Team OIFC Wins 2011 Southern Kingfish Association National Championship:
In 2009 Team OIFC (Ocean Isle Fishing Center) consisting of Brant, Barrett and Rube McMullan won the Southern Kingfish Association’s (SKA) National Championship title. The victory was a record breaking feat as the family team weighed a monster 74.1 pound King Mackerel to anchor their winning 118 pound, two fish aggregate. The 74.1 was the new
Fast forward to 2011; Team OIFC has now grown to include Brant’s wife Amy and his six year old daughter, Caroline; otherwise the gang is back together as Brant, Barrett and Rube are hoping for another miracle catch. Here is the play by play as it occurred.
Monday, November 7th: Brant and Barrett have the team’s 32’ Yellowfin loaded with all the equipment and on the trailer. The brothers head out of
Tuesday, November 8th. Brant and Barrett launch the boat at 6am. A dock is secured at The Isle and bait pens etc. are unloaded. Outdoor writer and friend Gary Caputi join the brothers on board for the day of fishing/scouting. The weather forecast has caused the SKA Pro tournament to be cancelled due to strong southeast winds, but Brant and Barrett are confident that the Chandeleur islands and
Wednesday, November 9th: Brant and Barrett head off the dock at 6am. There is an approaching cold front which is scheduled to pass in the late afternoon, so the plan is to get things done by mid afternoon and head in. The AM weather is great with light southeast winds, although a large southeast swell makes running offshore a bit tough. The plan is to scout the area east of
Thursday, November 10th: The front that passed the evening before has pushed winds in excess of 30 knots and seas to 6+ feet. Brant and Barrett take the day off the water and head to the airport to pick up the family which is flying in to fish/cheerlead. Additional crew members now include: Brant’s wife, Amy, daughter, Caroline (6), son, Brayden (2), head babysitter, Katelyn Kincer, Barrett’s wife, Stephanie and daughter, Blakeley (4 months). Rube arrives by vehicle mid day from
Friday, November 11th: The family/fishing team gets to sleep in, but by 11am everyone is at the boat and loading up. The wind has died to near nothing and seas are laying out. On board for this mission are Brant, Barrett, Rube, Amy, Caroline, Brayden and Katelyn. The plan is to fish nearshore oil rigs to try to catch large Bluefish for bait and then head offshore, hopefully to the same rig where Brant and Barrett caught the big Kings a couple of days before, to scout if those fish are still there. The Bluefish mission is fairly successful as several 3-4 pound Bluefish are boated. In addition, the crew finds the nearshore rigs covered up with 20-30 pound Kings, good knowledge but not likely to produce tournament winners. Brant points the Yellowfin offshore and is determined to make the 50 mile run to check if those big Kings are still holding at that one particular lone rig; a potential jackpot of information for the tournament. However, also a potential nightmare as those fish are likely on the move and could easily be gone. Lines are deployed at the “rogue” King rig but all is quiet. The baitfish which were easy to catch a few days before are difficult. The Kings are not present. The fish have moved on. That is fine, as it solidifies the theory that the Kings are on the move offshore. There is no question now, the team has no choice but to fight the crowd at the Horseshoe salt dome and hope to pull out the winners. The brothers feel through use of superior bait and angling fish aggressively to catch as many as possible to cull through for the large Kings, the team has a good chance of excelling
Saturday, November 12th: The wake up call comes at 4am and everyone is at the boat and ready to go at 5am; Brant, Barrett, Rube, Amy and Caroline. The team wants to get in the check out line early to be near the front and hopefully one of the first teams to the fish. Gear is loaded, rigs tied, baitwells filled and then it is off to sit in line until the 6:40am check out. Everyone blasts off in flat calm seas at 6:40am. Brant pushes the throttles to the twin Yamaha F300s to the dash and the Yellowfin loaded to the gills with bait, ice and fuel tops out at 58mph. For 84 miles Brant does not touch the throttles as Team OIFC settles into the ride and focuses on what hopes to be an epic King Mackerel bite. At roughly 8am Brant pulls the throttle back at the Horseshoe salt dome. 15-20 of the super fast boats are all ready there and it looks like every boat is hooked up; the bite is on! Brant, Barrett and Rube each hook up baits, pitch them over, free line them for a few seconds and then all three are hooked up to Kings who are screaming off line in different directions. Amy takes over on Brant’s rod while Brant grabs another bait and hooks up a fourth fish. Amy’s fish is particularly stubborn, hanging deep and hard to move. The other crew members release several Kings in the mid 30 pound range. Amy’s fish finally comes in sight and it is a much larger fish. Brant and Amy work the fish to the gaff where it is boated and estimated in the mid 40 pound range; a good fish that will help their needed two fish aggregate. The feeling is that it will take 100 pounds aggregate to have a chance to win, thus this mid 40s along with a similar or larger fish will put the team in position to have a high finish. The McMullan family continues to sit at idle, free lining baits into the mouths of ravenous King Mackerel below; not just small school fish either, these Kings are all between 30 and 40 pounds. Barrett and Rube are in the bow doing battle and Brant reaches in the well and hooks up a large Bluefish and pitches it over. The Bluefish swims down deep and out sight, then stops, makes a few nervous twitches and takes it’s final breath as a big King Mackerel inhales it. Brant sets the hook as the big fish sits idle, shaking its head trying to interpret the new sensation. The situation is finally digested and the reel’s drag slips uncontrollable as the King spools off several hundred yards. It is either a bigger fish or a really mean one, but the crew has to turn the boat and head toward the King to get it back under control; other hooked fish are put on “hold” until this situation is resolved. Brant does battle with the stubborn fish which makes