King Mackerel Tournaments - Sport or Side-Show?
I was lucky enough to turn 60 years old this spring. Wow, as Mickey Mantle once said "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken much better care of myself...". One of the great things about turning 60 is that in all those years I have been able to learn a lot about life in general. There is much to be said for the wisdom that comes ONLY with time - and 60 years is REAL time measured on any scale. I have been fortunate and pleased to be able to share more than 50% of these past 60 years - 33 years to be exact - with my life partner, spouse, best friend and the best crew on the trail, Nancy - aka 'THE' FishDancer. In more than 33 percent of those 60 years, Nan and I have been able to conceive of the concept of the FishDancer Angling Team, have executed it across the universe of king fishing with much success and have been and continue to compete along the King Mackerel Tournament trail. In all of those years many things have changed - us included.
When we stood up the FishDancer Angling Team in the mid 1990s, we had no idea that in fact this fishing team would become an alter ego for us both and in fishing circles be the primary face of Nan and me to the king fishing community. While I have to admit that today, it is physically more demanding for our two person to fish than it was 20+ years ago, the competition and camaraderie of 'fishing the trail' is still fun and continues to capture our imagination. After all we are still chasing a 70 pound king mackerel and still haven't jumped the shoals at Cape Lookout NC! We have seen all of the iterations of the King Mackerel world, from the USAA, SKA, FLW to the recently established 'mini circuits' like the Wild West or the Kingfish Cup. Despite our love of chasing these fish around the southeast, usually under the SKA banner, we have recently wondered IF what we love to do is really a sport or a more of a side show for some other cause?
The FishDancer Angler team has focused our efforts in three major areas; 1) We have always been driven to be a self sufficient angling team. To us this means that we can compete with our own skills and knowledge as well as our own financial support. 2) Support our sponsors professionally, while we focus upon our own self sufficiency we enjoy our long term relationships with our sponsors Mercury Marine, LoadMaster Trailers, Raymarine Electronics and Contender Boats. It is our goal to represent them well by being a strong and well received team fishing the trail. If longevity is a proxy for our efforts, we must being doing a good job for them all. 3) We have always supported the efforts of those groups who support our sport, like the SKA.
While the prominence of the SKA, which for years has been the driving force and recognized leader in organizing and executing King Mackerel tournaments, is continuing to change, the FishDancer Angling team has supported them and avoided the USAA, the FLW and until this season other local mini circuits. The SKA has always focused on the fishing aspect of their sanctioned events and this has focused our team upon the fishing aspects of the events we fish. For example, despite fishing in literally hundreds of events, I have been to very few weigh ins. Once we finish a fishing day, the usual plan is for me to drop Nan off with the fish at the scales, she weighs in the fish and when she is done I pick her up with the boat and we head back to clean up and get everything ready for the next day. Of course when our performance gets us on the Leader Board, we both will attend the award ceremonies. Since the focus of the SKA has always been the anglers and the fishery it made the trail feel more like a sport, but perhaps it never has been truly a sport but more of a side show?
Recently we have competed in the first two KMTS in one of the newly formed mini-tours, a 3 tournament and Shootout event fished out of Maderia Beach called the Wild West Kingfish Series (WW). The fishing part of the event is constructed and executed within the traditional SKA model - that is a one day big fish event. For our team, we know how to approach these events and felt comfortable in our ability to compete. However the Captain's meetings and weigh ins are designed to be similar to a reality show with the anglers and fishing teams as the ensemble cast within this environment. This is something completely new to us. Teams, after fishing a long day, are expected to be in the crowd for the weigh in which is staged for maximum exposure of the Tournament, and their sponsors - something we can fully understand. So back to my original question is this a sport or local sideshow to showcase sponsors of these events?
We will defer judgement on this issue to our readers. However we wonder is it now necessary, in this digital driven and short attention span society, for King Mackerel fishing tournaments to become shows as opposed to fishing events, and if so what is the long term affect of this trend upon all KMTS? We have seen many changes over our years fishing KMTS but this trend has somewhat caught us by surprise. As stated above the concept of chasing the BIG ONE across the states of the Southeast still has attraction for us, but NOW, after years of honing our teams perception and performance in the world of KMTS, will we have to change again and become actors on a stage, promoting our fishing efforts in a new and more direct way? Only time will tell......I can assure you that the FishDancer Angling Team will remain true to our values and focus upon fishing with our 2017 goals of qualifying for the SKA's BIG Dance as well as making the top 10 of the Wild West. Stay tuned.