Fishing Tips FAMILY AFFAIR: TOURNAMENT FISHING ISN'T JUST FOR MEN Posted 3/16/2010 A good friend who loves fishing, but doesn't have a competitive bone in his body, is fond of telling me "tournaments just aren't for everyone." And while I agree, the reason some anglers love them and others avoid them has little to do with age or gender. Fishing tournaments can be fun for male or female anglers of all ages if they are allowed to participate and one organization goes out of its way to encourage the practice, the Southern Kingfish Association. "When we started the SKA® twenty years ago," said Jack Holmes, SKA®'s managing partner, "we made a conscious decision to encourage participation by the entire family. We caught some flak from anglers who were used to competing in what is generally an all male, all adult arena where money is the big draw, but that wasn't what we were trying to accomplish. We wanted to be inclusive, to fill the ranks of the SKA® with family folks who enjoy fishing for fishing's sake and want to pass the heritage and tradition on to their children. I feel we've done a pretty good job and it has helped make the SKA® the largest tournament trail in saltwater." The SKA® has two major competition levels, approximately 50 divisional tournaments for the weekend warriors who make up the bulk of the membership, and the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour, a series of events that attract a higher level of competition and requires teams to earn a berth by amassing wins in the divisional ranks. Both tournament series allow all anglers to compete as part of the team and you'd be surprised how many wives and kids are active participants. George Mitchell fishes with his 12-year-old son Eddy, on the Snake Dancer and he was on hand to complete in the SKA® National Championships in Biloxi, Miss. this past November. "Eddy started fishing with me competitively three years ago, but he has been fishing on and off since he was four," George said. "We fish divisional and pro events as part of a team that includes two or three other anglers and Eddy not only keeps up with the adults, but out fishes them frequently." Last year Eddy caught a monster kingfish of 62.8 lbs in a tournament in Palm Beach, Fla. and considers that to be one of the highlights of his time on the team and why not. The team won the tournament along with having the single biggest fish. And not all of the youngsters in the Junior Angler program are boys. There are a fair number of accomplished young ladies who can handle a charging kingfish as well as any boy. "Fostering an interest in fishing is a great way to teach kids about nature, the outdoors and conservation while grounding them in an activity that gets them out of the house, away from the video games, computers and negative influences that are all around them in today's world," Holmes said. "We encourage our junior anglers to excel on the water and in school and teach that they go hand in hand and even offer an SKA® scholarship program." The SKA® has a surprising number of teams fielding three generations of anglers. Recently Jack was talking to Dell Williamson, a member of Conrad Lau's Koolau Team. His wife frequently fishes, but was not there and Jack asked why. Dell told him that she was home expecting their first child and decided to sit this one out. He reminded Jack that one of his proudest moments growing up was when he was featured in the SKA® Angler magazine as a Junior Angler alongside his dad. "It won't be long before you'll be writing up a third generation of Williamsons in the magazine," he said with a big smile. There are plenty of husband a wife teams on the circuits, too. Running a Yamaha powered Contender® called Erin's Addiction are husband and wife, Erin and Jack Bracewell from Summerville, S.C.. This accomplished pair began fishing SKA® tournaments in 2004 and over the last few years have become formidable competitors, which is all the more interesting because they usually complete with no other anglers on the boat. In 2007 Erin won Top Lady Angler honors in Division 3 and in 2008 she won the same honors in Division 3 and Division 9 while they took first place honors in Division 3 and second place in Division 9 as a team! "I love fishing with Erin," Jack remarked. "We are both extremely competitive people, but we get along so well as a team fishing in tournaments. It's nice to know that when it's time to go I don't have to worry about anyone else showing up but Erin and she is always by my side. Our performance says it all and she is second to none as an angler and crewmate." The SKA® sets a wonderful example of encouraging families to fish together in a competitive setting, but should also be recognized for setting an example for everyone who fishes to share the experience with their children and spouses whether they fish competitively or not. Yamaha believes that making fishing a family affair is the best way to share your love of the out of doors with your children and friends.