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NC Troopers KMT Win a Walk in the Park for Team Hot Rod

By David A. Brown

Morehead City, NC — Who said no excitement can’t be exciting? Well, it certainly wasn’t for Brett Barnes – he and his Team Hot Rod crew topped the NC Troopers King Mackerel Tournament with a monstrous 60.32-pound fish on a day that was otherwise, not terribly eventful. A bottom-line deal, these kingfish tournaments are, so Barnes is not arguing. In fact, the only regret he expressed was that he didn’t have a more glamorous story to tell. No worries captain; considering how often the sea and its toothy critters make life difficult for those trolling wire rigs, it’s actually pretty cool when we get to tell of nice days that turn out well.

Starting with the morning launch out of Beaufort Inlet, the team fished the east side of the Cape Lookout Shoals. Right there, the story could’ve held a dramatic element had an angry sea made the shoal crossing a dicey move. Not the case on this day. Rather, a light northwest wind and clear conditions made for a pleasantly unchallenged run. Backing up a step, even the morning bait effort was easy-peasy. “We caught our menhaden right outside Beaufort Inlet,” Barnes said. “It was one throw.”

On the east side, Barnes and Team Hot Rod fished an area of approximately one mile square within a patchy system of live bottom in 60 feet. This was an area they knew well and they found favorable conditions bolstering the optimism. “Historically, I’ve done well there,” Barnes said. “I felt very positive with the calm weather and that time of year the fishing is usually really good. There was good bait marking throughout the water column and on the surface. It was fairly steady throughout the morning.”

At high noon, the winning fish bit a pogy on the medium top line. Notably, that position produced the team’s five other kings, which weighed 20 to 40 pounds. Chris Cecchi picked up the rod and deftly handled the day’s largest kingfish throughout a 25-minute fight. As Barnes recalls, the big fish was more dash than dazzle. It made one very good, long run of about 325 yards and then we just worked him back to the boat,” Barnes said. “It came up fairly easily and made one pass. I gaffed it on that first pass. It was an atypical fight; it didn’t make any secondary run or death circle. It was hooked cleanly in the mouth.”

At boatside, Barnes had a significant target for his gaff shot, but experience told him to avoid assumptions and overzealous efforts. “I think [gaffing] is a lot easier when it’s a larger fish, but the key is to control the gaff, pull it steadily and not jerk,” he said. The captain concluded with this summation: “Calmer seas probably helped us get that fish in without a struggle. I wish I had a more eventful story but we were very excited.” 

Barnes thanked First Bank, the best community bank in North Carolina. He also gave a kind nod to the SKA’s new ownership for taking over the helm and steering the organization into a promising future.


Fishing amid a fleet of tournament boats just a couple miles off Ocracoke Inlet, Jodie Gay’s Team Blue Water Candy/Knot Right caught a 50.20-pound king over hard bottom in 40 feet. Following two other kings, the big king ate its last meal around 10:00 over a patch of hard bottom. “We had fished this area before and it had been producing a lot of fish,” Gay said. “This time of year the big fish are moving through and this is just one of the places they cross. The Outer Banks is just a tremendous area to fish. There’s a lot of bait moving through those waters. There’s not a lot of live bottom, so the fish tend to congregate around what hard bottom they find. It was definitely ready that weekend to give up some big fish.”

The second-place team fished a mix of bluefish and pogies. Their biggest king ate the latter on a Blue Water Candy rig comprising double No. 4 trebles and 40-pound American Fishing Wire braided cable. The fish hit a flat line set back at 200 feet. Timmy Parker got the rod duty and Scott Pelletier applied the gaff about 20 minutes later.  “We looked at the fish a long time before we got a gaff in him,” Gay said. “We got a look at him early and when he saw the boat, he made three pretty long runs. Everything went really well. We had another fish later on that ran up under another boat. We got him out, but that made it tough.”

