|Fishing the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament|
by Ron Brooks
The BellSouth Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, billed as the largest fishing tournament in the United States, concluded this past Saturday. Winning the biggest fish category in the two day event was Mike Burch of Amelia Island aboard the Last Draw boat with a 42.65 pound fish.
The About boat weighed a 23.5 pound fish on Thursday, putting it in fine shape to contend for the two day aggregate weight category. But for a very poor weather forecast from the local TV weather folks and the change in tactics that that forecast drove, the About boat could have been well up in the money.
Fishing aboard the About.com boat were Tom Brooks, Tony Simone, and Jeff Goldsbury. Yours truly was caught up with another media assignment that prohibited me from fishing, so I sent this crew to represent us!
There has been little to no bait in the area from Flagler Beach all the way to Cumberland Island in Georgia. Bait in this instance is pogies - menhaden shad. North of Cumberland Island, pogie pods were everywhere, as they were south of Flagler. For the pros in the big boats running a lot of miles, the bait was accessible. For the smaller boats, it was almost out of reach.
The plan for the tourney was to stay around Matanzas Inlet just south of St. Augustine, and fish north to the Red Tops area. A lot of fish had been caught in the area of the color break, and with no bait, it seemed that a comparatively smaller fish might just be in the money.
On day one, the tactic worked perfectly. Five or six small fish and one that weighed 23.5 pounds. However, the weather report for day two indicated a northeast blow, a condition that would make the forty plus mile run to the weigh in site a real bear going against five to eight foot seas.
Based on that forecast, the About.com team decided to leave out of Mayport on day two and run north to the Georgia coast early in the morning. The idea was that they could run a following sea back to the weigh-in site. Running north, they found a small pod of pogies off of Cumberland Island. Several casts of their net convinced them that the school was too spread out, so they backed off and put their ribbonfish baits down. Had I known they were going north, I would have had them go on up to the Brunswick channel. I fished for tarpon there the week before, and pogies and kingfish were everywhere. As it was, I had no contact with them all day.
Weather forecasts are about as dependable in Northeast Florida as rain is in the Sahara. The winds never came, and while our team fished north, the winning fish was caught off of - you guessed it - the Red Tops. Our About.com team did not boat a fish on day two.
A great plan that just may have been the right one was spoiled by a bad weather forecast. Playing it safe, our team did the right thing. Interestingly, the winning boat ran north to Brunswick, caught pogies for bait, and then ran south to the Red Tops area to find the winning fish.
Sour grapes? Not really. It was pleasing to me to see that my son, who I would like to think learned a thing or two about fishing from me, had the right plan to put him in contention. It's also pleasing to see he took the safe route. I hope he has that kind of patience on the next tournament!
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