King for a Day    

The life of a Tournament Fisherman

Here is a little of what the King Mackerel Tournament fishing teams go through to get ready for a Tournament like the US Open King Mackerel Tournament coming up on October 1st – 3rd at the Southport Marina.

Let’s pretend we are fishing in a tournament. Making sure everything about your boat is in ship shape as well as your equipment is an important task. Out on the ocean or in the middle of a tournament is not the time to realize that your fishing line has dry rot, your reel is stuck from corrosion or that you have forgotten the treble hooks or gaff.  So be sure to make a checklist of everything you need, a week ahead of time and have all your ducks in a row!  Don’t take a chance on anything especially if you have hundreds or even hundreds of thousands on the line in a tournament.  People have made mistakes costing them THOUSANDS of dollars in lost winnings! Don’t be that guy or girl. Just be over prepared!   Be sure to get your fishing license!

First we need to decide where to go to catch live bait.  Menhaden, (AKA Pogies) are a staple for live bait fishing so we have to have those.  Where to find that live bait is always a tough question.  If you do a little research on the beach and pay attention you’ll see that those big brown pelicans are showing you the way.  They are always on the hunt for the Pogey and will give strong indication as to where they are, just look for them diving into the water!  And if all else fails, ask the local tackle shops where the Pogey’s are.  They can usually tell you.  The other option that works is to use frozen bait.  Several tournaments have been won using frozen Cigar Minnows, Ballyhoo or Spanish Sardines.  However one of my favorite King baits is the good ole live Bluefish.  A live Bluefish is King Mackerel candy, they really LOVE them!  So be sure and get a few of those.  Now most pro teams pre-fish several days before a tournament so they know where the bait is located, they test out local reefs and ledges and get a general idea of where the Kings are. They do move around and are very fast. They can be in the Cape Fear River channel tomorrow and down around Lock Wood Folly the next day.  They will run with the bait.  One of my favorite things to do is find a big school of Pogey’s, locate my boat about 100 Yards away from that school, between it  and an offshore structure, reef or even a pier.  Those Kings will move in and out, up and down from location to location wherever there are schools of bait.  That’s where you’ll get a bite most of the time.  Enough about Bait, Let’s fish!

Next we decide between the slow troll or anchoring up method.  Many people take the slow troll approach so they can cover more area.  They will cut up chunks of dead pogey and even grind them into a nasty paste that gets tossed over the side to create a chum slick on the surface.  That’s like making a phone call that says “Dinner time”!  The Kings will follow that slick right to your boat and hopefully strike one of your beautifully displayed live baits.  It works great!  Another option is to anchor your boat and do the same chumming method.  However with this method you’ll use a balloon as a float for your Pogey. Using a kite is also fun if the wind is not blowing too hard.  A kite lets you position it away and overhead with a release clip attached to the kite line. The rod-n-reel line goes through the release clip and that allows you to position the Pogey just a little out of the water so he is making a lot of noise and splashing around on the surface.  That is so cool to do because most of the time when the King hits that bait he is coming up fast and will fly up out of the water 4-6 feet as it attacks the bait. It’s a show worth seeing when that happens.  To finish up quickly since I’m running out of space, fight the King with ease and be smooth about how you reel in the fish.  If he runs just hold the line tight.  When he stops pull back on the rod but not too far and never point your rod tip at the fish. Always keep some bend in the rod tip to maintain a tight line on the fish. Never let the line go slack that is a good way to lose the fish.  Keep steady pressure on, don’t adjust the drag and just work the fish up along side of the boat. Your partner should be ready with the Gaff and using a smooth lifting motion as you go for the fish is best. Never try to yank or strike at the fish with the Gaff. Once you get the fish on your boat, get those hooks out, put him in a fish bag of ice water to keep it hydrated and get your lines back in the water as fast as possible, there is probably another King out there looking for his pal and you’ll probably catch him to.



Be sure to check out all of the exciting events going on right in our back yard with the US Open King Mackerel Tournament in October. The Southport Marina is where all of the action will be and you won’t have a better time than at this event. You will have plenty to see. There will be live entertainment from local bands as well as food and you will see some of the best of the best in King Mackerel Tournament Fishing Teams. There will be lots of big King Mackerel weighed in and you see someone win “Big Money” as a result of their determination, skill, preparedness, and attitude and of course luck. Last year the Reel Blessed Fishing Team – won $66.715

Here are some of the details on this exciting tournament.

U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament, 4433 Long Beach Road, Southport

Contact Info:    (910) 457-5787

Location:  Southport Marina

Last year payout was over $241,000 in Cash.

Prizes:   Guaranteed Prize Structure (not based on # of boats)   & ALL CASH. Over $100,000

Registration:  October 1st 10am-12pm

Fishing:  October 2nd 7am-5pm, October 3rd – 7am-4pm.


Thursday – Party of Two – 4pm-7pm

Saturday – Sgt. Rock Band – 4:30pm-7pm


Thursday – Hot Dogs – Boy Scouts – 4pm-7pm

Friday – Hot Dogs – Cub Scouts – 2pm-6pm

Saturday – Seafood Plates by Turtle Island Restaurant & Catering and Wallace Catering – 3pm-7pm

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