One fish proved to be the difference-maker in the inaugural South Carolina Fall Classic, a statewide king mackerel tournament that ran for approximately six weeks and included weigh stations in Hilton Head, Mount Pleasant and Georgetown.
Participants were allowed to pick two fish days and could weigh two king mackerel on each of their fish days, with the three heaviest counting toward their aggregate total.
The Charleston team of Capt. T.J. Britt and crew members Frank Wyndham, Greg Burris, Chris Bates and Jered Roberts walked away with the top prize with a three-fish weight of 131.1 pounds, beating the second-place team by almost 23 pounds.
The difference maker was their 61.3-pound catch on Oct. 29 that narrowly missed beating the longstanding 62-pound state record. Team Wide Open's two other fish weighed 35.7 pounds and 34.1 pounds.
The team won a total of $24,955. Wide Open's payout included $15,000 for winning the tournament, $2,665 for finishing first in the big-fish tournament within a tournament, $4,860 for a daily tournament within a tournament and another $2,430 in the 50-pound Rollover category (if no team weighed a 50-plus pound king mackerel the money would have rolled over to the 2020 event).
Second place went to Game Hawg, captained by Jerry Fehlig of Conway, with 108.3 pounds. Game Hawg's three fish weighed 45.1, 39.3 and 23.9. Game Hawg collected $13,053, including $6,600 for finishing second, $1593 for second in the big fish tournament within a tournament and $4,860 for winning the Day 1 daily big-fish tournament within a tournament with their 45.1-pound king.
Rainmaker out of Bluffton, captained by Timothy Brashear, finished third with 105.8 pounds and earned $3,000.
EZ Cat, captained by Eric Moore, finished fourth at 98.0 pounds and earned $3,062, including $1,062 for a third-place finish in the big- fish tournament within a tournament with a 43.93-pound king. EZ Cat had another 40-pound king but its third fish weighed only 14.1 pounds.
Sea-Scaper, captained by Dennis Hensley of Charleston, finished fifth with 95.8 pounds and won $2,000.
Beerabilty, captained by Dow Suggs of Charleston, placed sixth with 95.5 pounds and won $700. Beerability's biggest fish weighed 41 pounds.
Reel Men, captained by Gregg Coleman of Greenville, took seventh with 93.1 pounds and won $500.
The top youth angler was Carter Larsen aboard Miracle with a 33.1-pound catch; Lauren Prosser was the top lady angler with a 35.6-pound king mackerel caught aboard Steel Reelin; and Stuart Ballard, fishing aboard Tailwalker Marine, was the top senior angler with a 39.6-pound catch.
Dates for the 2020 Fall Classic have been set. The captain's meeting will be held on Sept. 13 and fishing will run from Sept. 14 to Nov. 7.