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91 THE BEGINNING

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was in my office in Fort Lauderdale when I received a call from the owner of Intrepid Boats, John Michele. Deona and I were publishing a monthly boating and fishing magazine named the Southern Star, a very successful publication. But John was calling for our other company, Diamond Advertising, a special full service advertising and marketing agency that specialized in the marine trade. He had a customer named John Jones, a contractor from Georgia, who was having him build a 30’ Intrepid rigged for king fishing. John informed me that he was doing some innovative features to the boat and he wanted to get both aerial shots and d feature featu e shots for his next brochure.. It was at the plant where I first met John and after spending the morning looking at the boat we went to lunch and of course the topic of conversation turned to fishing, my blue water tournament experience and his kingfish exploits. Frankly, I only knew kings as fish who would take my baits while work12

ing a tide line looking for sailfish. But, fishermen are fishermen and we had a lot in common. Later, back at the plant, John invited Deona and myself to join him in Jacksonville and fish with him in the Greater Jacksonville KMT. I felt it was in my best interest to oblige him, thinking that John’s boat might draw some significant business for Intrepid. July came and we found ourselves racing north in search of baitfish. We had never seen so many boats in an event. We finally somewheree up the beach stopped somewhe h Top of page: Our top prize for the Angler of the Year which was won by Clayton Kirby and the Mercury service trailer. Center: Our registration booth at Donnie Griffin’s Sun Fun Tournament. Bottom: Joe Bruce ran a 31’ Fountain in ’91 and was sponsored by Intertrim, a marine metal fabricator.

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ANGLER | February 2010


where John saw movement on the water. Within minutes he was hauling a net full of pogies over the gunwale. For us to catch bait for a tournament we would have to be on the water by four in the morning and use gold hooks for pilchards we’d chum up at the back of the boat while at anchor. Then just before daybreak we’d race over to the inlet buoys and use sabikis on the bottom to capture a few goggle eyes. I still can’t remember what we caught that day or if we even weighed a fish but we did have a great time on the water. Back at the tournament site John asked me if I could envision uniting all these fishermen into an organization. I said sure, not really knowing if I could or not, and gave John some ideas. When we got home I thought that was the last I’d ever hear from John Jones, but within a few days he was on the phone pumping me for more information, which I gave him. Another week went by without a word from John, and then he showed up in my office. “I’m going to do it,” he said. He wanted my help and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “You’ve got to help me, be my partner,” he added. At first I was reluctant especially since the recession of 1990 was in its infancy. I had my own business to run and my customers were starting to feel the pinch. After much soul searching and John promising me that Deona and I just had to help him get sponsors and do a monthly tabloid about the trail, we signed on. Late December the three of us flew to the New York Boat Show eager to see what we could do. I managed to get a small Hydra Sports boat from Skip Hegel, some small prizes, and a Mercury outboard from Mercury’s Dan Shadd. We were on our way! Later that month I managed to talk John Michele into giving us a 30-foot Intrepid. In retrospect, I still don’t know how we pulled it off. That one prize gave us the credibility we needed. That was a lot of goodies to give away, especially when you consider they never knew what we were about or even if we could succeed. So we as a company could not have made it thru the first year if Shadd, Hegel, and Michele had not had the faith and confidence in us. We still thank them to this day. It was now time to establish the trail. John did this work except I February 2010 | ANGLER

did accompany him to Swansboro. The Rotary Club event was the first one to say yes and John went on the get us fifteen altogether. They were: 1. Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Bluewater Fishing Tournament 2. Sun Fun Natural Lite King Mackerel Tournament 3. Scotts Hill King Mackerel Tournament,

Top: Ken Murray won the Cumberland Tournament and its $3,500 top prize. Center Left: SKA co-founder and Clayton Kirby, the ’91 Angler of the Year. Center Right: Linwood Clark and his son Brad started with us in ’91. Fished Thumpin.

Right: The Broadwell’s. Lonnie, on the left, had the Senior Angler of the Year award named after him. Bottom: The awards in ’91. Notice the Angler of the Year award, the same trophy we are still giving away today. Traditions are still hard to change.

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Lewis, Lewi Clayton Kirby, Kirb Everett Cameron, and Dan Cam Upton. Upto Kirby and Upton Upt are still with us. Both worked B with Fountain powerboats erbo and were working hard to wor impress the fisherimp men me with their 31 footer. foo It certainly worked. wo The T Ancient City Ci event had a cap of 125 boats, but bu because of the SKA SK raised it to 175 17 and we actually al had to say no n to some SKA teams when the te field fi was filled. We W were finally

which got cancelled 4. Two Way Boating and Fishing Club Fishing Rodeo 5. Nassau Sport Fishing Association King Mackerel Tournament 6. Ancient City Gamefish Association King Mackerel Tournament 7. Golden Isles Sportfishing Club King Mackerel Tournament 8. East Coast Got-em-On Classic 9. Cumberland Game Fish Tournament 10. CCSA Ladies King Mackerel Tournament. 11. EJW Sport Shop King Mackerel Tournament 12. Topsail Offshore Fishing Club King Mackerel Tournament 13. 82 Queen Southeastern King Mackerel Tournament, which also was cancelled. It was replaced with the South Brunswick Island Classic 14. U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament 15. Stingray Boats 100 King Mackerel Tournament I began a tabloid publication to keep our anglers informed and called it Kingfish, The Official publication of the Southern Kingfish Association, Inc. I remember going with John to the Swansboro event because we were very high on getting a strong membership at the event, and it was our first event. We did ok but it was then I realized it was going to take a lot of work. At that first ever event, Larry Lanier, and Robert and Everett Cameron, on Ever Ready took the win. Tom Ryan and Randy Smith was second on Gotta, while Clayton Kirby finished third. Their pictures were in Kingfish magazine along with Dan Upton holding a 53-pound Cobia. The race for “Angler of the Year” was on. Back then we didn’t have a Pro Division, Divisions, or any of the stuff we have today. Guys just hooked up their boats and headed north or south. We actually had many teams who fished all fourteen events that first year. But if you look at the trophy picture in the story, you’ll see we still give the same trophy for “Angler of the Year,” we give today. It’s just tradition! As the tournaments progressed, it became apparent that the title race was coming down to Selby 14

