UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - St. Lawrence River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Rising stars

Rising stars
Capt. John Parks, Willie Humphrey and Robert Daugherty (l to r) of Team Early Riser caught this 20-pound, 1-ounce king Saturday to push their total weight to a winning 58-2.

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. - They knew this tournament was theirs to win or lose in Saturday's final round, but when all was said and done at the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship, Team Early Riser came through in the clutch and won the $150,000 top prize on the strengths of a hefty catch Friday.

Early Riser, captained by John Parks of Jacksonville, N.C., defeated nine other teams Saturday with a two-fish total weight of 58 pounds, 2 ounces. Nobody else came within 5 pounds of the winning team.

"I feel great," Parks said after collecting the winner's check, which included $75,000 for the win plus a pair of $37,500 contingency bonuses from both Wellcraft and Yamaha. "Now I can go redfishing all winter long."

The bulk of Early Riser's winning weight came from the kingfish the team caught Friday. Fishing an artificial reef offshore from Atlantic Beach known as AR 315, they caught a massive king around 9 a.m. that eventually weighed in at 38 pounds, 1 ounce. It turned out to be the biggest fish of the tournament and gave them more than a 4-pound lead heading into Saturday's final round.

Today, all they had to do was catch a decent fish to stay atop the leaderboard, which became no small task when anglers woke up this morning to find weather conditions completely changed. Gone were the clouds and rain that dominated the entire week, and out came bluebird skies and sunshine, not to mention a full moon. Anglers said that put a damper on the kingfish bite; in fact, no finalists caught a fish weighing more than 22 1/2 pounds.

"When we caught that 38 at 9 o'clock (Friday), we knew that fish would put us in the hunt," crew member Willie Humphrey said. "Everybody else was 4 to 8 pounds behind us, and that's a lot of weight to make up. We knew that if we caught anywhere from 28 to 30 pounds (Saturday), nobody could catch us."

They didn't catch nearly that much, but all 10 teams did manage to catch at least one keeper fish. They were all within the 15- to 22-pound range, and that worked to Early Riser's advantage, as its 20-pound, 1-ounce king Saturday pushed their total to a winning 58-2.

"The day didn't start like we wanted it to," Parks said. "We got on some small fish early, so we moved to another area. We saw some big fish but just couldn't get them to bite. We ended up catching the winning fish about six miles from the inlet and a mile and a half off the beach. The fish hit a bare pogy at about 10 a.m. on a medium-long line in about 50 feet of water. It only took about 10 minutes to land the fish.

"We really didn't think it was going to be enough. We knew it was about 20 pounds, but we still worked hard all day to catch a bigger fish."

"To tell you the truth, I don't know how many we caught," Humphrey said. "We even caught a fat Albert (albacore tuna) that ran me around the boat a few times."

Early Riser - which consists of Capt. Parks and Humphrey, as well as Robert Daugherty, Steve Henderson and Marlyn Bunce - had an outstanding week in Morehead City. The team finished fourth at the qualifying tournament here Monday and Tuesday, which pushed them up to 40th place in the year-end standings and qualified them for the championship. They also had another top-10 finish, ninth place, at Venice, La., earlier in the season.

Since Monday, the team has earned a total of $166,500 in FLW Kingfish tournament winnings.

"This is really good for us," Humphrey said. "We came a long ways in a few days of fishing."

Reel Culture works prop wash for second

Team Reel Culture, captained by Shane Hollar of Advance, N.C., finished in second place and collected $50,000 with a final weight of 52 pounds, 12 ounces.

After catching a 31-pound, 10-ounce kingfish in the opening round, Reel Culture landed a 21-2 in Saturday's finals.

"We caught him on a double pogy in the prop wash," Hollar said. "That's how we've caught our fish all week. A couple of them about landed in the boat when they bit.

"The conditions changed today, and the bait has moved since earlier in the week. It moved down below, west of the shipping channel. The majority of the fish moved that way, too."

Team Rebecca Ann caught 52 pounds, 9 ounces for the tournament and finished third.Rebecca Ann just short again, claims third

After missing the standings title by just two points earlier in the week, Team Rebecca Ann, captained by Frank Strickland of Valdosta, Ga., came up a little short again Saturday by finishing in third place at the championship. The team caught 52 pounds, 9 ounces for the tournament and collected $26,250.

Saturday, they caught an 18-pound, 9-ounce king, but it took some effort to get it.

"The conditions changed and our fished moved," Strickland said. "We fished for two and a half hours and didn't have a single kingfish bite. The big fish just weren't biting for us today."

One of the most consistent teams of the season, Rebecca Ann also finished third in the yearly standings.

"Man, that's the way it's been all year," Strickland laughed.

Team Double Shot finished fourth with a total weight of 50 pounds, 4 ounces. They caught this 19-pound, 8-ounce kingfish Saturday.Double Shot fourth, Chevy fifth

Team Double Shot, captained by Gerald Wagner III of Richmond Hill, Ga., finished fourth and collected $25,000 with a total weight of 50 pounds, 4 ounces.

They caught a 19-pound, 8-ounce kingfish Saturday.

Catching the heaviest fish of the finals was Team Chevy, captained by Larry Fowler of Little River, S.C., which climbed to the fifth slot and earned $20,000. They caught a 22-pound, 9-ounce kingfish Saturday and totaled 49-9 for the tournament.

"It's absolutely phenomenal what FLW has done for kingfishing," Fowler said. "We're just honored to be here."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 team finishers at the Morehead City FLW Kingfish Championship:

6th: Sea Rat, Capt. Mitch Yates of Winston-Salem, N.C., 47-13, $13,500
7th: My Turn, Capt. Steve Venable of Rural Hall, N.C., 47-1, $12,000
8th: Capt. Dan, Capt. Daniel Gourley of Hardeeville, S.C., 45-7, $7,000
9th: East Coast Sports, Capt. Randall Edens of Hampstead, N.C., 44-15, $9,000
10th: Team Snickers, Capt. Alex Leva of Tampa, Fla., 43-3, $10,000

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

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