Outdoors: N.C. crew benefits from SKA Nationals’ move, wins Small Boat Class title

The crew of Back Lash shows off the tournament-best 52.12-pound king mackerel they caught in the SKA Nationals at Morehead City. The crew won the Single Engine Class.
The crew of Back Lash shows off the tournament-best 52.12-pound king mackerel they caught in the SKA Nationals at Morehead City. The crew won the Single Engine Class. Southern Kingfish Association

With the Southern Kingfish Association under new ownership, the prestigious SKA Nationals is on the move from its traditional home in Biloxi, Miss.

That’s just fine with Kevin Norris and his Reel Blessed fishing team out of Sneads Ferry, N.C.

With the event being held last weekend out of Morehead City, N.C., Norris and company won the Small Boat Class of the SKA Nationals, the crew’s second win in a prestigious tournament held on the N.C. coast in a little over a year.

Norris and crew weighed in a two-day aggregate of 70.57 pounds to win the division.

About a year ago, in early October, 2014, the Reel Blessed crew also came up a big winner in the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament

The SKA Nationals have traditionally been held in Biloxi, Miss., but the king mackerel tournament trail is under new ownership that plans to move the season-ending championship event around.

With the tournament staged out of Jaycee Park in Morehead City, competing boats were allowed to weigh in one king per day last Friday and Saturday (Oct. 23-24).

The tournament annually features three divisions: the Open Class, Small Boat Class and Single Engine Class.

The crew of Reel Anarchy out of West Palm Beach, Fla., weighed a tournament-best aggregate of 92.46 pounds, including a 51.94-pounder, to win the Open Class.

The crew of Back Lash, also out of Sneads Ferry, weighed a tournament-largest 52.12-pound king and finished with a 90.35-pound aggregate to win the Single Engine Class.

Following are details from the three winning boats:

Open Class

Floyd Miller was joined aboard Reel Anarchy, a 28-foot, Yamaha powered Contender, by Gill Strelec, Strelec’s son Chase, and Donnie Bennett for the tournament.

Both days, Miller decided to fish an area call the Rascal, located about eight miles off Drum Inlet, northeast of Morehead City, in 50-60 feet of water.

On the first day of fishing, a sizeable king got after a bluefish fished on a kite at the surface.

“He skied on the kite three times and the third time he got the bait,” Miller said. “We thought: It was big – there was no doubt when we saw him in the air.

“When we get a big fish on we reel in the other lines and we go after it. The faster we can get to the fish the quicker we can get him in the boat.”

Chase Strelec, who recently turned 15 years old, was the angler during a quick, 10-minute fight which put the smoker in the fish bag after Miller applied the gaff.

Chase Strelec repeated as Junior National Champion in the tournament.

The next day, Gill Strelec was the angler on a 40.52-pounder, good enough for the tournament-best 92.46-pound aggregate.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime win, I’d imagine, but I hope not,” Miller said. “We put in a lot of work doing this and it worked out. God was on our side, and all our friends and family were rooting for us.”

Small Boat Class

A year after winning the U.S. Open in the then-new 27-foot Onslow Bay center console and with another major victory achieved, Kevin Norris is happier than ever with his boat and Reel Blessed crew.

“She’s still blessed – not much has changed,” said Norris, who fished with his son Kevin, cousin Curtis Trexel and David Jones, of Holly Ridge, N.C.

The crew fished a few miles off the beach on a hard-bottom area between the Cape Lookout shoals and Ocracoke.

After weighing a 28.04-pounder on the first day of fishing, Reel Blessed was in 21st place in the division.

“We didn’t think we had a chance, to be honest,” Norris said.

But at 8:30 a.m. the next morning while fishing in five-foot seas, Trexel saw a big king slash a short bait, and the fish kept coming back.

“The fourth time he came by he skied and hit the short rigger at the back of the boat,” Norris said. “We turned on him fast, before he got under another boat. We took a wave over the bow that put six inches of water in the boat but we knew we had a decent fish.”

That afternoon, the fish weighed 42.53 pounds to give the crew the lead in the Open Class with a 70.57-pound aggregate. After waiting out the rest of the weigh-in, Reel Blessed was again in the winner’s circle.

“It was home waters and we couldn’t be more proud to have done it here,” Norris said. “It’s still a major surprise. We were really fishing just to make the board on the second day.”

Single Engine Class

Back Lash, led by Eris Jones of Sneads Ferry, worked a bottom spot about two miles off Ocracoke in 60 feet of water on opening day.

Craig Drye of Reidsville, N.C., and 73-year-old Arthur Hall of Burlington, N.C., joined Jones aboard the 23-foot, Yamaha-powered Contender.

“We knew there were some big fish there,” Jones said, “and the fish just hit a long flat line.”

The king wound up being a tournament-best 52.12 pounds with Drye serving as the angler and Jones handling the gaffing duties.

The next day, Back Lash added a 38.23-pounder for their 90.35-pound aggregate, good for the win in the Single Engine Class and the second-best aggregate in the tournament.

For full results, visit: http://fishska.com/page/nationals-leaderboard.

Gregg Holshouser: 843-651-9028, wholshouser@sc.rr.com

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