Posted - 05/02/2012 : 11:51:56 AM
| It seems like only yesterday that Derek Eager, Danny Mikell and myself were pulling away from the James Island Yacht Club dock at 5 am to fish in my first fishing tournament ever, the 1989 Allison Oswald Memorial Tournament. We were juniors in high school and we all had been fishing our entire lives. The tournament was just a "small tournament", but the mere thought of participating in a tournament with such a young crew had all of us excited. We started planning for the tournament weeks in advance, making rigs, scouting bait, and listening to reports during our after school jobs at Johns Rod and Reel. The Thursday night before the tournament we went to the captains meeting, registered, and got our free t-shirts.
We enjoyed talking with and getting to know the other anglers in the tournament, many of which we had met at the shop. Each one of us walked away from the Captain's meeting feeling as though we had graduated to the big boys anglers club as we started friendships that evening with fellow anglers that we still have to this day.
We went home that night and planned our next two days. First, we would catch finger mullet on Friday afternoon in the harbor out of my father's little Carolina Skiff. Then we would go and wade in Danny's fathers creek and catch some big mullet. We would keep the bait alive off of Danny's father dock in a bait pen and pick them up on the way out Saturday morning.
Saturday's fishing was planned to the "T" around the tides. We would leave the dock at 5 am and go to the end of the jetties and fish for Kings during high tide and wait for the tide to turn. As the muddy water from the harbor moved out we would then go fish off Morris Island for Sharks. After that we would take advantage of the slack low tide at Dynamite Hole to try and catch a big Channel Bass. As the tide started coming back in we would try to fish for Flounder at Fort Johnson. At mid tide we planned to fish up the Cooper for Trout, and finally we would finish the day at Castle Pickney at high tide trying to catch Spanish or Blues.
We were by far the youngest crew on the water that day. Action was slow all morning. We did nothing on the Kings at the end of the rocks and nothing on the Sharks in front of Morris Island. Around lunch time we had moved over to Dynamite Hole to try for the big Channel Bass. With peanut butter jelly sandwiches in hand, that we had made at 4 am, the lull in action was broken with the drag on a Penn International 12-T screaming. I picked up the rod and the fight was on. An hour and a half later we boated a 120-pound Sandbar Shark on 20-pound test.
Of course, we were ecstatic as we were all certain we had won the Shark category. We went on with our scheduled day of fishing for the other species, but had no luck. Upon returning to the dock, we found out we were in first place! I just knew that I was going to be taking home a new rod and reel. As the weigh in time was drawing to a close, a boat rolled up with a slightly larger Hammerhead Shark bumping my fish to second place. Then a truck rolled up with a huge Tiger Shark in the bed caught the night before, bumping us out of the tournament. We were all disappointed that evening, but later that night Derek, Danny, I realized nothing could replace the good times and experiences we had had as well as the great people we had met and friendships we had started as a result of fishing that tournament! We could not wait for the next one.
Since then I have fished at least two "small" tournaments a year. These small tournaments are not only fun, but they are a great way to become involved in the local fishing community. Over the years I have thoroughly enjoy the comradely, competition, and relationships, that I have built through my participation in these tournaments.
These days "small" tournaments are not so small any more. Though the entry fee for fishing one of these "small" tournaments is still less than $50, the participation, sponsorships, door prizes, and prizes for winning continue to grow. It is not uncommon for a tournament to boast over 200 anglers and give away as much as $1000 to the first place winner in one or more category. Most of these tournaments are organized by local clubs that take hosting a tournament very seriously. A T-shirt tournament these days may boast well over 50 sponsors with proceeds going back to the anglers, to local non-profit organizations, even to artificial reef programs.
Many fellow anglers approach me and say that they want to become more involved in the local fishing community. If you would like to get to know more anglers, share experiences and knowledge, and enjoy some good fellowship then participating in small tournaments is a great way to become involved. Besides your participation in these tournaments typically goes to helping one or more needs in our community and you never know when your $50 investment may grow significantly with a winning fish!
Captain Tim Pickett,