On that point, Gay lauded the cooperation and sportsmanship displayed by several teams in the fleet. Proximity always accelerates the potential for entanglements, but mutual consideration goes a long toward ensuring a good time for all. “When you’re fishing in that big a ball of boats everyone has to [cooperate],” Gay said. “Everyone who fishes up there regularly does a good job of that. We don’t’ want to cut anyone’s fish off.”

Team Blue Water Candy/Knot Right caught a total of eight kingfish during the tournament. Essential to their success, Gay said, is a simply indomitable spirit. “We’re probably the oldest team out there, but everybody on the team gives 120 percent,” Gay said. “The youngest guy on the boat was 50 and three of us are 55. We’re the elderly group, but we give it all we’ve got.”

Team Blue Water Candy/Knot Right’s Timmy Parker won the Top Senior Angler award.


Brian Allen’s Team Wall Hanger may not have caught the event’s biggest king, but they seemed to have found the most impatient fish of the weekend. Fishing over live bottom in 60 to 70 feet on the east side of the Cape Lookout Shoals, Allen was feeding out a live bluefish when 50 pounds of toothy rudeness said “I’ll take that,” and it was off to the races.

“I had fished that spot a couple weeks prior and we had caught good fish there,” Allen said of his main area. “On that day there were some false albacore and Spanish mackerel on the surface hitting glass minnows. There wasn’t a ton of bait on the surface but there was a lot of bait marking in the water column.” Allen said the 36-pounder his team boated around 9 a.m. was encouraging, but given the propensity for big fish in the fall, they were not comfortable with what they had in the bag. The morning bite had actually fizzled for a couple of hours, but the team’s tenacity paid off with an afternoon bite that yielded five kings in about 30 minutes – including their third-place smoker, which nearly blistered Allen’s thumb.

When the big fish grabbed the bait, Allen handed the rod to Grimes Medlin while he cleared the remaining lines and his wife/Top Lady Angler Stacy Allen drove the boat. With deck in order, Brian took over the wheel and got after the big fish. Once they had their big fish at boatside, they switched again, so Brian could handle the gaff duty. “We had one on around 30 pounds and I was feeding a bait out when that 50-pounder hit,” Allen said. “We saw that the other fish wasn’t going to help us, so we pulled the hooks and turned and ran that 50 down. “He took off a lot of line, but then never really ran much after that. We were running pretty hard to get on top of that fish because it was late in the day and we only had about 20 minutes left to fish.”

Allen said he’s no fan of chumming, as it tends to attract too many time-wasting, rig-burning sharks. However, he and his crew made good use of the bluefish and pogies they had caught in the Beaufort Inlet area. “We just keep fishing, we are relentless,” Allen said. “You have to check your baits often. You can’t just drag them. Sometimes, the bite gets slow and we’ll move things around and keep fresh baits out there. You have to imagine that there’s a fish in the spread at all times.


Stan Hollingsworth’s Team Bug-N-A-Rug Exterminators also fished off Ocracoke, but they stayed within a half mile of the beach and looked for subtle rises on the bottom. Their biggest king – a 49.92 – blasted a three-pound bluefish at 10:00 in 40 feet of water. “We hadn’t practiced there, but we just knew that this time of the year big kings come in there,” Hollingsworth said. “We have caught big fish there before but I still can’t say what brings them in there. You just drive around and you don’t mark much bait. But there are a few little humps that rise up about two feet and they were producing fish. You just have to get on one of those humps and work it.”

Not surprisingly, Team Bug-N-A-Rug had plenty of company and Hollingsworth said that one of his biggest challenges was avoiding the lines of other boats, while maintaining his position. “There were 40 other boats ‘turning screws,’” he said of the common tactic. “You have to be aggressive with your driving, hold your course and hold your ground.”

