2023 Southern Kingfish Association Champions…….Overcoming The Odds
The Southern Kingfish Association National Championship is considered to be one of the most prestigious fishing tournaments in the United States. It’s a place where a select group of anglers gather to see who is the best of the best when it comes to fishing for King Mackerel. The 2023 event was no disappointment to the followers and especially to this year’s winning team.
Randy Burton of Wilmington, NC, and the team “Forgiven” were the winners of this year’s SKA Championship. The team is made up of friends and family (wife Sheila). They are a group of experienced anglers and SKA competition veterans. Even with their experience, this year’s championship was far more than they expected. The last day of fishing was a day they always remember!
The event got off to a bumpy start on Thursday, thanks to the weather conditions. The first day was a rough one with weather and fishing, and team “Forgiven” had little success. The next day Friday, was a layover day. That means the anglers only have one day to take the championship. This was a major concern to all the teams, including those on “Forgiven”.
Saturday arrived with high winds and rough conditions. That morning they fired the engines at 5:30 a.m. on the 34’ Fountain and headed north. It didn’t take long for an issue to show up. Randy quickly noticed that a problem had appeared with the electronics that made it dangerous to move in the dark at the speed the team needed to get to their target location at a reasonable time. Sudden disappointment came over the “Forgiven” team. A few minutes later another competitor came blasting by heading in the same direction. It was a friend of Randy’s heading north and he suddenly realized his chances had just gotten better. By trailing his friend at a safe distance, “Forgiven” was able to increase speed. They started running at an average of nearly 65 miles per hour through the early morning darkness to Ocracoke and the inlet.
The next problem came when the team started heading out the inlet only to face 6-8 foot seas. Navigating through the rough water was difficult, but they did make it to their target fishing grounds. The spot was just 4 miles offshore, and once there, they found a perfect water temperature of 68 degrees. At 7:30 a.m. on the last day of fishing, the lines went out despite all the challenges of the morning. In minutes after the lines went out, the action they had been waiting for happened! This lasted for the next 2 hours and in those 2 hours, Randy, Sheila, and the rest of the “Forgiven” team caught the largest King Mackerel of their lives.
Approximately 2 hours after that, team member Payton Innis was putting out one of the short lines rigged with a fresh Blue Fish. As soon as the rod went into the rod holder, the line started to spool. In the next few minutes, the King skyed and gave everyone on the boat a look at what would be the winning fish of the 2023 SKA National Championship.
After three good runs, the winning fish was brought into the boat by Randy Burton. It wasn’t the only big fish they caught that day. Another fish weighing only a few ounces smaller had been caught earlier in the morning. This winning fish was 52.90 pounds and just a few ounces more than the nearest competitor’s fish that day.
It had been a day of problems that would be overcome. Weather that would ultimately be endured, a big fish that would be hooked and landed, and a fishing team that would be the national champions for the next 365 days at least.
Congratulations the team of “Forgiven” for making a great catch and an even greater story!