THE EARLY YEARS: Part I
fter gaining some momentum in ’91, we believed that the model we developed was right on target. Would there be some tweaking here and there? Absolutely, but it really hasn’t changed that much. The basic formula included: keep it family friendly. In ’92 we started the season with 29 events and because we knew that traveling long distances by the fishing teams would not sustain itself, we developed the twentynine events in six geographic divisions. We also added one event, the Pensacola KMT in the upper Gulf. This was John Jones’ baby. We took on a third partner, Jim Armstrong, who fished with h us. We needed extra capital in the company and Jim would be Jones’ extra pair of hands. That proved to be invaluable. I, on the other hand, believed we could use the same model in South Florida and the Saltwater Anglers Association was born, a multi specie trail. Besides, I still had two magazines to publish each month, the one we owned 30
and Angler magazine. Plus we still had a very successful marketing company and a client list to maintain, and we did most of the trail’s sponsorships. That year sponsors included Fountain, Mercury, Sea Ray Laguna, Ranger Boats, and fifteen other companies. Thanks also must be given to the membership who started buying the sponsors’ products. Joe Bruce ended the year on a very impressive note. He won “Angler of the Year” honors after fishing twenty events and beating out Clayton Kirby i by by just Top of page: The docks at St. Augustine Marina for the Kingbuster 400. Note the Bridge of Lions before recent restoration. Center: Robbie, Kimberly, and Richard Bishop won a big check in ’94 at the U.S. Open on the Fishbuster. Bottom: Former SKA President, Jim Armstrong.
ANGLER | March 2010
2.59 pounds. Joe is still around, going strong, however he only fishes a couple of events a year. He has promised to be at the Nationals this year for the big anniversary show. Brian Henry on Mr. Magoo won Division Two, Sammy Session fished Shooting Star II to a Division 3 win, and Klaus Schoenfeld earned top honors in Division 4 fishing his Fishing Machine. In Division 1 it was Richard Forbis while Wayne Conn earned the number one slot in Division 5. Steve Ennis topped the list in 6. David Simms caught the largest king of the year in Pensacola, a 60.78 while Bruce set a record in Georgia in the Fernandina Beach tournament with a 53.80. That record held until 2009. Chandra Kirby, Clayton’s sister, was the Top Overall Lady Angler, Clayton’s son won Topp Junior, and Lonnie Broadwell was our Top Senior. It was a great season with the membership ranks quadruupling over ’91. But it wasn’t over. We had elected early in the year to host st a National Championship howwever it wasn’t to be held till thee spring of ’93 in Treasure Island, d, Florida. It was fitting that thee very people who believed in uss and gave us our first sanction in ’91 in Swansboro, North Carolina became our first earned National Champions. Jim Davis, Barry and Todd Matthews, and Garland and Brad Sewell won the event for Mercury and Fountain, with a two fish aggregate of 56.38 pounds. It was awesome. It was also a beginning for branded teams. Alex Leva secured several slips and had all the Hydra Sports owners tie up together. It was the beginning of a very serious trend! Wayne Conn, Randy Spainhour, the Broadwell family, and Rick Smith rounded out the top five in the Championship.
sport fishing boat that remains to this day one of the best ever built. The rank and file of the SKA bought seventy of them in one year. Angler magazine moved from a newspaper to a magazine format complete with a glossy cover from
Top: Brian Hasson accepting his Junior Angler honors. Center Left: The crowd at the Kingbuster 400. Center Right: Mercury’s Dan Schaad with Amy Kidney and Jim Armstrong.
Right: Randy Spainhour with Amy Kidney. Bottom: Randy Keys, Ira Pearson, and Jimmy Hasson were National Champions in ’95.
