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Saltwater Fishing’s Fall Classic

Posted 10/3/2013

The SKA® National Championship and Yamaha Professional Kingfish Championship in Biloxi this November are the offshore equivalent of the Bassmaster Classic® and more

If you want to see hundreds of the most exotic, high-performance center console fishing boats on the water today, fielded by the top competition saltwater fishing teams in the nation going head-to-head for big cash purses and glory, then you better head to the Golden Nugget Casino and Marina in Biloxi, Miss. for the week of November 4th. It promises to be an amazing display of fishing prowess and the newest, hottest boats and gear.

The Southern Kingfish Association (SKA®) is the largest saltwater fishing tournament organization in the nation. Structured somewhat like the Bass Angler Sportsmans Society (B.A.S.S.®), it has ten regional divisions that stretch from N.C. to La., pretty much everywhere king mackerel are found in U.S. waters in abundance. Each division has at least three SKA®sanctioned kingfish tournaments per year that are open to members from within or outside of that division, for a total of 45 events in 2013. By entering and placing in divisional tournaments, teams earn points in addition to cash and prizes offered in each event. At the end of the season the top teams, as determined by the points earned in those events, are invited to compete in the National Championship in Biloxi. 

There are two levels of divisional competition, the “open class,” dedicated to the biggest, baddest most powerful boats you can bring to the tournaments; and the “small boat class,” which limits boat size to no larger than 23-feet 11-inches at the water line. While large boats can only compete in the open class, small boats are permitted to compete in either class, but the team must declare which class it will fish at registration before a tournament begins. 

In addition to the divisional competition, the most consistently successful teams are invited to step up to the SKA® Professional Kingfish Tour, which culminates with the highly anticipated Yamaha Professional Kingfish Championship. The money and prizes offered to the top-tier competitors makes for top-flight competition. Every division tournament has a pro class, which leads up to the final pro event of the year held in Biloxi the same week as the SKA®National Championship.

Like B.A.S.S.®, the SKA® is devoted to fishing for a single species—king mackerel. These missile-shaped pelagic gamefish are long, strong, very fast and sport a mouth full of teeth that can slice and dice pretty much anything they want to eat. Kings are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, around the horn of the Fla. peninsula and northwards as far as Va.  Their range pretty much sets the range of the sanctioned tournaments. Unlike B.A.S.S.®, where tournaments are individual angler events, SKA® sanctioned tournaments are team efforts. Each boat can be “manned” by two-to-six people. 

In an effort to make their tournaments more family-oriented, SKA® has offered special awards, trophies and even scholarships for female and junior anglers for more than 20 years. There are teams made up of fathers, mothers and their children. A great example is Team Ocean Isle Fishing Center from N.C., which fielded by the McMullan family. At any given tournament there can be three generations aboard; Grandfather Rube, fathers Brant and Barrett, mother Amy and one or more of the family’s children including daughter Caroline. 

 

The McMullan’s compete in a Yamaha-powered 32-foot Yellowfin center console in both divisional and pro events and two years ago they weighed the largest kingfish ever brought to the scales in 25 years of SKA® tournaments, breaking the Miss. State Record in the process. The fish weighed an amazing 74 pounds. There is usually a large and very vocal audience filling the bleachers at tournament weigh-in time, and this fish brought them to their feet. Many more spectators walk the docks discussing the boats, talking to teams to learn more about the fish and fishing, and just drinking in the festive atmosphere that is the SKA®Nationals.

What makes the SKA® unique is the level of competition and the unbelievably harsh demands tournament teams put on their boats, motors and tackle. They fish in rough weather, think nothing of making runs of up to 100 miles in a day to find that one big king, and then racing back to the scales in time for weigh-in. It has made SKA® competitors a driving force in the development of bigger, stronger, better handling boats and larger, stronger, more powerful and dependable outboards. So it stands to reason that when you get to the Championships in Biloxi in November, you will be seeing the best-of-the-best in fishing boats, engines and fishing tackle being used by the best tournament teams in the nation. 

Here’s how the week shapes up. Registration for the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Championship takes place at the Golden Nugget on November 4th, but many teams will have arrived a day or two early to scout out bait and pre-fish the area. Tuesday and Wednesday are fishing days, and Thursday is registration for the National Championship and awards presentation for the Pros. Friday and Saturday are the fishing days for the Nationals, and Sunday is the awards presentation. There are numerous parties, gatherings, sponsor displays and more during the week.  This year, Garmin Marine Electronics will be sponsoring a live simulcast of both events. To learn more, go to www.fishska.com and click on the banner for the Nationals. It’s one of the biggest events hosted by the city of Biloxi each year, and this one promises to be bigger and better than ever.