a couple more good runs and then hangs deep and strong. Finally Brant gets a glimpse and recognizes the fish as particularly long, a potential good fish to go with the one currently on ice. Rube grabs the gaff and boats the Kings. It is long, has a huge head, but is very skinny; a hard fish to estimate weight but definitely at least as big as the one in the bag. It is approximately 10:30am and Team OIFC has an estimated pair of 45 pounders in the bag; probably good for a top ten finish, but a big “kicker” fish is needed. At 11:30am the baitwells are empty. The crew has gone through 60+ baits and caught over 30 Kings ranging from 30-45 pounds. Brant sets course for the nearest oil rig which is 15 miles away with the hopes of securing more bait. At the rig, the crew finds small Blue Runners only. Barrett manages to catch two large “Jack type” unknown fish that are roughly 5 pounds each. Brant and Barrett discuss options of whether to keep searching bait or to take the two large, different baits back to the hot bite and hope they produce an odd, big bite. It is a gamble with only two good baits, but the brothers know it only takes one bite. Lines are reset at the Horseshoe salt dome at 1:30 and one big Jack and a couple of small Blue Runners are deployed. The Runners are immediately engulfed, while the Jack sits idle. A quick twitch and sharp bend of the Jack rod indicates a bite, but the line immediately goes limp. As has been a problem throughout the day, a King has bitten the bait while another has bit the swivel and thus cut the line. Brant grabs the last hope, a 5 pound Jack and sets it out. Only minutes go by before the rod bends over and line slowly creeps off the reel. Barrett grabs the rod and sets the hook. The fish sulks, and circles the boat, not acting much like a King. Then the scene changes as suddenly the reel comes to life and line smokes off. Team OIFC is in the middle of a pack of boats and this fish has gone supersonic, peeling off ¾ of the spool and heading toward potential conflict with other boats. Evasive maneuvers are made as Brant turns the boat and makes chase to get back on top of the fish. Barrett collects the line after several more strong runs, but eventually gets the big fish into a stalemate up and down battle. Big circles around the boat indicate a King Mackerel and as the fish comes into sight, it looks like it may be bigger than anything they have in the bag. Brant readies the gaff, reaches out the entire length of the 12’ gaff plus an additional arm’s length and nails the King. It is hauled aboard and obviously the biggest fish of the day. It is very long and has a huge head, but is skinny; another hard fish to judge, but still clearly the largest fish on board. The two fish in the bag are judged and weighed (using a scale on a rocking boat is not exact) and it appears the first King kept is bouncing between 44 and 46 pounds while the second King kept is bouncing between 46 and 49 pounds. The second King and now this most recent King are iced in the fish bag and zipped up. The King bag is 60 inches long and the second King kept will just barely fit if the tail is bent and the third King kept is longer than the bag; two fish tails stick out of the end of the bag, a good sign. The team picks up lines at 3pm, averages 45 mph for the ride home and makes it through check-in with 15 minutes to spare. In the line, Brant re-weighs the Kings to make sure the right decision has been made on which fish to weigh. Brant does take the chance to scale the biggest King and the scale bounces past 53 pounds before he quickly re-ices the fish; he does not tell the crew as he is now cautiously optimistic about what may be a high finishing aggregate. In line, Brant is keeping track of what has been weighed; the leading aggregate is 100 pounds. According to what Brant has seen, he believes the team’s aggregate should be around 99 pounds, not likely a winning aggregate but possibly good for second; fingers are crossed. Barrett and Rube are thinking low 90 pound aggregate. At the weigh-in off loading sight, the crowd is very responsive to the team’s catch, an indication that they may have a high placing aggregate. There is a line of teams with their fish bags waiting to get on stage. Brant and Rube lug the bag one step at a time. Passers note the two big tails hanging out the end of the bag. Finally the entire team is on the stage. The leading aggregate is still 100 pounds. Brant unzips the bag and hands the weighmaster the smaller of the two fish, knowing this fish will tell the tale. The scale zips right past 46 and settles at an amazing 48.43 pounds. The entire team is astonished. Brant gives a small fist pump as he now has an idea they may have a shot at taking the lead. The crowd applauds the next fish as its length makes it particularly impressive. The scale hits 52 then 55 pounds and settles at 54.70 pounds. Barrett and Rube turn to Brant with astonishment, Amy and Caroline are in shock and Brant pumps his first and holds up a finger, “first place!” The SKA announcer gives a total aggregate of 103.13 pounds and new leader. Team OIFC has taken a late lead and is absolutely in shock. They knew they had a good catch, but never considered it a winning catch. The line to weigh is still long and the nervous anticipation is overwhelming. Other teams and spectators are trying to congratulate the team, but shock mixed with the fear of a jinx keep them near silent. Finally the last fish is weighed and it is announced that Team OIFC has won the Open Class of the 2011 SKA National Championship. High fives, thanks, cheers and a variety of emotions of shared. For their efforts Team OIFC won nearly $15,000 in cash along with a brand new 21’ Contender boat/motor/trailer package valued at $40,000. Just as important and most impressive, the team has added another National Championship trophy to their resume and will cherish the memory of sharing this accolade with both Amy and Caroline.
Sunday, November 13th: Amy, Brayden, Stephanie, Blakely and Katelyn all catch a 6am flight back to
Monday, November 14th: Brant, Barrett and Caroline depart
PS- Thanks to the Allen family for the special congratulations. See you guys at the Jolly Mon!
PS- Thanks to the Allen family for the special congratulations. See you guys at the Jolly Mon!
- Capt. Brant McMullan