In ’93 Lonnie Broadwell succumbed to cancer. He was an inspiration to all who competed against him and his family. We elected to honor the Senior Angler of the Year award in his honor each year. That practice holds true to this day. Ranger Boats, our title boat sponsor was now building a 25’ March 2010 | ANGLER
February ’93 to present day. The SKA’s Tournament Trail consisted of 24 events in four Divisions plus we added a Gulf Coast Tournament trail consisting of five events. Mercury had a new Director of Marketing and by Miami Boat Show time in February we still did not have a contract. It looked like we were about to be left out in the cold. It took me one day to convince Earl Bentz who was in charge of Hydra Sports, Stratos, and Quest to sign on plus he brought Evinrude and Johnson with them. Mercury was out, a move that didn’t help my position with them, but it also helped the new manager hit the road. GMC Trucks also signed on. It was another satisfying year, Angler magazine grew, and Deona and I found ourselves on the road more and more. Wyndal Vereen, Larry Fowler, Mark Dixon, Deegie Steele, and Heather Booth, won the “Angler of the Year” honors with a 239.85 aggregate. Brook McClain, Bill Patterson, Terry Lacoss, and Russ Russell rounded d out the top five. Brook missed the he title by just .22 of a pound. It said d one thing: the anglers in Georgiaa and Florida were catching up to the skill level of the Carolinians. This was a good thing, because they really dominated the sport for many years. Competition was getting better thus strengthening our sport. Remember, competition breeds success! The awards ceremony was held at Litchfield By The Sea in South Carolina. It was a gala event with so many super stars with coats and ties and their wives or girlfriends dressed to the nines. I really miss those events. Now, as you know, we are contracted by our sponsors to complete the season in the same calendar year so we do the awards at the Championship event. Ron Enslen earned the Division 1 title while Wyndal Vereen captured d Division 2. Ray McClain topped 3, while Rick Smith earned top spot in Div. 4. Blair Wickstrom was our winner in 5. Josh Williams was our Top Junior, Gloria McClain our Top Female, and the ambassador to our sport earned Top Senior. In case you’re still wondering, L.A. is still fishing with us. We held the ’93 Championship in Fort Pierce, Florida in April of ’94. Jack Wood, Lowell Breeding, 34
Randy Darcey, and Tom Slack won a new Hydra Sports boat and Jack took home his first National Championship title. A new name was starting to emerge as a superstar in our ranks. Dave Workman, Jr. earned second this year fishing with Jeff Dry. Fishing under the C&H Lures banner, Dave was commanding attention everywhere he and Jeff went. They were
Top of page: A young Field Hucks at the Championship. Bottom Left: Ranger’s Doug Babbs. Bottom Right: Mamie Mason and one of her Top Lady Angler honors.
becoming a force to be reckoned with. In ’94 many changes took place. John Jones left the organization; Jim Armstrong took over the title of SKA President. George Summerlin signed on as manager of our Carolina events, a position he held up until ’91. George was extremely well liked and he was an avid fisherman himself. The OMC brands T lasted only one year as laste sponsors, there was a spon lot oof turmoil in the company and to this com day they have never regained their stature reg in tthe world of outboard motors. But boa there was Ranger, the still with us as title sti sponsor, and still sellspo ing 23 and 25 footers in sufficient quantity. Mercury was tit back plus Wellcraft ba joined the ranks. jo Dan Schaad was now n in charge at Mercury, or at least M my m go-to guy. Doug
Babbs was the marketing guru at Ranger and both were not only great friends, but also the guys needed for advice. I cannot tell you how instrumental they were in molding the SKA. We sanctioned 25 events in five Divisions in ’94. There were some really good events and together with these events we continued to grow. Amy Kidney was now taking a larger role in the success of the www.FishSKA.com
