How this fishing crew narrowly made the slot limit with red drum to win tournament

A change of scenery had no effect on the results for Trask Cunningham of Myrtle Beach. This time, Cunningham got it done from a small inlet boat instead of a center console built for the open ocean.

In September, Cunningham was among the crew aboard Xcessive Risk, a 39-foot Contender, that won the Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout.

On Saturday, Cunningham and fishing partner Russell Spatholt teamed to claim first place in the Captain Smiley Slam & Inshore Festival out of Cricket Cove Marina in Little River, fishing from a 16.5-foot MI Tide boat.

The two target species in the event were spotted seatrout and red drum, with an aggregate weight of the two fish determining the winner.

Cunningham and Spatholt finished with a winning 8.69-pound aggregate including a 4.85-pound red drum, about as heavy a redfish as is possible within South Carolina’s slot limit of 15-23 inches.

The duo weighed in a 3.84-pound trout to complete the aggregate.

“The red was right at 23 inches,” said Cunningham. “We measured it 15 times and it was as close to 23 as you can get. You can’t get (a red drum within the slot) much bigger than that.”

Clay Morphis weighed in the largest trout, a 5.89-pounder, and finished second with a 8.09-pound aggregate. D.J. Carlon was third with a 6.82-pound aggregate.

Cunningham and Spatholt worked an area near Bird Island and had solid action all day.

“We probably caught 20 trout and 15 reds,” said Cunningham, noting they produced the trout with live shrimp on float rigs and the reds on jig heads with finger mullet.

Cunningham caught the upper slot red drum at 9:30 a.m., and the duo knew they needed a decent trout to have a great shot at winning the $3,000 first prize. At noon, Spatholt landed the trout, a 23-incher.

“Our team name was Team Horseshoe because we are both lucky,” said Cunningham. “Russell and his dad (Dean) have won a bunch, I’ve won a bunch, so that was a fitting name.”

Kingfish Cup

There are some important championship king mackerel tournaments upcoming, including the Kingfish Cup out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center (OIFC) this weekend.

The Kingfish Cup Wildcard event was staged Thursday, but a cold front forced a change in the schedule of the Kingfish Cup, which is the culmination of four tournaments from Little River to Carolina Beach, N.C.

Originally scheduled for two days of fishing on Friday and Saturday, the two fishing days will now be Saturday and Sunday. Boats will be able to weigh in one king per day with the heaviest two-fish aggregate winning the tournament.

Earlier in the week, with a quickly cooling water temperature, Cunningham took the opportunity Tuesday to do a little pre-fishing to find the smoker kings the Kingfish Cup field is in search of.

Cunningham and fishing buddy Corey Bellamy found them in 80 feet of water off Little River when they had a doubleheader, with a 52-pound and a 40-pound king on simultaneously.

They got the 52-pounder in the boat first and put the other rod, with the 40-pounder still hooked up, in the rod holder. After a few pics were snapped of the larger fish, they fought and subdued the 40-pounder. Both fish were released.

The fall bite of kings along the beach had been in full gear for several weeks before the cold fronts started moving through. The majority of kings appear to have moved offshore.

“It’s epic out there right now,” said Cunningham on Wednesday. “The water temperature out there was 70-71 degrees. The water temperature near the beach was 66 - that’s too cold for kings.”

Check with the OIFC for details of the Kingfish Cup at www.OIFC.com or 910-575-3474.