In 20 years of fishing in competitive king mackerel tournaments, Kevin Sneed sure picked the right time to win his first one.
Sneed and crew aboard Rigged and Ready, a 31-foot Competition, weathered seas up to 6-8 feet to claim the 2nd annual Kingfish Cup championship Sunday out of Ocracoke, N.C., with a two-king mackerel aggregate of 81 pounds.
The victory is historic, as the Rigged and Ready crew went home with $127,755 in prize money, a sum called the largest in king mackerel tournament history by Capt. Brant McMullan, one of the founders of the Kingfish Cup. The tournament paid out a whopping total of $255,512 to the top four teams.
“It was a special moment for us all,” said Sneed, of Holden Beach, N.C., who was fishing with his wife, Kimber, along with Jimmy Stubbs and Jody Gay. “I didn’t realize it until Brant said ‘Let’s have Team Rigged and Ready come on down, they’re about to receive the largest payout in king mackerel tournament history.’ “
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A cold front postponed the championship, which was originally scheduled to be a two-day event last Friday and Saturday, with each competing team able to weigh their largest king mackerel each day.
Instead, the 31 competing teams headed out Sunday morning, facing sloppy seas thanks to a 15-20 knot northeast wind and tasked with weighing in two kings in one day for their two-fish aggregate.
Rigged and Ready started by working Weezle Rock, 10 miles south of Ocracoke Inlet, but action was slow. Sneed got a tip from the Wahooligans team that there was some activity at Potlicker Rock, so he headed a few miles north to that spot.
Sneed and crew had bait issues earlier in the week when most of the menhaden and bluefish they had caught and penned died.
“A buddy gave me six or eight mullet that morning and that’s what we wound up catching our fish on,” said Sneed.
Once at Potlicker Rock, they quickly landed a 33-pound king that hit a long, top-lined bait.
The crew then landed a few medium-size kings, but was still looking for another smoker. Around 2:30 p.m., they got it.
A king nailed a large mullet, once again on the long, top-line and took off, headed offshore.
Gay grabbed the rod and they chased down the fish. About 15 minutes later, Sneed gaffed and pulled aboard a huge king that wound up being a 48-pounder and in essence the tournament-winner.
“I seem to catch the big ones the day before or the day after the tournament,” said Sneed. “All the stars were lined up that day.”
After a slow, rough ride back to Ocracoke, Team Rigged and Ready was declared the winner.
“We had never won a tournament before,” said Sneed. “We were truly blessed to get the bite.”
The Kingfish Cup is the brainchild of the McMullan family, owners of Ocean Isle Fishing Center (OIFC) in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and is comprised of four king mackerel tournaments — two at the OIFC, one at Little River and one at Carolina Beach, N.C.
Boats competing in the Kingfish Cup combined the total weight of three of their four biggest kings caught in the four tournaments, and received a point per pound, with 31 qualifying for the Kingfish Cup championship.
One McMullan entry finished in second place, as Capt. Brant McMullan, his wife Amy and 9-year-old son Brayden brought in kings weighing 42 and 24 pounds for a 67-pound aggregate.
After encountering wahoo, blackfin tuna and sharks in 76-degree water in an area 15 miles off Capt Hatteras, Brant McMullan quickly decided to head back in.
Five miles inshore in 73-degree water, the family trio landed their two kings, with Amy and Brayden serving as anglers.
After years of fishing professionally, especially with his brother, Barrett, and having the “newness” wear off, Brant McMullan has found new enjoyment while competing with his family.
“It has become much more fun and more of an accomplishment when we can have success with our kids,” said Brant McMullan. “You’ve got teams out there with a bunch of full grown men. I kind of like the underdog status and the wife and kids (including 13-year-old Caroline) are into it.
“Everybody contributes. nobody sleeps in the bean bag anymore. I’m very proud of that fact.”
Team Rasta Rocket finished third with a 64-pound aggregate after weighing in kings weighing 34 and 30 pounds. The team won $25,740.
Team Breaking Bad finished fourth with a 59-pound aggregate, including a 34-pound king. The team won $25,362.
For more information on the series and the championship, visit www.kingfishcup.com and join the email list.
Last Saturday marked the second of six events in the 2018-19 Student Angler League Tournament Trail out of the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
SALTT features divisions for red drum and largemouth bass, with middle and high school anglers competing against each other.
Once again, the anglers were met with windy weather thanks to a strong cold front that rolled through the night before.
Still, the anglers brought quality fish and limits to the weigh-in at the complex located on the Sampit River.
Dylan Skipper and Walker McKenzie of Andrews won the High School Redfish Division with a two-fish limit of 8.58 pounds, including the big fish in the division, a 4.69-pounder. Noah Payne and Kadyn Kellahan of Andrews finished second with 5.22 pounds, followed by Christa Edmonds of Carolina Forest in third with 3.51 pounds.
Devan Harrelson and Carson Watford of Georgetown Middle School won the Middle School Redfish Division with two-fish weighing 5.15 pounds, including the 3.36-pound big fish in the division. Donovan Harris of Conway Middle School and Wyatt Moore of Whittemore Park Middle School were second with 4.02 pounds.
Conway’s Austin Winburn and Chandler Brown had a five-fish aggregate of 10.59 pounds to win the High School Bass Division. Avery Williams of St. James finished second with 9.10 pounds including the big bass of the division, a 2.60-pounder. Andrew Ackerman and Jeremy Owens of Georgetown were third with 7.99 pounds.
Gavin Porter of Loris Middle School fished solo and won the Middle School Bass Division with a five-fish limit of 7.53-pounds, plus caught the big bass of the division, a 3.02-pounder. Mason Hardee and Will Hardee-McGuirt of Conway Middle School were second with 2.33 pounds. Rosemary Middle School’s Allie Newton was third with 2.02 pounds.
The third tournament in the series will be held Dec. 1, also at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex.