UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Kings on the rise

Kings on the rise
Team Early Riser caught this kingfish weighing 38 pounds, 1 ounce Friday to jump from 36th place to lead the opening round of the inaugural $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship. Pictured (l to r) are Willie Humphrey, Capt. John Parks and Robert Daugherty.

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. - Anglers predicted that the more days they fished here, the better the odds a 40-pound kingfish would emerge from the offshore waters of North Carolina. Team Early Riser nearly pulled it off Friday by catching a 38-pound, 1-ounce fish that took the overall lead in the opening round of Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship competition.

There were some smiling faces as competitors trickled back in from Friday's fishing. Wind conditions favored kingfish anglers today, and it showed as some teams came in saying they caught more fish today than they have all week - going back to the two-day qualifier Monday and Tuesday.

"It was the weather conditions more than anything," said Early Riser crewmember Robert Daugherty. "The more the wind's blowing hard out of the north, the better. The fish get turned on and come to the beach. We were on fish all day."

That could be an understatement, given the relative size of those fish. Officially, two fish topping the vaunted 30-pound mark came to the scale Friday - one of them being Early Riser's 38-1. It could have been three if teams were allowed to weigh in more than one fish. Early Riser had a second king in its bag that weighed 31 pounds. Additionally, they hooked and released another 31-pounder. On top of that, they caught and released three 25-pounders. With the cut weight settling on about 24 1/2 pounds, every one of those fish would have put Early Riser into the top 10.

"The fish we caught right after this one," Capt. John Parks said of the 31-pounder they released, "it was even bigger than this. We caught it right within sight of the check-in boat. We would have kicked butt if this was an aggregate-weight tournament."

"We were just sitting there waiting to check in, and we had our lines out. He skyed on our prop wash and we scrambled to get him in," Daugherty said of the 31-pounder they brought in. "We thought he was bigger than the one we had (the 38-pounder). That's why we gaffed him."

Whatever Early Riser was doing Friday, it worked. Daugherty said they caught their official, leading fish on a pogy on the long line in about 50 feet of water. They fought the fish for a relatively brief time, about 20 minutes, but it still gave them a good run.

"He just about out-spooled us twice," Parks said. "We were on plane chasing him down."

One of things Early Riser didn't do was waste a lot of time chasing bait. Some teams said Thursday that bait was harder to catch than in previous days, but Friday that trend seemed to turn around somewhat.

"We made two casts, unloaded the nets and were gone," Daugherty said. "We had our lines in the water by 8:20."

The team caught its big keeper around 9 a.m., and it was a key fish at a crucial time. The championship winner - and a potential $150,000 payday - is determined by combining the top 10 teams' opening-round weight with the weight of the fish they catch in Saturday's finals. With 38 pounds, 1 ounce, Early Riser opened more than a 4-pound lead on the rest of the field.

"We're just hoping we can find another 25(-pounder) tomorrow," Daugherty said. "If we can get on a 25, we'll be happy."

Team Early Riser consists of Capt. Parks, who hails from Jacksonville, N.C., and crewmembers Daugherty, Marlyn Bunce, Steve Henderson and Willie Humphrey.

Rebecca Ann holds on for second

Team Rebecca Ann captained by Frank Strickland of Valdosta, Ga., led Thursday but fell to second place Friday with its weight of 34 pounds even from day one.

Rebecca Ann pretty much knew it had made the cut by virtue of its day-one fish, but the team still worked to catch an even bigger one on day two.

"We just looked around a few more places and tried to catch more bait," Strickland said of their efforts today. "But we also tried to better our fish."

They caught several kings in the 18- to 20-pound range, but couldn't top their hefty 34-pound mark. The bait they were after Friday was bluefish, which seemed to be a popular choice for some of the leading fish that came across the scale.

"Elephants eat peanuts, but they also like a big meal," Strickland said. "When you've got a big old ribbonfish or a big old bluefish on, you usually get a better fish."

Team Reel Culture landed this 31-pound, 10-ounce king Friday and climbed all the way into the third qualifying spot. Weighing in the fish is crewmember James Hammonds.Reel Culture leaps to third

Team Reel Culture captained by Shane Hollar of Advance, N.C., landed a 31-pound, 10-ounce king Friday - the other 30-pound-plus fish of the day - and climbed all the way into the third qualifying spot.

Reel Culture fished near an artificial reef offshore from Atlantic Beach that was a popular spot for many boats Friday.

"Everybody there was fishing in one big ball. They're catching them, but they're all this big (arms showing smaller-to-average size)," crewmember James "Big Chief" Hammonds said. "When you get away from them a little bit, the fish are bigger. We knew a big one would be in there (on the reef), but they always sit back and let the little ones eat."

Reel Culture caught several other fish Friday, including six sharks. The team's big keeper came on a double-pogy rig at about 10:30 a.m.

My Turn fourth

In second place Thursday, Team My Turn captained by Steve Venable of Rural Hall, N.C., earned the fourth qualifying slot into the finals by virtue of its day-one fish, also a 31-pound, 10-ounce king.

My Turn caught its qualifying fish early Thursday, but it wasn't the easiest catch in the midst of a $500,000 tournament.

"We caught it on the second bait in the water, so it's not a real long story," Venable said. "The thing was, we had the fish hooked, but it only had one hook in its anal fin. It took us a half-hour to get it in because we knew it was foul-hooked. We had it in the boat by 8:15 or 8:30, so that one was meant to be."

Double Shot fifth

Team Double Shot captained by Gerald Wagner III of Richmond Hill, Ga., also made the cut by virtue of its day-one catch. The team placed fifth in the opening round with a weight of 30 pounds, 12 ounces.

"Today, we caught a couple of 25(-pounders), but we already had a 30 so we didn't even stick them," Wagner said.

Capt. Randall Edens of Team East Coast Sports weighs in a 27-pound, 1-ounce kingfish for eighth place in the opening round.Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 teams to qualify for the finals at the Morehead City FLW Kingfish Championship:

6th: Sea Rat, Capt. Mitch Yates of Winston-Salem, N.C., 29-15
7th: Capt. Dan, Capt. Daniel Gourley of Hardeeville, S.C., 27-7
8th: East Coast Sports, Capt. Randall Edens of Hampstead, N.C., 27-1
9th: Team Chevy, Capt. Larry Fowler of Little River, S.C., 27-0
10th: Team Snickers, Capt. Alex Leva of Tampa, Fla., 24-10

The top 10 boats will take off at 7 a.m. Eastern time Saturday morning for the final round of championship competition. The winner - and a potential $150,000 check - will be determined by combined opening-round and final-round weight.

Plus: day-three preview

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2005-10-13-flw-kingfish-tour-championship 

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