The day was looking to be a frustrating one for Joey Crisp and his two crew members aboard Wee Doggie Sunday in the Southern Kingfish Association’s Rumble in The Jungle out of Harbourgate Marina in Little River.
The tournament had been postponed a day due to a small craft advisory, but that didn’t mean the northeast wind had died down.
Crisp, of Wilmington, N.C., was fishing in his 38-foot Fountain powered by triple 300-horsepower Yamahas with his daughter, 11-year-old Whitney, and fellow Wilmington resident Andy McInnis, dealing with at least 3- to 5-foot seas once he got away from the beach.
The threesome went from spot to spot without landing a king mackerel, first trying the Cape Fear River Channel. From there, they moved on to the Yaupon Reef, 390/390 and then the tournament’s namesake – The Jungle, all with no action.
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“It was rough all day, but after 1 p.m. it started laying down just a little bit,” said Crisp.
Fishing time was winding down in order to meet the 5 p.m. weigh-in deadline, but the trio had to catch a fish for the deadline to matter.
Crisp moved to a live-bottom area east of The Jungle in about 70 feet of water a little over 20 miles off Little River, knowing this would be the last spot of the day. The trio started slow-trolling the pogys (menhaden) they had netted that morning near the lighthouse at Southport, N.C.
Finally, 20 minutes later at about 3 p.m., they got a bite on a downrigger, with McGinnis grabbing the rod and serving as the angler.
“The fish came up 15 to 20 yards from the boat, but we couldn’t get her to come to the boat,” recalled Crisp. “Every time we’d get her close she would make another run. We knew we had a big fish but we couldn’t get to it.”
After a 20-minute fight, Crisp was able to reach the fish with a 12-foot gaff, pulled it in the boat and the celebration was on. After a quick clean-up, they roared off toward Little River.
The crew made it back to Harbourgate Marina at 4:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the weigh-in deadline.
“We kind of figured with the 65 boats [in the tournament] we felt pretty good about placing,” said Crisp. “After making a few phone calls, we started thinking top three. We found out we were sitting on top when we weighed it in. Then it was hold your breath until 5 p.m.”
Sure enough, the 33.57-pounder was good enough to win the tournament, plus Whitney Crisp won Junior Angler honors.
To top it all off, Crisp and crew won the inaugural North-South Shootout trophy, which goes to the tournament winner.
For a year, the trophy belongs to the North and will be a centerpiece in Crisp’s house in the Wilmington area until it is turned over to the winner of the 2014 edition of The Rumble in The Jungle next September.
“I’ve got it sitting on my fireplace mantel,” said Crisp.
Milton Via Jr.’s boat, Shock Wave finished second with a 28.48-pound king followed by Bob Wiggins’ Rock Doc in third with a 26.95-pounder.
Kevin O’Neale’s In 2 Deep claimed the win in the Small Boat Class with a 23.38-pound king.
A pair of anglers aboard Rock Doc, Holly Kesler and Bob Wiggins, won honors for the top Lady Angler and Senior Angler, respectively.
In all, the 65 boats competing weighed in 21 fish and the tournament, hosted by the Little River Inlet Saltwater Fishing Club, paid out a total of $39,260.
The Fall Brawl Classic, the finale of SKA’s Division 9, is set for next weekend out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
Registration will be held Oct. 11 from noon to 9 p.m. with the Captains’ Meeting at 7:15 p.m.
Boats can fish one of two days, Oct. 12 or 13, within the boundaries from the Georgetown jetties to Swansboro, N.C. Estimated prize for the largest king mackerel weighed in is $15,000 based on 200 boats entered.
Entry fee is $250. Call 910-575-3474 or visit www.OIFC.com for more information.