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Division: 4 Shellman Bluff, Georgia 34th ANNUAL SAPELO OPEN KMT July 18-19, 2014

Kavitator Captures Second Sapelo Open Title

By David A. Brown

Shellman Bluff, GA — You’d think Dean Hinely would be used to the feeling, but apparently, the waiting game was every bit as tough as it was in 2013. That’s when he and his Kavitator teammates won the Sapelo Open after enduring several hours of suspense with a big fish they had caught early in the event.

Now, flash forward a year, and Hinely’s heading out toward a 70-foot spot in the Middlegrounds for the 2014 Sapelo Open. Joining him are Misty Woodcock and his sons Mitchel and Matt. Strappin’ with a well full of blue runners, they leave the inlet around 6am and reach their spot by 7:45. Several triple engine boats have already set their spreads and are trolling the spot, but Hinely works his way into the fleet.

At 8:15 a 43.01 king crashes a kite bait, smokes off several long runs while Woodcock handles the rod work. After a 15-minute fight, Matt Hinely gaffs the fish and despite feeling optimistic, the captain decides to reset his baits. “I knew we had a good fish but the team wanted to stay and fish a little longer,” Hinely said. “Fifteen minutes later we released a 32-pound king. After releasing that fish I looked in the bag again and decided that it was time to go.”

Team Kavitator headed to the scales and arrived around 11:30 to face the sequel to their 2013 nerve-racker. Hinely said that watching time creep past was possible the toughest part of his tournament effort. “Last year we caught our fish around the same time and had to wait an excruciating six hours to find out whether our fish would hold up,” he said. “It’s a great problem to have but going through it two years in a row had our nerves frazzled.”

Eventually claiming the victory gave Hinely pause for reflection. Winning an SKA event, he said, is no easy feat, but topping this caliber of competition back-to-back far exceeds any dream. Such an accomplishment, Hinely added, is nearly impossible without a competent, committed team. “I cannot tell you how proud I am of my team,” he said. “It’s good to look around the boat when a fish is on and see everyone in action doing the right things.”

Finishing fourth overall, Lee McCurdy’s Get Reel team faced a waiting game of their own. Plenty of nerve testing here too, but the team out of Shellman Bluff, Ga. waited until late afternoon for their big fish – a 32.64, to be exact.

McCurdy said his team fished natural hard bottom east of Gray’s Reef in 75 feet. The spot had produced for him in the past and spotting several Spanish mackerel airing it out gave him a lot of confidence to stick it out all day if necessary.

“We had some other fish throughout the day, but that was the only big one,” McCurdy said. “I told my team we were going to drill a hole in the spot and stay there all day if we had to.”

Well, that’s just about how things turned out, as their biggest king took just about all day to decide to bite. Fortunately, the day yielded nice fishing conditions and at about 4:40, the big king bit a flat-lined pogy that McCurdy had caught that morning off St. Catherines.

Stephanie McCurdy got the rod and had the fish boatside in about 10 minutes where Lee McCurdy hit the gaff shot. Now that may sound like a cakewalk kinda deal, but the captain said it was anything but simple.

“The fish skyrocketed and went over the port flat line,” McCurdy said. “Both lines got tangled and the other bait slid up the line of the fish we were fighting. When it came up, I had to break the other leader with my hand. I really didn’t think we’d ever get that fish to the boat, but we did.”

McCurdy, who has been an SKA member since the 1990s, said his team caught six other fish between 17 and 24 pounds. They’re looking forward to their trip to Biloxi for the SKA Nationals.

In fifth place, Travis Daniels’ Team Sea-Dation saw plenty of ups and downs during the tournament. Starting inversely, they saw sea conditions decreasing, while thankfully watching the size of their kingfish catches increase. “It was a little sporty when we left the inlet; it was a solid three to four feet,” Daniels said. “But once we got offshore, it started getting nicer and it steadily improved throughout the day.”

Daniels targeted an area of live bottom east of Sapelo. He said it was a combination of history and current observations that led him to this commitment. “We’ve had some good luck there in the past and some nice fish have been caught there in recent years,” Daniels said. “We prefished in shallower on Friday but it was warmer and there was nothing going on there. So we decided to fish out deep in the tournament.”

Prior to heading offshore, the Sea-Dation team stopped at the mouth of the McQueen’s inlet to net pogies. Daniels said he knew from Friday’s prefishing that pogies were hard to come by offshore, so the early stop allowed his team to arrive ready for action.

Sea-Dation saw three other kings prior to their 32.62-pounder, which hit a flat-lined pogy at 1:30pm. First was a 22-pounder around 9:30am, then a 25 at 10:00. After that – a big lull. “It pretty much died until after lunch time and then we caught two more fish,” Daniels said. “It seemed that our catches got bigger throughout the day. Our third fish was about 30 and we thought that might be the one we were going to weight, but the last fish we caught was our biggest.”

