What Kind of Equipment

KMT Tournament Journals


Bursting through a white-capped inlet as the sun begins to peek over the horizon and being doused with a saltwater shower over the bow can take your breath quicker than a left hook to the ribs. Battling five to eight-foot seas in three-second intervals is common during tournament days. For many years, and long before I ever became a participant in this exciting sport, many passionate king mackerel anglers battled the elements in much smaller crafts than are available today.

Between Morehead City and Myrtle Beach, we are privileged to have some of the most tenured, popular, and well-run king mackerel tournaments on the east coast. Many tournament directors and volunteers spend countless hours arranging sponsorship, preparing event locations, and organizing festivities for fishermen and their families so that an enjoyable atmosphere is prominent.

In 1992, the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) developed a points-based ranking system that tracks the performance of tournament teams throughout the year. Teams along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico choose divisions in which to fish depending mostly on their geographic location. This has provided an arena that has helped usher in the manufacturing of the monstrous boats that are so common in our waterways today.

Tournament teams are particular about making sure equipment is cleaned, serviced, and ready to go by tournament time. But, what kind of equipment is most often used to wrestle a speedy and powerful king mackerel into submission? There are a plethora of boat, outboard motor, rod, reel, terminal tackle, and electronics manufacturers that work diligently to put their stamp on this highly competitive sport.

Let's begin by discussing the type of vessel that dominates the tournament fishing fleet - the center console, v-hull. Most teams have chosen what they believe to be the best boat that fits their personal needs. These needs range from affordability to size and speed. Leading boat manufacturers such as Contender, Fountain, Yellowfin, Hydra-Sport, Wellcraft, Donzi, and Regulator, just to name a few, continuously battle to ensure their product is one that meets these teams' desires.

There are generally two divisions that are considered in tournament fishing: the 23 feet and under and the Open Class boats, (24 feet and above). It is very common to see boats that exceed 30' in length during tournament days. These crafts certainly have an advantage when fishing the inclement weather that can arise at a moment's notice along our beautiful coast.

These high-speed rockets are most often powered by outboard engines like Yamaha, Mercury, Evinrude, Suzuki, and Honda. There are a few 38' long center consoles that have as many as four of these horsepower generating beasts mounted on the back, and are capable of topping the 90 mph range! In fact, Yellowfin recently introduced its 42-foot center console while Yamaha displayed the first V-8, 350 horsepower outboard at the Miami Boat show in February. Wow, fourteen hundred outboard horsepower! That's two NASCAR engines combined.

One of these maxed out monsters can expense out at well over $250,000 after the GPS / chartplotter, depth sounder, radar, VHF radio, AM/FM CD player, speakers, and XM satellite amenities are installed – whew!. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the oxygen systems that many teams have installed to help keep their live bait fresh.

It seems to have become imperative that we attain the best there is to offer in order to compete at a consistently high level. This includes the basis of all fishing - the rod and reel.

Not only do our boats need speed, but the rods and reels that we use to grapple with our razor-toothed adversary must be fast as well. In general, a high speed conventional reel sits on a fast tapered 7' rod. Of course, each team's equipment preference varies, but most teams try to use a reel that has at least a 5.0-1 retrieve ratio. This simply means that the spool turns five revolutions for every time the handle is rotated once.

There are several reel manufacturers such as TICA, Shimano, Avet, Penn, Diawa, and Okuma that have developed 6.0-1 ratio reels and higher. These were designed to ensure anglers have a better chance of "keeping up" with this lightening-quick species if she decides to dash back to the boat after making an initial 250-yard blistering run. As I stated in one of my earlier journals, torque and power are not nearly as important as the speed that our equipment provides. In general, tournament anglers and live bait fishermen skillfully allow a king to tire and become somewhat docile instead of "horsing" the fish to gaff. This is mostly because of the small hooks and light terminal tackle that we use.

On the coast of North and South Carolina, the type of rod we most often use has a very sensitive tip. This allows the live bait, menhaden mostly, to act as natural as possible without having to pull against a stiff rod. However, most of these rods have enough taper and backbone to last during an hour-long fight, if necessary.

This brings us to one of the most painful parts of tournament fishing - the expense. There are many quality reels available at your local tackle shops. The costs range from as low as $100 to more than $500, in addition, a rod is generally from $50 to $250. This expense obviously depends on the type and brand of equipment each captain and team prefers and what they can afford.

Since most tournaments allow six lines to be fished at a time, the expense can be astounding. However, it does not have to be. Tournament king mackerel fishing can be, and is, enjoyed by many fine people and teams who are successful and do not indulge in the excess expense. Still, like most other hobbies, sports, and pass-times, a team's level of skill - and luck for that matter - can be accentuated by the quality equipment in which they choose to invest.

Remember, I've said that for many teams, it is much about the competition, and we are always looking for any advantage, no matter how small or expensive. So, for all of the spouses of us tournament crazies, golf is a pretty darned good alternative after all. Until next cast…


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