Hollingsworth said that he found a pair of productive spots located about 200 yards apart. He essentially alternated between the two bottom humps by keeping his lines out and trolling from one to the other after measured exposure on each. With bluefish schooling on the beach and busting glass minnows, Hollingsworth felt confident with the baits he and his team had caught the previous evening in Beaufort Inlet on double speck rigs. Those big bluefish produced six kings that day, the first of which was the team’s largest. “We were super excited to say the least,” Hollingsworth said of his team’s big start to the day. “We took a good look, measured him and put all the ice we had on him. And then just kept an eye on what the rest of the boats were doing.” 

Hollingsworth said his team fished their baits with single stinger segments that stretched the length of their magnum baits. Their choice for wire – the stealthy and flexible 40-pound Terminator titanium. The third-place fish hit a blue in the long flat line. This bait was about 75 yards back – a good bit closer than Hollingsworth typically likes his shotgun line. He made this adjustment because of how close other boats were trolling. After the strike, he made another key move to improve angler Stuart Flynn’s chances of controlling a big fish in a crowd. “The fish skied and we got to see that it was really nice fish,” Hollingsworth said. “We turned on it, he started peeling off line and we high-tailed it after him. I literally planed the boat to get to the fish to protect it from other boats. We had to call off a couple other boats and they moved for us. The key was getting on top of that fish and other boats lost fish by not doing this.”


At the helm of Team Fin-Nagle, Raymond Pugh chose to fish about eight miles off Cape Hatteras in 60 feet of water. That decision was based partially on proximity to his home in Nag’s Head, but he also knew he could count on an annual buffet line that attracts big kings. “That time of year there are a lot of croakers on the bottom,” Pugh said. “The kings are in there eating those croakers so I knew we could find a big fish in that area. We had a very active day with 20 fish up to the high-30s. We were kind of weeding them out. We’d get them to the side of the boat, look at them and decide if we wanted to keep them or release them.”

The team’s largest king that day was a 46.76-pounder that ate a live pogy in the prop wash around noon. With Tom Gilliam on the rod, the big king ripped off 200 yards of line in short order. The team had five other lines out so it was a bit of a fire drill getting the deck cleared and ready to chase the fish. Fortunately, they got on top of the speedster and Gilliam negotiated a tough battle culminating in the captain’s gaff.

“The fish wanted to stay on the bottom and it took us a while to get him up,” Pugh said. “Some days they come up pretty quickly and some days they want to fight us. *Thanks to Cape Horn Boats and Yamaha for a dependable ride, while he lauded Lowrance Electronics for enabling him to spot those bait clusters. Using his Lowrance StructureScan, Pugh was able to pinpoint the croakers on the down current side of a small rise on the bottom.

Also important, he said, was fishing the right side of a tide line. “We had pre-fished there the day before and found a tide line with blue water on one side and green on the other,” Pugh said. “Most boats were fishing the blue side, but we stayed on the green side and bigger fish and more fish. I think those croakers were maybe staying in the green water to hide from the kings.”


Open Class

60.321. HOT ROD
Contender / Yamaha
Brett Barnes
Onslow Bay / Yamaha
Jodie Gay
Timmy Parker
Evan Kerstein
Cawley Snibbe
Steve Marshburn
Kent Raynor
Yellowfin / Yamaha
Brian Allen
Stacy Allen
Grimes Medlin
Braxton Allen
Sea Hunt / Yamaha
Stan Hollingsworth
Stuart Flynn
46.765. FIN-NAGLE
Cape Horn / Yamaha
Raymond Pugh
46.226. D'Ported
45.587. Sea Striker
Yellowfin / Mercury
Phil Croom Jr.
Robbie Hall
Chad Meadows
39.349. Honey Bun
38.4410. MATER HEAD
Yellowfin / Mercury
Mark Yokeley

Top Senior Angler
50.20Timmy Parker

Top Junior Angler
38.34T.J. Lyons

SKA Top Junior Anglers
38.341. T.J. Lyons
36.422. Kayla Howard
31.643. George & Nelson Ricks

Mercury Marine Junior Angler Scholarship Winner
Al Morris III

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