Dan Jodrey fought the team’s biggest king and Daniels gaffed it after a 15-minute fight. The capture was nearly textbook, with the exception of some last-moment drama. “Once we got him up to the boat and we saw it was a nice [king], the fish starting acting very nervous, like something was about to get him,” Daniels said. “I don’t know if it was a shark or a barracuda, but the fish was circling the boat a lot faster than normal. I didn’t want to waste any time and take a chance on losing it.”

There’s probably no strong connection between the fact that Ken Murray’s SKA number (0003) is also the distance offshore that he fished during the Sapelo Open, but that’s where the Backlash captain from Brunswick, Ga. found a 28.71 king that placed sixth.

Working just outside the inlet Murray trolled around bait schools in 30 feet. A relatively slow day, he said, produced mostly sharks and Spanish mackerel. Their lone kingfish of the day came around 10am.

“From what I heard from other teams, [the major bite] was about 7 to 10:30 that morning,” Murray said. “We had trouble getting bait this morning, so that’s why we were late getting out. Usually, I come out the Altamaha River, turn north and find the bait along the beach. But the bait was scattered that morning and it took a long time to catch.”

When the big king hit a pogy on the long flat line, 10-year-old Kennison Packerly took charge of taming the toothy beast. Fighting the fish with poise and finesse, Miss Packerly put the brakes on her speedy opponent in about 20 minutes and Cliff Murray sealed the deal with a gaff shot.

“It was pretty much a routine catch,” Murray said. “The fish hit, Kennison took the pole and stayed with it. The lady likes to fish; she does a good job.”

Murray explained that encouraging youth participation is paramount for his team. Aboard the Backlash, adults handle the rigging and line clearing while the young anglers get to reel in the fish. Murray said that this emphasis on involvement helps develop the angling skills. “What I’ve found with the young anglers is that once you teach them what to do they do a good job,” he said. “They listen and they learn how to do it right.”

In the Small Boat Class, success probably came down to having the presence of mind to make the right decision at a tense moment for Matt Tsiklistas, whose Team Double Trouble topped the small boats with a 39.21-pound king. The tournament placed Double Trouble in second place overall so the team would collect the most prize money.

Actually, the good judgment began well before the big fish bit. Tsiklistas said that he was headed to another hard bottom spot when he spotted something interesting off the northern tip of St. Simons Island. 

“We found a bait ball over a ledge in about 90 feet,” Tsiklistas said. “We weren’t planning to fish there, but the spot looked good with all that bait, so we stayed there and just worked back and forth on that ledge.”

Initially, the stop looked to be a lesson in frustration, with only barracuda and amberjack showing interest in the baits. But the moment of truth arrived about 11am. “A king hit and then another one hit,” Tsiklistas recalled. “I had Courtney Dillard on one, and Dale Feldman on the other. We tried to get both to the front, but we couldn’t. Court’s felt like the bigger king, so we decided to break off the other fish and chase that one. It ended up being the 39-pounder.”

Tsiklistas said his team fished with live goggle eyes. They usually catch their own bait, but opted for a predawn purchase to make certain they hit the water locked and loaded. “We got up around 3am to go get bait on St. Simons, launched before dark, and then caught a little nap for about an hour until it was time for takeoff,” Tsiklistas said.

Team Double trouble caught all of their kings on downriggers. Amid a handful of smaller kings, they had one more shot at a big fish, but the hefty smoker bit through the stinger wire after about ten seconds. Tsiklistas thanked Sea Tow St. Catherines, which covered his team’s entry fee, as well as supporting sponsors Yamaha, Vicious Fishing, and Avet Reels.

34th Annual Sapelo Open KMT

Open Class

Hydra Sport / Suzuki
Dean Hinley
Christy Woodcock
Mitchel Hinley
Contender / Yamaha
Matt Tsiklistas
Courtney Dillard
Dale Feldman
Brian Gattie
34.943. Paradise
32.644. GET REEL
Yellowfin / Yamaha
Lee McCurdy
Stephanie McCurdy
Anderson McCurdy
Turner McCurdy
32.625. SEA DATION
Contender / Yamaha
Travis Daniels
Kelly Williams
Doug Watters
28.716. BACKLASH
Yellowfin / Yamaha
Ken Murray
Cliff Murray
Tiffany Murray
Cohen Murray
Carter Murray
Mike Blackerby
Kendra Blackerby
Kennison Blackerby
John Blackerby

Small Boat Class

Contender / Yamaha
Jay Swindell
David Futch
Blake McMillan
Michael Godbee
26.762. JOE DADDY
Intrepid / Mercury
Joseph Bowles
Brooks McDonald

Top Lady Anglers
43.011. Christy Woodcock

Top Junior Angler
28.71Kennison Blackerby

SKA Top Junior Anglers
32.641. Anderson McCurdy & Turner McCurdy
28.712. Cohen Murray, Carter Murray, John Blackerby & Kennison Blackerby
28.623. Ben Pope

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