it’s hard to beat local knowledge and a boatload of experience.
Lin Fore and Mike McDonald, a pair of grizzled hometown guides from the host city of Georgetown, teamed to top the field of 72 boats in an IFA Redfish Tour Atlantic Division tournament Saturday.
Fore and McDonald go way back and have a wealth of experience fishing the Winyah Bay vicinity. Both Fore, 65, and McDonald, 70, attended Winyah High School, Fore in the Class of 1969 and McDonald Class of 1965.
Combined, they have been fishing the estuaries and rivers in the Georgetown area for over a century.
After retiring from their respective careers, both ventured into the fishing guide business, targeting species such as red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum and flounder. Fore is owner/operator of Low Country Expeditions and McDonald is owner/operator of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service.
On Saturday, Fore and McDonald weighed in a two-red drum aggregate of 9.34 pounds to finish ahead of a field that featured local anglers along with out-of-state fishermen who traveled from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. They also weighed in the big fish of the tournament, a 5.16-pounder.
“There ain’t too many good things you can say about getting old, but if you can remember some of what you’ve learned it will help you out,” Fore said. “It was Mikey’s idea – it was a good thing for us to come in there and fish (the tournament).”
McDonald said, “all them young guns let two old, fat fellows beat ‘em.”
The duo won a fully rigged Ranger 1862 with a 70-horsepower Yamaha outboard, plus $2,938 in Angler’s Advantage cash for total earnings of about $29,000.
The top of the leaderboard was close, with the top six teams all weighing in a two-fish aggregate over 9 pounds.
David Banks of Jacksonville, N.C., and Jeremy Collins, of Maysville, N.C., finished a very close second with a 9.28-pound aggregate. The anglers fished very close to the launch site – the Carroll Ashemore Campbell Marine Complex on the Sampit River – and caught their fish by dead sticking and throwing top-water lures.
Third-place finishers Jared Allison and Lance Allison of Cocoa, Fla., weighed in 9.22 pounds after fishing oyster rakes in Bulls Bay with Berkley Gulp and gold spoons.
Fore and McDonald sat down before the tournament and mapped out a game plan to find red drum on the upper end of South Carolina’s 15-23 inch slot limit. They decided on six spots to fish where they had previously caught smaller redfish.
“If you’re going to find slot fish, you find them where you have smaller fish, not bigger fish,” Fore said. “If you’re catching 8- to 9-pound fish, (the slot fish) are not going to hang around with them as much as they are the 1 1/2- to 2-pound fish. It’s all about competition and those slot fish can’t compete with those bigger fish. Weed through those smaller fish and you’ll get to those slot fish.”
While some teams zoomed down to Bulls Bay and the Charleston area, Fore and McDonald fished close to home. Fishing in McDonald’s 2200 Bulls Bay, which served as their sponsor, the duo started in Muddy Bay (within Winyah Bay) and then made a quick run south to the Santee Delta vicinity.
“We fished grass banks in 18 inches of water or less,” McDonald said. “In the tournament, there were incentives to fish with Penn reels and Gulp bait. I fished with Penn and Gulp baits all day long.”
McDonald noted they caught about 25 redfish ranging in size from 14 to 25 inches.
“We caught fish everywhere we went,” Fore said.
Fore caught both fish that were weighed in, one measuring right at 23 inches and another 22-incher, both on Gulp shrimp on 1/4-ounce jig heads under a Sea Striker rattle float.
“Lin caught both fish,” McDonald said. “I did an excellent job of netting them both.”
One of the fish McDonald caught was a very plump near-miss.
“Mikey caught a squeaker that was just a little too long,” Fore said. “We made them boys cry but we would have really made ‘em cry if that one would have made it. Pull two hairs out of your head and that’s how much (over 23 inches) it was.”
With two fish close to the upper end of the slot in the live well, Fore and McDonald knew they had a shot.
“We felt like we had a chance of getting in the money,” McDonald said. “It’s anybody’s tournament, it’s just luck. How do you have skill to catch a 23-inch fish over a 22-inch fish? It’s just the luck of the draw to catch a 23-inch fish.”
As for the grand prize, the duo was happy to win the Ranger 1862. But there is one problem.
“I’ve got three boats and Lin’s got four,” McDonald said with a laugh. “Why do we need another one? It’s for sale.”
Justin Rienerth, of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., measured a combined limit of 45.13 inches to win Kayak Division of the tournament on Sunday.
Rienerth fished north of Charleston to catch his spotted seatrout and redfish. Rienerth used top-water lures for trout and fished the flats at low tide with swimbaits to catch his redfish.
Dave Jaskiewicz, of Wando, won second place with an 18.50-inch trout and a 21.50-inch redfish while fishing 45 minutes south of Georgetown in the Intracoastal Waterway. Jaskiewicz fished top-water baits in the morning before switching to jigs with paddletails in the afternoon.
Fall Pier King Tournament
Traditionally, not that many kings have been caught in the annual Fall Pier King Mackerel Tournament.
That changed last weekend during the 2016 version of the tournament that was held on four Myrtle Beach area piers – Apache Pier, Cherry Grove Pier, Myrtle Beach State Park Pier and Springmaid Pier.
Many years, no kings were caught during the tournament with the winners determined by a drawing of competing anglers.
Last Saturday and Sunday, 14 kings were caught from Cherry Grove Pier and two from Apache Pier.
Angler John Leach caught the winning fish, a 37-pound, 5-ounce king mackerel while fishing from Apache Pier Sunday at 3:10 p.m.
The rest of the top five were caught off Cherry Grove Pier including John Gaeto with a 29-12 fish caught Sunday at 4:56 p.m., Connie Limbaugh with a 29-3 fish caught Saturday at 4:36 p.m., Zac Jackson with a 28-8 fish caught Saturday at 7:15 a.m. and Brandon Jadin with a 28-6 fish caught Saturday at 7:45 a.m.
The size of the kings was excellent with all 14 caught off Cherry Grove Pier weighing over 20 pounds.
The question is, what made the difference in catches compared to years past?
“The water’s been crystal clear, you can probably see 3-4 feet down on the pilings,” said Steve Gann, Operations Manager of Cherry Grove Pier. “That makes a big difference. It was a combination of really good water conditions, favorable winds and plenty of bait. We had a number of kings caught on Thursday and Friday (Sept. 22-23) leading up to tournament time so we had a good idea the weekend would be prime.”
As good as the king fishing was, it was not unprecedented for the tournament, Gann said.
“In the early 1990’s we put 15 on the deck and in 2007 we landed 17, but those were three-day tournaments,” said Gann.
The super king action has continued, with 10 more kings caught off the Cherry Grove Pier Monday through Wednesday since the tournament. In a seven-day stretch beginning Sept. 22, there were 28 kings caught off Cherry Grove Pier.
Catches were also great on the Apache Pier at mid-week.
“The bite is on - the kings are here,” Carsten Fischer, Apache Pier manager, said late afternoon Wednesday. “We’ve caught eight kings in the last two hours. They were from 17 to 25 pounds.”
Gregg Holshouser: firstname.lastname@example.org