When the dust settled after the crew of For Sale had boated the eventual winning king mackerel in the Yellowfin/Yamaha Fall Brawl King Classic, Roger Pennington caught his breath and knew it was meant to be.
The catch of the winning 30.25-pound king in the Southern Kingfish Association-sanctioned tournament didn’t exactly unfold in typical fashion for the three-man crew based out of Aiken.
Pennington was fishing with Troy Cowart and rookie angler Skip Lowery Saturday near Shallotte Rocks a little over 40 miles offshore of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, the host site of the tournament.
A little after 9 a.m., the crew had slowed the boat to battle a smaller king when Lowery, on his first fishing trip in the ocean, grabbed one of the other rods to reel it in and get the line out of the way.
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The line had dropped beneath the boat, and as Lowery reeled it in the big fish nailed the bait – a dead Calcutta cigar minnow.
“The fish just took off and the line wrapped around the motor,” Pennington said.
Pennington took the rod from Lowery and stepped to the stern, putting the rod tip deep into the water to get the line unwrapped from the motor – with the king on.
The king remained hooked up as Pennington unwrapped the line. He took over as angler and worked the fish to the boat, where Cowart gaffed the fish. But there was a problem.
“We bought the gaff from Bass Pro and the hook [of the gaff] broke off it when [Cowart] gaffed the fish,” Pennington said.
So, the fish took off again, except this time with a gaff embedded in it – minus the handle.
Again, Pennington worked the smoker king to the boat. This time, when the tired fish laid up beside the boat, Cowart reached down, grabbed it by the tail and slung the king into the boat – gaff hook and all.
“That’s just meant to be when you get one in the boat like that,” Pennington said.
For Sale’s 30.25-pounder beat the field by over three pounds, with a 26.64-pounder weighed in by Blue Ice Bandit of Norwood, N.C., finishing second.
Really Miss Behavin (24.21) of Kernersville, N.C., Inlet View Bar & Grill (22.87) of Shallotte, N.C., and Choice of Two (22.85) of Sunset Beach, N.C. completed the top five.
As far as finishing with the winning fish, Pennington didn’t follow standard procedure.
Pennington, who has fished competitive king tournaments since 1995 and celebrated his first win, was one of only 20 captains that chose to fish Saturday. The rest of the 77-boat field fished Sunday when a better marine forecast was in store.
“When’s the weatherman ever right?,” Pennington said. “We fished Saturday and it got nice out there. It was one of those things – when they went out Sunday they got beat to death.”
Pennington also decided to forgo trying to catch menhaden for bait since the water along the beach was still churned up from Hurricane Sandy’s passage. Instead, he invested in the frozen Calcutta cigar minnows.
Finally, Pennington did lots of chumming by way of the standard method – with some help from Lowery.
“That was Skip’s first time fishing in the ocean. I think that’s what helped, him chumming all day too,” Pennington said, with a laugh.
The SKA Nationals are underway in Biloxi, Miss., with fishing set for Friday and Saturday and the awards ceremony Sunday. Visit www.fishska.com to view the live webcast of the weigh-ins each day from 3-6 p.m.
Hooks for Hearts
The 7th annual Hooks For Hearts Charity Trout Tournament will be held Nov. 17 in Murrells Inlet.
Captains Meeting is set for Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at Dead Dog Saloon in Murrells Inlet.
Entry fee is $80 per boat with a kayak division also available for $25. First place earns $1,000. The tournament benefits The American Heart Association and the Winston Perry Reef Foundation.
For more information, call Capt. Englis Glover at 843-655-5459.