SKA, doing important member paperwork in the office, but physically running the SKA at many events. She was the person in charge of our Brunswick, Georgia office. The 2004 Awards banquet was held at the Ramada Inn in Savannah, Georgia. It was another gala, but so many people showed up we ran out of food. Dave Workman accepted the “Angler of the Year” trophy from Mercury’s Gar Bremer. This was the start of Workman becoming the most recognized king mackerel fisherman in the country. Back in the early nineties you had to fish twenty events to win the title. Amazingly, today’s teams fish five events to win “Angler of the Year.” Horace Sikes and Tom Aberle won Division 1, with the super team of Richard Hobbs, Selby Lewis, Jr., and Eric Gowdy taking Division 2 honors. Three was won by Workman and Dry, and Clenton Thompson earned the top slot in Div. 5. Becky Thompson was the Top Female Angler and Ruben Way, Jr. was the Top Senior Angler. Brian Hasson earned B the Top Junior Angler of the t Year title. Hasson went wen on to become one of the t top anglers on the west we coast of Florida. He now no fishes the Pro Tour with wi Arik Bergerman on Caliente. He could become the best angler be ever ev seen on the SKA trail. tr Age is certainly on his hi side. One very important factor happened in fa ‘94. ‘9 The SKA set up a board of trustees. Its I main goal was to air a grievances and develop a uniform set d of o rules for all teams to abide by. It was Jerry a Dilsaver who took the bull by the horns and drafted the first set of rules. They were massaged and by the end ’95 the Trustees adopted them. With slight changes over the years, it’s the same set of rules we’re using today. 1995 was the final year for the SAA, the Saltwater Anglers Association. We shut her down due to the added workload of the SKA. It was growing by leaps and bounds and, because Armstrong had other work related obligations, Deona ANGLER | March 2010
Top Left: Loadmaster’s Ben and Linda Worthy.
and I assumed the day-to-day management of the Association. We knew the SKA still had room to grow so we expanded the trail to thirty events in seven ven Divisions, still none in the upper Gulf, only SAA events. Christine Schoenfeld won Lady Angler of the Year honors. She fished Division 4 and the Top Junior of the Year came from Division 6, Robert Thompson. G.W. Fine, also from 6, captured the Lonnie Broadwell Senior Angler of the Year Award. In Division 1, Marvin Blount won the title. Don Wilsey and Randy Spainhour captured Division 2 and K.P. Parks and Alan Pressely won Div. 3. Klaus and Christine Schoenfeld won 4 while Fred and Kevin Carlson picked up the honor in 5. The Crofton family dominated Div. 6. Through these early years it should be noted that Penn Reels March 2010 | ANGLER
Top Right: Jack Holmes, Mercury’s Gar Bremer with Angler of the Year winner Dave Workman. Center Left: Danny Wallen “Dan-O” accepted an award.
was a big sponsor followed by C&H Lures, which Dave Workman managed, Berkley Trilene Big Game Line, Ocean Waves Sunglasses, and Igloo Coolers. Here’s something else to digest. There were fifteen smaller sponsors in ‘95. Of those, only two are still with us today. This is really a very challenging business! Of course the big news was Workman and Dry who won their second “Angler of the Year” title in a row. This was monumental! They had distinguished themselves as the team to beat on any body of water. Linwood and Brad Clark were second in the Open Division and Larry Di Fowler earned third. Fo The National T Championship, called Ch the th Tournament of Champions back then, C was w held in conjunction ti with the St. Petersburg Boat Show P in November. It may go g down
as one of the best we’ve ever done and was the first time we held the event in the same calendar year. We did seminars, weighed fish, and entertained the very large crowd. Randy Keys, Ira Pearson, and Jimmy Hasson won the title of National Champions. They were locals, but it should be noted Carolinians Steve Walton earned second, and Dennis Stark and Danny Wallen earned third. The early nineties were a challenge to say the least. Long hours on the road while work piled up in the office. Oh, I’m not talking just about me. How about the guys that run the highways, racking up events, trying to win the title. It was different then, competition was brutal, and the rewards were certainly not what they are today. But if it wasn’t for those teams who set the standard, there would be no association, no history, and certainly no heroes we can look up to. Next month we’ll look at the second half of the 90s. ■
Above: Ranger’s Doug Babbs with Klaus and Christine Schonfeld. Right: Jim Armstrong, Terry Grantham, Amy Kidney, and Joel Coker.
The second article in a series about the history of the Southern Kingfish Association.