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Division: 3 Mt. Pleasant, SC 4th ANNUAL KINGS FOR VETS October 10-11, 2014

MISDIRECTION MAYHEM Team Low Country Native Survives Reverse Play to Win Kings for Vets

By David A. Brown

City, State — If the pun police will grant us a pass for this piscatorial parlance, we can say that Scott Flanders’ competitors were green with envy, while the object of the interest was green with rage. That pretty well summarizes the winning performance of Flanders and his Low Country Native team at the 4th annual Kings for Vets tournament out of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

But we don’t like summaries in the fishing world. We like stories – tales of challenging obstacles, dramatic encounters and spirited achievement. 

Make that check, check and check for the Low Country Native team, which topped the field with a 37.90-pound kingfish.

Starting at the Charleston Inlet, Flanders’ usual 1-2-3 bait-catching operation had him counting considerably higher. Put it this way, the team fished the Liar’s Hole in 70 feet of water east of Charleston Inlet and they didn’t get out there until 8:30 a.m.

“We kind of struggled to catch bait that morning,” Flanders recalled. “We caught our bait off the Morris Island lighthouse in 16 feet. They were off the beach a little bit. I think that maybe the cooler weather we had before the tournament might have pushed them out deeper. But when we got them, they were nice ‘flip-flop’ pogies.”

So, with a well full of ammo, the team headed to their hole and quickly settled into search mode. Flanders said he knew that somewhere along the hard bottom patch of about a mile square, a sweet spot would surely appear.

“We were trolling and looking for good marks of bait stacked up,” the winning captain said. “Where we caught the winning fish, we were marking a really good area with bait coming up 20 feet off bottom. The first time we went over the number, we caught a 30-pounder. We continued to work that area where we marked that bait and it seem like every time we passed over the number, we caught (an amberjack) or a king.”

Of the eight kings the team would bring to the boat, their biggest one was by far the most memorable – and not only for its winning weight. This king left an impression on Flanders; and that’s no easy accomplishment with an angler who’s been at this for nearly two decades.

Here’s the play-by-play:

Around 11 a.m., the downrigger set at 30 feet popped and something started screaming off with the naked pogy. Austin Flanders, son of the captain, grabbed that rod and held firm while the fish ran. Moments later, the rocket launcher went off and now the team faced that nerve-racking task of sizing up the opportunities and deciding where to focus their effort.

“That rocket launcher fish was really screaming and it looked like it was going to dump us,” the elder Flanders recalled. “I told Austin to thumb spool and try to get that one up because we hadn’t seen it yet. Austin did a great job of working his fish up and when it came to the surface, we saw it was an amberjack so we cut that one off and focused on the one that hit the rocket launcher.”

Good call, because Mr. Rocket Launcher fish wasn’t happy about the surprise he found in that pogy and he was about to make life really interesting. “We turned on the other fish that Jason Hogg was fighting went after him to get line back,” Flanders said. “As soon as we turned and faced the fish and started getting line back, that fish hit the brakes, turned around and came straight back to the boat. I’ve never seen Jason reel so fast in his life. That fish swam right at the bow of the boat and Jason yelled ‘Neutral! Get the gaff!’ By the time I had reached to the back of the boat to get the gaff and looked up, that fish ran across the front of the boat and swam at an angle toward the back of the boat.”

Fast-paced action, atypical kingfish behavior, close quarters – sounds like the makings of just another big one that got away; but not this time. This time, the combination of skillful rod handling and a lightning bolt gaff job put an end to the line-busting career of one sneaky kingfish.

“That fish was probably eight to ten feet off the boat and I reached under Jason’s leader and gaffed him,” Flanders said. “I have never gaffed a bigger fish that was so green and I’ve been fishing SKA events since 1999. It nearly took the gaff out of my hands. We finally got it in the boat and it went ballistic in the boat for a couple of minutes. It was 53 inches long. That was the biggest kingfish I’ve weighed in South Carolina waters. We were so excited. We had probably half the fleet fishing around us, so a lot of people saw us boat that fish.”

