The Southern Kingfish Association (SKA), a sanctioning body for king mackerel tournaments throughout the Southeast, has ceased operations, but people involved in the industry don't expect it to have far-ranging effects on the major king mackerel tournaments.
"I frankly don't think it's going to have any effect on us. The SKA has been struggling for the last couple of years" said John Gourdin, tournament director for the Hanckel Marine Fishing for Miracles tournament that will be fished Aug. 7-9 out of Ripley Light Yacht Club.
Gourdin said the tournament's goal remains to get to 200 boats so it can pay out a full purse. Last year's event, with 125 paid entries, donated $38,000 to charity, split equally between the MUSC Children's Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina. Since the tournament began in 1994, it has donated more than $687,500 to the two beneficiaries.
SKA, formed 23 years ago, offered points to members trying to qualify for the SKA Nationals. Many smaller events sprouted up and those are the events that will most be affected by SKA's decision, said veteran tournament angler Jack Bracewell of Summerville.
Bracewell, along with wife Eren, Randy Wirth and Amelia Wirth, form the Eren's Addiction Too fishing team. Bracewell said that in addition to Fishing for Miracles, he had been told the James Island Yacht Club King Tournament, Kings for Vets and Rumble in the Jungle events are still on.
"Several people have been talking about picking up where they left off, either buying SKA or reformatting and duplicating it," Bracewell said. "But for a tournament like Fishing for Miracles it will have no effect. The tournaments where promoters come from outside of town and have 30 boats fishing, those are probably going to go away."
The Florida-based Old Salt Fishing Foundation (oldsaltfishing.org) has formed a king mackerel series and the Carolinas King Mackerel Series is being formed.
Being under the SKA umbrella wasn't necessary for success. Bracewell said the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament in North Carolina drew 400 boats but was not SKA-sanctioned. Only a fourth of the field were SKA members in other tournaments that typically draw 200 boats. He said a North Carolina king mackerel tournament, not sanctioned by SKA, sold out in four hours on the Internet.
Bracewell said his team already had made a decision not to fish the SKA trail this season and try some different events.
"I think we have about 12 tournaments on our schedule. We built a new 35 Contender with triple 300 Yamahas this year and we're going to mix things up. You'll see us in a few different places this year," Bracewell said.
"Unfortunately, we'll miss the Fishing for Miracles Tournament because we're going to be in Ocean City, Md., for the White Marlin Open. I think you will see us at some of the Governor's Cup events. We'll also fish the U.S. Open, the Rumble in the Jungle in Little River and, if we're in town, we'll fish the James Island Yacht Club tournament.
"Honestly, I don't think losing SKA is going to have a negative effect on the sport. I think in the long run we will see a positive effect."
Arthur Smith, who many consider the founder of king mackerel tournament fishing, died Thursday at the age of 93 in Charlotte. A musician and entertainer, Smith wrote the song "Feuding Banjos," which was used without permission in the movie "Deliverance." Smith won a large settlement for the unauthorized use of the song.
He began the Arthur Smith King Mackerel Tournament, which eventually expanded to include Georgetown and Charleston, as a way to highlight the need for jetties at Little River. As many as a thousand boats participated in the tournament.