Charleston boats grabbed three top-10 finishes in the 23-under class at the recent Southern Kingfish Association Nationals held in Biloxi, Miss.
Leading the way was Team Sperry/Net Profit, captained by Bryan Baxter, which took second place and about $20,000 in cash and prizes with a two-fish aggregate weight of 88.10 pounds. Beerability, captained by Dow Suggs, was eighth with 74.83 pounds. Nauti Gull, captained by Chad Sullivan, was ninth with 74.61 pounds. The 23-under champ was Reel Thrill out of Youngsville, N.C., with 97.06 pounds.
The top local finisher in the open class was Solid Surface, captained by Andy Nettles, with 83.98 pounds.
“It was a great tournament. This was our fourth top-10 finish in a row at the Nationals,” said Baxter, who owns Groucho’s Deli on King Street. Team Sperry/Net Profit finished fifth in 2009, seventh in 2010 and eighth in 2011.
Baxter, along with crew members Trey Groves and Matt deAntonio, had quite the fish tale. On the first day, after bouncing around several oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, they moved out to an area known as the Horseshoe Rigs in search of clean water with the right temperature.
“It was around noon when the big fish ate. After about a 10-minute fight, I got it up next to the boat and Trey saw a 12-foot bull shark chasing our fish. I threw the reel into free spool and let the big fish get away from the shark, then threw it in full strike and muscled the fish back in. Trey gaffed it before the shark had a chance to eat our fish,” Baxter said of a fish that tipped the scales at 51.58 pounds.
The next day the crew beat its way through three- to five-foot seas 85 miles back to the Horseshoe Rigs. A king mackerel as big, if not bigger, Baxter said, hit the first bait they dropped out. When they got the fish to the boat, a 10-foot shark darted from under the 23-foot Onslow Bay boat and made a meal of the king mackerel. They still managed to catch a 36.52-pound king to secure second place.
Baxter said his crew has been together since 2000 and won the SKA Division 3 (South Carolina) title in 2010 and again in 2011.
“We didn’t quite have the season we had in 2011,” Baxter said. The running joke as that we had gone from best to last. But this is the big stage. Everybody has to qualify in order to get to the tournament. You can’t just show up. You are fishing against the best.”