Awash with emotion after this adrenalin-filled thrill ride, the team remained in the area, but dialed down the intensity to a noticeably relaxed level. Stowing the king gear, they broke out the butterfly jigs and had fun playing with the black sea bass. Austin actually caught a 20-pound king on the butterfly jig – the first such catch his dad had ever seen.

“We just kind of dilly-dallied around for a while,” Flanders said. “We had other boats radioing us and saying ‘You must have a good one if you’re just dilly-dallying around like that.’”

Now, with a whopper king in their bag, you’d think the heart-racing stuff would be over for the Low Country Native team. Well, fate is a fickle vixen and she saved another round of white-knuckled anxiety for the soon-to-be champs.

Thinking that the weigh-in closed at 5:00, Flanders closed up shop around 1:30 and made the 90-minute run back to the check-in. Well, he was actually an hour ahead of schedule, so with the weigh-in actually closing at 6:00, he and his team had to watch a bunch of other fish weighed – including a 52-incher that had them holding their breath until the scale confirmed its second-place weight of 37.30.

“As we’re sitting there waiting for the weigh-in to end, you start to wonder about coming in early, as opposed to staying out longer and leaving that fish in the bag and losing weight. I guess we made the right call.”

You did, indeed, cap’n.

Team Low Country Native also took first place for Junior Angler.

2nd Place NAUTI GULL – 37.30

A solid mid-30-pound practice fish was all it took for Chad Sullivan to commit Team Nauti Gull to a patch of hard bottom in 50 feet about 12 miles south of Charleston Inlet. Nabbing second place with a fish that went 37.30 justified the decision.

The Nauti Gull crew pulled into the area at 7:15 and the show started immediately. Sullivan said the first bait his team tried to set was intercepted within a few feet of the boat. From there, it was more of the same for nearly four hours.

“We marked very little activity, but the fish were there,” Sullivan said. “We couldn’t get more than one bait out at a time until 11:00. It was non-stop action until about 11. We caught 27 kings on that spot.”

Up until their second-place catch shortly before noon, Team Nauti Gull had been using live menhaden caught right off Morris Island. Their biggest king, however, ate a ribbonfish off a downrigger set at 18 feet.

“We had just put a 32 in the boat after it skied in the prop wash,” Sullivan said. “There had been a lot of weeds in there but they finally blew out and we were able to get a downrigger bait (deployed). I had just put another prop bait out and I then I put that downrigger down. Our big fish hit it within maybe five minutes.”

Junior angler Chance Sullivan got the rod duty and his dad stuck the fish about 10 minutes later. “Chance did a great job,” the captain said. “He’s 12 and he’s been doing this about eight years. He reels in most of our fish and he has a lot of experience.”

Essential to his team’s success, Sullivan said, was being at the right place at the right time – and seizing the moment of opportunity. “That’s not a place I typically like to fish,” he said. “We prefished four spots on Friday and something told me to check this spot. The reason I went there originally was that the water was really good and clean. Also, that was the only place on Friday where there weren’t any weeds, but we had a big wind shift Friday night and all those weeds blew in there. We were battling weeds all morning, but as soon as they cleared out and we were able to put that downrigger down, the fish was there.”



3rd Place KNOT @ WORK 35.9

Capt. Robert Olsen led Team Knot @ Work to a third-place finish in a day that defined “fast and furious.” The show took place over live bottom in 50 feet of water about 25 miles south of Charleston Inlet. Olsen said he knew the wind was coming out of the south so he planned to run far south and fish his way back north. As it turned out, he only needed one spot. Here, his team kept busy with a seemingly non-stop process of baiting rigs and fighting fish. Capping the show was a 35.9 that ate a live menhaden with a ZMan Lures Pearl Baby Skirt at 8:30 in the morning.

“The bite was so good that we ran out of bait at 10:30 and I ran back in 10 miles to catch more on Edisto Beach,” Olsen said. “Most of the fish we were catching were between 25 and 30 pounds, so we stayed there until 4 o’clock. We had five over 30 pounds.”