Top of page: Paul Hanson and Pete Eldridge unload a nice fish. Center Left: Al Morris Jr. brought a couple of kings to scale. Center Right: Michelle Cameron and others proved women had a place in the SKA. That still holds true today. Bottom: Randy Spainhour has been an avid supporter of the SKA. Still fishes with us today. www.FishSKA.com SKA com

doing some things right, but it seemed we would take two steps forward and one step back. I believe Amy Kidney was hired to help John with office duties this year. She proved to be invaluable not only in the beginning but in later years. The granddaddy of all tournaments, The Greater Jacksonville King Mackerel Tournament, would not let us sanction the event but would allow us to have a booth. We got in the faces of a lot of fisher people, which certainly helped us get the word out. Remember, this was an upstart business and we spent money for promotion as fast as it came in. Jacksonville in ’91 saw Ronnie Worsham on Trivial Pursuit win the VIP tournament with a 48.85 while Charlie Lyons won the aggregate with a 101.65. Both of these fine gentlemen still fish with us today. toda We W also had a prize for the biggest king of the year not caught in a tournament, a 200hp to Mercury Outboard. If Me you were a member of the SKA and had your fish fis weighed on a certified tif scale, you could enter en it in the contest. te It started at the first fir of the year and ended on the 31st of en October. Chip Maree O led le early on with a fifty. Stacy Mills fi topped that with t a 56 while Eddie Cameron recorded C a 55.08, but it was Jay J Ellingsworth and Don Flood who caught a 58.8 on the last day of the contest and won the event. eve We did not do that contest ever eve again. 123 1 boats weighed fish in the events eve we sanctioned in 1991. I think the biggest thing we all remember the most was the end rem of the year awards party. I come from fro Michigan, but moved to sunny Florida upon high school su graduation. I hate cold weather gr so when I say it was cold in Brunswick, Georgia for our dinB ner n and year-end awards party it was w worse than that. John Jones had a covered patio in i his warehouse complex but its sides were open and the north s winds raced through it. He w found some space heaters but ANGLER | February 2010


that h didn’t help much. Taking that into account, we still persevered and our awards ceremony was a big hit. It was Clayton Kirby’s big night. Here’s what I wrote in Kingfish magazine: “It really comes as no surprise, Clayton R. Kirby’s consistent year long performance put him atop the leaderboard at season’s end. Our top angler for the Southern Kingfish Association’s first tournament trail. The Greenville, North Carolina, Fountain sponsored angler was never out of the hunt although he never captured first place honors till after his second place finish in the CCSA Ladies Tournament August 2nd thru the 4th. There he teamed with his sister Chandra. He then finished first in the aggregate division in the EJW Kingfish Tournament in Morehead City the following weekend. Clayton fished most of the season with Richlands, N.C., resident Willie Humphrey, who finished fourth in the point standings.” Everett Cameron finished second and Selby Lewis picked up third in ’91. Neither of these people has fished with us or in events for a long time. Everett started his own trail a few years after the SKA was formed but it was deemed a failure and shut down. Randy and Kathy Spainhour from North Carolina ended up in sixth place. Kathy was our Top Lady Angler of the year and John Jones presented her with a Rolex watch. I’ll have to ask Randy if she still has that watch. Randy still fishes some local events but he’s one of the top teams fishing the Pros these days. Back then they fished the Mac-A-Tac. February 2010 | ANGLER

Top Left: Deona Holmes gave Jim Armstrong an award at the end of the season awards ceremony. Top Right: Weigh in at the St. Augustine tournament in ’91. Center Left: Terry Lacoss weighs one. Terry still writes a feature article every month in Angler magazine and wrote “Mastering King Mackerel.” Center Right: Ronnie Worsham and Clay Phillips. Ronnie is still considered one of the top anglers in the SKA.

Another top husband and wife team, Dan and Anne Upton, te earned fifth overall. And because ea of his finish, Fountain Powerboats earned four of the top five places. ea That T was huge for them! Dan still fishes with the SKA and has two fi titles to his credit. t L.A. Denzer earned seventh. L.A. L went on in his fishing career to t be recognized as one of the best b in the sport. That sure was a great year and one most of us still around will never forget. It should also be noted that in ’91, ’9 Terry Lacoss was writing for me, m as was John Minetola. They are still s feature columnists plus Terry wrote a very successful book on w King K Mackerel Fishing. Next month I’ll cover the early 90s. 9 If you have any stories about the t early years of the SKA I’d love to t hear them, especially if they pertain t to anglers who still fish with the t fraternity. ■

Above: Dan and Ann Upton, plus Doug Cappelmann left their mark on our sport. Dan still fishes the Pros. Right: L.A. Denzer and his grandson John Lee Ingram was a fixture on the trail. Still competitive.

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SKA The Beginning  

The first in a series of articles reflecting on the first 20 years of the Southern Kingfish Association.

SKA The Beginning  

The first in a series of articles reflecting on the first 20 years of the Southern Kingfish Association.

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