Gregg Holshouser’s Outdoors Column | Delayed start to Jolly Mon King Classic was better than worse

King mackerel had been tough to find out of ports from Southport, N.C., to Georgetown all spring and that trend, combined with a poor weather forecast, prompted the postponement of the Yellowfin/Yamaha Jolly Mon King Classic out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center June 15-16.

Capt. Brant McMullan of the OIFC delayed the tournament one week to last weekend, hoping conditions would improve and the fish would show up.

It all came together nicely for the Southern Kingfish Association-sanctioned tournament as a very good king bite developed in a variety of areas last weekend with all fish in the top 10 topping the 30-pound mark. The 176 boats in the field were able to fish one day, Saturday or Sunday, which both wound up being beautiful weather days.

“It was miraculous, nothing short,” McMullan said. “As has been the case with kings in the past they mysteriously show, seemingly out of nowhere, and everything is back the way it should be. The fish showed up, the weather got nice and stayed nice. The fish moved in to various ranges and most boats caught fish, quite a few caught nice fish.

“It happens that way in fishing, that’s one of the things that makes it interesting, it can change so fast.”

Dave Canady of Southport, N.C. opted to fish on Saturday and was the first entry to weigh in a fish, bringing in the eventual winner, a 41.60-pound king.

Southern Bale of Walstonburg, N.C., took second with a 37.5-pounder followed by Intracoastal Angler of Wilmington, N.C., in third (33.95), Choice of Two of Sunset Beach, N.C., in fourth (33.70) and Wide Spread of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., in fifth (32.65).

Finishing out the top 10 were Jay Bird of Wilmington (32.60 pounds), Hooligan of Sunset Beach, N.C. (32.20), Clearly Hooked of Carolina Beach, N.C. (31.80), Hammer of Carolina Beach, N.C. (30.30) and Salt & Battery of Leland, N.C. (30.25).

The tournament was the opening event of SKA’s Division 9. For more information, visit www.oifc.com or www.fishska.com.

Canady fished with Preston Nowell and his wife, T.K. Nowell, of Winnabow, N.C., aboard Snap One, a 26-foot Sea Hunt powered by twin 200-horsepower Yamahas he bought two years ago. It was a return to tournament king fishing for Canady who in previous years finished in the top five but had never landed atop the leaderboard in a king tournament.

“It’s the first one I’ve won so I’m pretty excited about it,” said Canady, who earned over $18,000.

The Snap One crew fished the Shark Hole area, about 15 miles south of Southport and used pogys netted in the Cape Fear River for bait.

Fishing in the midst of plenty of sargassum, the crew had to frequently bring in the lines to clear them of the seaweed. Despite that aggravation, the bite was good.

“We had a couple cutoffs and caught a couple small fish,” Canady said. “All of a sudden something hit the long line and we got [the lines in] and went after him.”

Preston Nowell was the angler, T.K. Nowell was driving the boat and Canady was ready with the gaff.

“When he broke the surface and we saw him, we all got excited,” Canady said. “It took a lot of time to get him up, nervous time. As soon as he got close to the boat I gaffed him, Preston put the rod down and grabbed the tail.”

Once they hauled it into the boat, the trio was impressed with their catch.

“We knew we had a good one,” Canady said. “We measured the length, girth and calculated he weighed between 38 and 40 pounds. We knew we had a money fish.”

The crew ran in and took off down the waterway to the weigh in at the OIFC.

At about 2:30 p.m., they arrived at the weigh-in as the crowd, eager to see what kind of king bite was on after the slow spring, looked on.

“When Preston held the fish up, everybody just started hollering,” Canady said. “We didn’t know how long it would hold [first place].”

After waiting through the rest of the weigh-ins on Saturday and Sunday, their catch did indeed hold up and the Snap One crew went home a winner Sunday evening.