Although he kept downrigger baits deployed, Olsen said that all of his team’s bites were on top. Their biggest fish hit a flat-lined pogy in the prop and gave the team a memorable show that embodied the tone of the day. “He skied on the bait, missed it and skied again,” Olsen said. “We had six fish sky on baits and all of them were over 30 pounds. It was a pretty epic bite. We haven’t had a bite like that off South Carolina in many years. That water had cooled down to 75 degrees and with the calm ocean, it made the fish want to feed. Also, there was a lot of bait in the water column and a lot on top.”

Olsen’s son, Andrew, fought the big fish for about 20 minutes and Raymond Stivender gaffed it. All’s well that ends well, but that cliché does nothing to dissuade complications. “It almost dumped the whole spool,” Olsen said of his big fish. “We actually had two on at one time. As soon as we turned around to chase that big fish, the other one hit. That other fish was a 33.”

Luckily the bigger fish had taken enough line offshore that the other one came in at a different angle and actually ran under the first to bite. As Andrew worked the bigger fish into view, the team immediately recognized the priority. “When we saw a lot of green in the fish and we didn’t see a lot of silver or white, we knew it was a good fish,” Olsen said. “We immediately put the other rod in the rod holder to take care of (the bigger) fish.”

Team Knot @ Work also placed first in the Small Boat Class and took the top Senior Angler award. Olsen thanked the team’s sponsors Pure Fishing, Charleston Angler and ZMan Lures. 


Competing as a two-person team is challenging enough, but for Mark Hamner and his wife Susan, taking third in the Small Boat Class and top Lady Angler proved downright exhausting. The reason: weeds, lots of weeds. The Hamners caught just one kingfish – a 28.1 – over live bottom in 65 feet of water, about 18 miles south of Charleston Inlet. Their fish hit a live pogy on a downrigger set at 40 feet right at high noon. Mark Hamner said they had two more runs that fizzled and released a couple of sharks. Operational interference, he said, greatly curtailed their efforts, but faith in his spot paid off in the end.

“We’ve fished there before and knew there was a lot of bait there,” he said. “It was actually tough fishing because the wind blew a lot weeds into the area. We spent much of our morning dealing with the weeds. I’m glad we didn’t move. We were just about to move to another live bottom spot in that general area when our fish hit.”

Hamner said their lone king seemed intent on making up for their lack of bites with enthusiasm to spare: “It was a feisty fish; we thought it was bigger. It’s been my experience that the smaller fish fight harder than the big ones. They’re probably like us – the younger ones have more energy. The fish ran probably 150 yards and my wife headed to the bow while I pulled the other lines out and get back (to the helm). It circled the boat and my wife did a great job of handling the rod. I made two attempts with a six-foot gaff and got him on the second attempt.”

After a long day, a little R&R is certainly in order, but for the Hamners, their weed-fighting fiasco had sapped their energy. “We actually missed the awards ceremony because I came home and fell asleep – I was so tired from dealing with weeds,” Hamner said. “We didn’t even know where we had finished until we heard about it after the ceremony.”

Hamner thanks the service department at Tailwalker Marine for keeping his boat in fishing form and the event’s organizers for a fine production.


Open Class

Cobia / Yamaha
Scott Flanders
Jason Hogg
Austin Flanders
37.302. NAUTI GULL
Sailfish / Yamaha
Chad Sullivan
Chance Sullivan
Brian Wilkinson
Sarah Burke
Isa Wilkinson
35.903. KNOT @ WORK
Contender / Yamaha
Robert Olsen
Raymond Stivender
Andrew Olsen

Small Boat Class

35.901. KNOT @ WORK
Contender / Yamaha
Robert Olsen
Raymond Stivender
Andrew Olsen
33.202. Lil-Loo-er
Contender / Yamaha
Mark Hamner
Susan Hamner

Top Senior Angler
35.90Robert Olsen

Top Junior Angler
37.90Austin Flanders

SKA Top Junior Anglers
37.901. Austin Flanders
37.302. Chance Sullivan & Isa Wilkinson
35.903. Andrew Olsen

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