Entering the final day of the final tournament in the 30th annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Capt. Alan Neiford of Mister Pete knew the crew’s season could go in any number of directions.
Mister Pete had won the first two tournaments in the series at Bohicket and Georgetown, but led the overall series by only 400 points entering the final day of fishing in the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament.
The crew was 800 points off the pace of Syked Out (1,600 points) to win the tournament, staged at The Marina at Edisto Beach.
With one fishing day left to accumulate points for releasing billfish, predominately sailfish, Neiford knew the crew could win the tournament, win the series, win both or win nothing.
“We figured if we could win the tournament, we could win the series,” said Neiford. “We had our goal of winning the tournament, but you’re competing against guys that have a lot of talent and you know they won’t be missing very many (billfish).”
A prolific sailfish bite was on, which was reflected in Neiford’s trolling tactics on both days.
“We switched to dredge fishing (and) pulling small natural baits, and that helps out for the sailfish,” said Neiford. “We call it dink fishing, using naked ballyhoo. It looks really natural, a straight ballyhoo without a skirt. We slowed the boat down, put the dredges out, a more finesse style of fishing.”
Mister Pete released four sailfish plus missed one blue marlin and a sail on the first day of fishing to accumulate 800 points.
Neiford returned to the same spot off Edisto Beach in 300 feet of water for the day of reckoning.
Neiford found a temperature break with a scattered weed line, which was productive.
“It was a small scattered weed line and the fish were just hanging around it,” said Neiford.
Boy, were they.
The deck was alive all day on Mister Pete, as the crew released four more sailfish and a blue marlin, plus missed another sail. Sen. Chip Campsen was the angler on the blue marlin.
“If you can go out and have 10 sail bites (in two days of fishing) out of Charleston that’s about as good as it normally gets,” said Neiford. “The bite is as good as it gets.”
Mister Pete wound up with 1,400 points on the day, finishing with a winning total of 2,200 points for the tournament.
Campsen’s blue marlin, worth 600 points for the release, was critical in winning the tournament, as Syked Out finished just 200 points back in second place with 2,000.
“On the final day, Chip Campsen was on board and he was fortunate enough to catch the blue,” said Neiford. “That gave us some cushion.”
Yes, Neiford was correct, winning the tournament did mean winning the 30th annual edition of the series. And they did it in record-breaking fashion.
Mister Pete won three of the five legs of the series and accumulated 7,875 points, well ahead of Sportin’ Life with 6,275. Syked Out was third with 5,175, Artemis fourth with 4,275 and Bad Becky fifth with 4,075.
Mister Pete’s point total set a new Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series record, breaking the previous record of 7,475 set by Gryphon in 2017.
“We certainly had a really good season, a good crew,” said Neiford. “Everything came together great.”
Other crew members were owners Bob and Rusty McClam, mates George Campsen and J. Rhode, Pat Andrews and Terry Caulder.
The results of the series will not be official until approved by the Governor’s Cup’s Advisory Board of Directors in a Sept. 7 meeting.
The 36 boats competing in the Edisto tournament released 99 sailfish and seven blue marlin.
The 99 sailfish releases were the second-highest in a single Governor’s Cup tournament, only behind the 138 sails released during the 2009 Megadock.
The only blue marlin weighed in during the series, a 484.4-pounder, was brought to the scales last Saturday at Edisto by Anticipation.