The crew of Xcessive Risk knew the bite was on for smoker kings in the boat’s home waters near Emerald Isle, N.C., last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout was on tap out of Marlin Quay Marina in Murrells Inlet, some 180 miles to the south.
That’s quite a distance to run to weigh in a king, especially with Hurricane Humberto spinning off the north Florida coast, but that’s no problem considering Xcessive Risk is a 39-foot Contender with triple Yamaha 425s.
So, owners Cliff and Athan Parker, fishing with Trask Cunningham of Myrtle Beach and lady angler Ireland McKeiage, decided to fish the Emerald Isle area and make the run if they landed a big enough king.
“We needed one 50 inches or better,” said Cunningham.
Boats were able to fish one of three days in the Marlin Quay event, but most selected last Friday with an easterly wind forecast to blow up on Saturday and Sunday.
Xcessive Risk found a flurry of kingfish activity Friday morning off Emerald Isle, with bluefish caught the previous day proving to be hot baits.
“The bite was between 8 and 9:30 a.m.,” said Cunningham. “We caught all of our fish in that time frame. We caught probably 50 blues the day before. Without those blues we may not have caught those fish.”
A huge king that Cunningham estimated at 45 pounds, skyrocketed on but missed one of the blues in the trolling spread, and the crew promptly checked the bait.
“We checked on it, took it off, put another blue on and put (the line) back out,” said Cunningham. “I had just put it in rod holder and the fish boiled on it, hit it right away.”
Cunningham took over as the angler and after a standard fight, Athan Parker applied the gaff and a king in the 30-pound class was in the boat.
During the hour-and-a-half stretch, McKeiage was the angler on a king slightly smaller than Cunningham’s fish, plus the crew caught three more in the 15-20 pound range.
“For that hour-and-a-half it was on fire,” said Cunningham. “Then the east wind started blowing and it was pretty much done.”
With the threat of Hurricane Humberto limiting the field to 43 boats, the Xcessive Risk crew knew the fish they had aboard would contend in the tournament.
“With the hurricane, we felt good about it,” said Cunningham. “We picked up about 1:30 p.m. and cruised back to Murrells Inlet, and were there by 5 p.m. with a 6 p.m. (weigh-in) deadline.”
At the scales at Marlin Quay Marina, the king weighed 32.70 pounds, good for first place in front of runner-up Little Lure with a 31.00-pounder.
Xcessive Risk racked up about $24,000 in prize money.
My Boat was third with a 30.20-pounder followed by Mas Pescado with a 29.20-pounder.
A pair of Marlin Quay entries, Carolina Fly (28.60) and Molar Man (26.80) finished fifth and seventh, respectively.
“It was a full moon bite so all the fish were pushed on the beach,” said Chris Lawhon of Marlin Quay. “Most people caught their fish in 30-60 feet of water.”
Lawhon said the two Marlin Quay entries caught their fish at the Palm Tree Hole north of the the Winyah Bay jetties.
McKeiage was the top Lady Angler and Ben Freeman of Mas Pescado was the top Junior Angler with the 29.20-pounder.
It’s been quite a late summer for Cunningham, who has been aboard the winning boat in the last two king tournaments he has fished in. The first win was in Leg Three in the Cape Lookout Shootout Tournament Series’ South Division July 20 with Corey Bellamy aboard Choice Of Two.
“Got a little horseshoe right now,” said Cunningham.
The Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout was the final tournament in the inaugural Palmetto Kingfish Tour.
The championship tournament is next weekend, Sept. 27-28, out of Charleston, with James Island Yacht Club serving as headquarters. Boats are allowed to fish both days and weigh one king each day, with the heaviest aggregate of two kings winning the championship.
The weigh-in will be held both days at Saltwater Cowboys on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant.
Student Angler League Tournament Trail
The trail kicked off last Saturday with a record field of 55 two-angler teams, and the student anglers were greeted by high river levels left behind by Hurricane Dorian and high winds from the approach of Hurricane Humberto.
“The kids were ready to start the season even with 20 mph winds and flooded rivers,” said Rayburn Poston, SALTT founder and coordinator. “As expected, they still came back to the weigh in with some great fish.”
All SALTT events are held from the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
Middle School Redfish Division: Cubby Weaver of Coastal Montessori Charter School won with two fish weighing 8.09 pounds. Weaver fished solo and landed the big fish, a 4.80-pounder. Chappell Miller of Georgetown was second with two fish weighing 7.24 pounds. Chloe Skipper of Andrews was third with one fish weighing 2.68 pounds.
High School Redfish Division: Brandon Poston of Georgetown and Thomas Bodiford of Macedonia teamed up to claim first place with two fish weighing 7.47 pounds including the big fish, a 4.08-pounder. Christa Edmonds of Carolina Forest was second with one fish weighing 3.40 pounds and Devan Harrelson and Carson Watford of Georgetown were third with one fish weighing 3.04 pounds.
Elementary School Bass Division: Tucker Howard of Andews won with one fish weighing 2.55 pounds followed by Mack Hardee of Conway with one fish weighing .93 pounds.
Middle School Bass Division: Gavin and Luke Porter of Loris had a five-fish limit weighing 9.03 pounds to win the division. Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams of Conway were second with a limit weighing 8.75 pounds. Dawson Hawley of Green Sea Floyds was third with a limit weighing 6.90 pounds. Chapin Holmes of Conway weighed in the big fish, a 2.61-pounder.
High School Bass Division: Austin Winburn and Chandler Brown of Conway had a five-fish limit weighing 13.87 pounds to win the division, including the big fish of 4.19 pounds. Dalton Hewitt and Brantley Todd of Georgetown were second with a limit weighing 13.64 pounds. Andrew Ackerman and Jeremy Owens of Georgetown were third with a limit weighing 10.48 pounds.
The next SALTT event will be held next Saturday, Sept. 28. For more information about the trail, visit www.salttfishing.com