The U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament annually attracts many of the top king fishing crews from the Carolinas and the Southeast to Southport, N.C., drawn to a great venue at Southport Marina and the generous prize money up for grabs.
While professional king teams that are regulars in competitive king events abound at the tournament, don’t discount the fishing prowess of the weekend warrior.
Terry Efird of Supply, N.C., and Rusty Locklear of Lumberton, N.C., fishing aboard Screaming Reels, a 26-foot, 1997 Sea Hawk center console, are the epitome of weekend warriors, and the duo weighed in a 40.20-pound king mackerel Saturday to win the 38th annual tournament.
Efird and Locklear laid claim to $42,510, part of the $250,000 in prize money paid out by the tournament.
“It’s an emotional dream come true to be able to go and compete with all the big teams,” Efird said. “It’s just an unbelievable thing. I’m a weekend fisherman – we fish as much as money allows. We fish on a budget. Hopefully this will turn into more and more funds and allow us to be fishing more tournaments.”
Missing from the two-man crew was Efird’s dad, Charlie Efird, Jr., who owns the boat but is recovering from recent back surgery and couldn’t join his son for the tournament.
“It’s his boat, I just fish it,” Terry Efird said. “He was thrilled we won (the tournament). He loved it.”
The prize money will come in handy for the Efirds.
“The boat needs new engines so we’re looking into that and we’ll go from there,” Terry Efird said.
Brandon Wilkins and the crew of King Carnivore of Bolivia, N.C., claimed second place and $47,706 with a 38.70-pound king.
Capt. Derek Treffinger and his wife Kelly fished Ocean Isle Fishing Center’s 39-foot Yellowfin in the event and landed the third-place fish, a 37.05-pounder caught in the Cape Fear River channel. Thanks to heavy TWT entries, the Treffingers won the most prize money of any competing boat – $67,764.
Rounding out the top five were Service Call of Tarboro, N.C., with a 36.75-pound king and Captain Cook of Oak Island, N.C., with a 36.65-pounder.
As for Terry Efird, he was fishing a king tournament for the first time in eight years, but fishes “as much as money allows.”
After a rough and unproductive day on the first day of fishing, Efird and Locklear headed out on the second day (Oct. 1) and quickly cast-netted plenty of menhaden along the beach for bait.
“We had 3-4 spots we were going to hit, the first one was five miles, one 10 and one 15 miles (offshore),” Terry Efird said. “We were just trying to find clear water.”
They never made it past the five-mile spot.
“We fished there a few minutes and then heard on the radio they had caught a few kings off Shallotte,” Terry Efird said. “We turned the boat towards Shallotte, and around 9 a.m., that fish was on. We weren’t marking fish or bait on the depth finder or anything. It just came out of nowhere.”
The fish hit a menhaden on the long line, and Locklear grabbed the rod.
“Rusty said there’s a fish on this but not a big fish,” Efird said. “I proceeded to get a few lines out of the way. Rusty started reeling and said ‘It feels like a small fish on it.’ The fish was actually swimming to us, and he never felt it.”
Moments later, the fish appeared at boatside and Efird gaffed a very green fish.
“When I stuck the gaff in the fish, that’s when the fight came on,” Efird said. “The gaff came out and the fish swam under boat. Rusty worked line around the stern, and when he did the fish came right back to the surface. I put the gaff back in him and we got him in the boat.”
That afternoon, Efird and Locklear were declared the winners in the tournament after the weigh-in, and Terry Efird reflected on the monumental victory.
“I told my dad, ‘I’m gong to enter this tournament and he said ‘Son, go ahead,’ ” Terry Efird said. “To go out there and catch the biggest fish is a dream. The U.S. Open is one of the hardest tournaments to place in. You’re fishing against right at 500 other boats and to come out on top we had to be doing something right. Me and Rusty said ‘Thank the good Lord above for getting us to where we got in that tournament.’ “
Efird plans to donate a portion of his winnings in tithes to his church.
Gregg Holshouser: firstname.lastname@example.org