Courtesy of Edgar Stephens
With ideal conditions, here’s how the Fall Pier King Mackerel Tournament played out
By Gregg Holshouser
September 27, 2019
Conditions were fabulous for the Fall Pier King Mackerel Tournament last Saturday and Sunday, and the catches showed.
The anglers competing in the tournament, 40 on Apache Pier and 35 on Cherry Grove Pier, were greeted by light to moderate east-southeast winds, relatively clear water and plenty of bait along the beach.
In late September along the Carolina coast, that is the recipe for king mackerel to show up near the beach, and they most certainly did.
Eight kings were caught from the Apache Pier and six from the Cherry Grove Pier, excellent numbers for an event that sometimes doesn’t produce any kings.
Rick Hobbs of Statesville, N.C., landed a 31-pound, 12-ounce king from the Cherry Grove Pier on Saturday and was declared the winner when fishing was over on Sunday afternoon.
Debbie Miles finished second, just over a pound behind Hobbs’ fish, with a 30-pound, 8-ounce king caught from the Apache Pier.
Pat Owens was third with a 28-pound, 9-ounce fish caught off Cherry Grove Pier.
Dale Efird was fourth with a 26-pound, 6-ounce king caught of Cherry Grove Pier and John White was fifth with a 26-pound, 4-ounce king caught off Apache Pier.
Hobbs was fishing beside two more Hobbs, Billy and Robby Hobbs, both also from Statesville but unrelated to Rick Hobbs, and at about 4 p.m., it happened.
A smoker king went on a feeding frenzy among the Hobbs’ baits, first missing the baits of Billy and Robby. The third strike was the charm, as the king didn’t miss the pinfish Rick Hobbs had out for bait.
“The fish ran out probably 400-to-500 yards of line, and it took me about 25 minutes to get him in,” said Rick Hobbs.
At about 4:30 p.m., Daniel Locklear applied the gaff, and the big king was pulled up onto the pier.
“When he hit the deck, I said ‘I hope he’s over 30,’ “ said Hobbs. “I felt real good at that point.”
The fish was in first place when Saturday’s fishing was over, then Hobbs had to wait it out during the final day of fishing on Sunday to see if his 30-8 would hold up.
“It was pins and needles all day Sunday,” said Hobbs.
The fish did indeed hold up, and Hobbs was the recipient of nearly $1,000 for the win.
Hobbs was quick to point out the family atmosphere among the anglers fishing on the Cherry Grove Pier for the tournament. King mackerel anglers make up a fraternity of sorts on both piers
“All those people fishing in the tournament, it’s almost like a family reunion,” said Hobbs. “It’s something we look forward to.”
One among the group on hand for the tournament was Craig Melton, a former pier master of the Cherry Grove Pier who is in declining health.
“I’ve fished the pier a lot of years, become friends with lot of people,” said Hobbs. “Craig was the one who helped me learn how to kingfish. I would say 80 percent of people who were on the pier know Craig. We had a community prayer for him.”
Steve Gann, manager of Cherry Grove Pier, said Melton has been a mainstay on the pier for the last 30 years.
“If you want to know how to do it, the techniques of king fishing, Craig is the guy to go to for that,” said Gann. “He’s really a special person. If there’s any conflict or anything like that on the pier, he’d be the one to step in and smooth things out. He’s been a big proponent of king fishing.”
Our President since 1999, Gregg Holshouser, is an avid fisherman writing the weekly fishing report and outdoors column for The Sun News since 2004. Gregg and his sister “Sam” invite you to visit Custom Outdoor Furniture to see how you, too, can Live Great Outdoors. Click here for more information and to check out this week’s fishing report or find us on Facebook. #LiveGreatOutdoors