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Sweet payday for Sweet Sarah in Fishing for Miracles King Mackerel Tournament

Angler Ellis Hamm of the Sweet Sarah IV holds up the 43.93-pound king mackerel the crew of the Beaufort-based boat caught Friday on the opening day of the 19th annual Key West Boats Fishing for Miracles King Mackerel Tournament held out of Ripley Light Yacht Club. Tommy Braswell/Staff Buy this photo

Sweet Sarah IV was the second boat to the Ripley Light Yacht Club dock Friday but the first boat Saturday in the 19th annual Key West Boats Fishing for Miracles King Mackerel Tournament.

The only thing Sweet Sarah could catch Saturday was sharks, so the crew from Beaufort headed in early, arriving even before the weigh station opened at 1 p.m., to see if their Friday catch that weighed 43.93 pounds would hold up.

As it turned out, there were no anxious moments with the largest catch of the day falling five pounds short of Sweet Sarah, which beat out runner-up Ripple Effect by 0.69 pounds.

“I told our crew when we put the fish in the boat that if we didn’t win this year we weren’t ever going to win,” said boat owner Nick Russell, who has fished the Miracles tournament almost every year. In addition to Russell, Sweet Sarah’s crew included angler Ellis Hamm, Tom Ogle and Shelly Smith.

Sweet Sarah collected the $16,250 first prize, another $4,860 from the optional tournament within a tournament (TWT) for big fish and $1,000 for the largest fish caught aboard a Key West boat. It also was the top boat in the 23-under category and the early entry award.

Ripple Effect, which weighed its 43.24-pound king mackerel only seconds before Sweet Sarah, won $22,245 -- $4,875 for second overall, $10,350 from the TWT Super level, $4,100 for first place TWT aggregate and $2,920 for second in the TWT Big Fish category.

Russell, 77 and retired from the United States Marine Corps, said the team went to a (location) Friday that was supposed to have live bottom but did not find what they were looking for. The moved a short distance to another spot and the fish finder “lit up like a Christmas tree” with bait. They hooked up almost immediately.

“The fish hit the way, way back (live menhaden) on a multi-colored skirt,” Russell said.

This year’s tournament drew 152 entries, down from the 182 that fished in 2011. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the MUSC Children’s Hospital and Coastal Conservation Association-South Carolina.


Sweet Sarah IV, Nick Russell, 43.93 pounds; Ripple Effect, Arthur Simons, 43.24; No Patience, Shannon Elias, 38.11; Reelin, Mark Pincus, 37.56; Lowcountry Native, Keith Powell, 35.18; Finstalker, Chris Chavis, 34.33; Sea Scaper, Dennis Hensley, 33.80; Yates-Sea, David Yates, 31.72; Fish Hunter, Melvin Knight, 30.96; Team Sperry-Net Profit, Bryan Baxter, 30.39; Solid Surface, Andy Nettles, 29.94; Reel Time, Rich Bermundez, 29.58; Nomad, Simons Hane, 29.18; Yard Boy, John Walpole Jr., 29.12; Lil Lover, Maci Dean, 28.94; Eren’s Addiction, Jack Bracewell, 28.43; Seadog, James Johnson, 28.10; Stray Dog, Chris Rosengarten, 27.82; Half Mine II, Preston Knight, 27.59; Gilligan, Gene Dupre, 27.42; Mad Mouse, Rob Ferris, 27.40; Miller Time, Chuck Miller, 27.35; Hammer Down, Monty Bates, 26.59; The Blue Bull, David Tomberlin, 26.57; Bottom Line, Thomas Murray, 25.96; MSC, Craig Hoover, 25.86; Flip Side, Phillip Sawyer, 25.65; BeerAbility, Dow Suggs, 25.50; Reel Nice, Brian Bethard, 25.30; Dun Wishin, Andrew Winter, 24.44.

TWT Largest Fish: Sweet Sarah IV, Nick Russell, 43.93; Ripple Effect, Arthur Simons, 43.24; No Patience, Shannon Elias, 38.11.

TWT Super: Ripple Effect, Arthur Simons, 43.24.

TWT Aggregate: Ripple Effect, Arthur Simons, 68.92; No Patience, Shannon Elias, 66.31; Yates-Sea, David Yates, 57.87.

23-UNDER CLASS: Sweet Sarah IV, Nick Russell, 43.93; Sea Scaper, Dennis Hensley, 33.80; Fish Hunter, Melvin Knight, 30.96.

KEY WEST BOAT AWARD: Sweet Sarah IV, Nick Russell, 43.93; Lil Lover, Maci Dean, 28.94.

LADY ANGLER: No Patience, Leia Elias, 38.11.

YOUTH ANGLER: Solid Surface, E.J. Nettles, 29.94; Mad Mouse, Jacob Solano, 27.40.

EARLY ENTRY: Sweet Sarah IV, Nick Russell, 43.93.

CCA MEMBER: Solid Surface, Andy Nettles, 29.94.

CCA YOUTH: Solid Surface, E.J. Nettles, 29.94.

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