SKA National Championship

Courtesy Southern Kingfish Association February 9, 2011

The Southern Kingfish Association is one of the most highly acclaimed saltwater tournament series in North America. While competition is fierce, it’s also one the most accessible, family oriented and inviting of all saltwater competitions. Depending on skill level, boat length and regional location, teams battle it out in divisional competitions in an effort to earn the right to fish the National Championship. This year, more than 300 crews from Texas to North Carolina fought for the prestigious crown.

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Photo: SKA

King mackerel are schooling game fish and venues along the SKA Tournament Trail are carefully selected to capitalize on the species natural migration routes. While the National Championship was initially scheduled for Biloxi, Mississippi, the Deepwater Horizon debacle forced tournament directors to look for a new venue. It was ultimately decided that the 2010 National Championship would be held in Fort Pierce, Florida. While the decision was difficult, Florida’s Treasure Coast provided a great backup venue as the fertile waters within 100-miles of Fort Pierce Inlet often yield smoker kingfish topping the 50-pound mark!

…Florida’s Treasure Coast provided a great backup venue as the fertile waters within 100-miles of Fort Pierce Inlet often yield smoker kingfish…

The Southern Kingfish Association sanctions over 50 events from North Carolina to Texas, raising over one million dollars annually for charities, scholarship programs and local marine enhancement efforts. The National Championship features a week of events, where the best of the best from 11 divisions compete for the largest kingfish. To keep the playing field level, the National Championship is divided into three separate divisions. The Class of 23 is for teams with vessels not exceeding 23’11”. The Open Class consists of boats 24-feet to 39-feet in length. Finally, the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour is the crème of the crop with qualified competitors posting results in fixed pro and divisional events throughout the season.

While moving the National Championship to Florida provided a much-needed boost to the city of Fort Pierce, on Tuesday and Wednesday it was all about the SKA members fishing the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour competing for Angler of the Year. Going into the final event it was Under Armour/Caliente, Skin Deep and two-time Angler of the Year Ron Mitchell aboard Bandit. With one event left, Under Armour/Caliente had a 503-point advantage over the field.

Day one’s weigh-in began with several quality fish. Neil Nix aboard Whiplash led the scoring drive weighing a 36.54-pound king. Kelley Clements and On The Brink scaled a 35.06-pound smoker. Skin Deep rounded out the top three with a 34.61-pounder. With a bunch of fish hitting the dock everyone was waiting to see what Under Armour/Caliente had caught. It turns out they had a fuel pump issue and couldn’t make it to the weigh-in. While not posting a scoring fish would hurt their chances, the competition certainly wasn’t over yet. Bandit also had a slow day on the water and dropped down the leaderboard after scaling a 12.30-pound snake, leaving Skin Deep on top going into the final day.

As the second day came to an end, word had it that Skin Deep landed a big fish. They came through the inlet early but chose to wait before weighing their catch. After missing the weigh-in on day one, Under Armour/Caliente went to the scales with a 41.78-pound fish. Soon after, Skin Deep hoisted a 40.57-pound king—more than enough to win the title. They found their winning fish just south of the inlet in only 20-feet of water. “We already had five kings in the 30s when our flat lined blue runner got hit,” said Skin Deep’s Steve Glanz. “It was the one we were looking for.”

It is the Delray Beach fishing team’s second year competing within the SKA and their rookie campaign on the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour. At the award’s ceremony Steve Glanz congratulated Under Armour/Caliente for a great season and expressed his desire for another year’s battle. He then turned his attention to his team and announced that the title should go to Captain Jamie Ralph, who really led the team, and to Dr. Barus who was the lead angler. Skin Deep won $60,000 for their efforts while Under Armour/Caliente earned $22,000.

Following Wednesday’s Pro Tour finale, a fleet of 250 boats were set to compete in the National Championship on Friday and Saturday. Mother Nature had other ideas and the two day tournament was limited to a one day fish off. Most of the fish caught on the previous Yamaha Pro Tour were found near-shore. By Friday morning everyone knew where to fish and when it was all said and done, Florida’s All In was awarded Open Class Champions, catching a 32.16-pounder and a 37.59-pounder for a 69.75-pound aggregate. “Being as rough as it was, we chose to stick it out in one spot about 2-miles south of St. Lucie Inlet,” explained Terry McCray. All In was awarded a custom designed glass crystal trophy depicting their title win. They were then handed a fully rigged 21-foot Mercury powered Contender sitting on a custom aluminum Loadmaster trailer.

North Carolina based Reel Thrill, led by Vaughn Ford, captured the title in the Class of 23. Ford’s team caught a 37.6-pounder and a 31.19-pounder for an aggregate weight of 68.79-pounds.

“On Friday morning we eased over to the beach about just north of the inlet and put our lines in the water at a spot where we had pre-fished the day before. We landed our first king by 7:30, estimated at 30-pounds. We knew it wasn’t a tournament winner, but it was a good fish. We put the lines back in and hooked up right away. We ended up catching three fish over 30 before the bite turned off,” Ford explained.

The SKA is fun and exciting and with only a few months until the first event of 2011, there’s still time to get in the game. If you’re ready to test your skills against the best, visit fishska.com today!

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