For years we've all fished local tournaments. Great fun, plus wasn't it neat when
you won and claimed bragging rights to the territory? Sometimes the money and prizes weren't bad either. But they lacked a
common denominator--a single specie that could unite fishermen from all over the eastern and southern seaboard in friendly
competition but on a scale much larger than just locally. A specie that wasn't in danger of collapse or carried ecological
baggage. That fish was discovered in 1990, the King Mackerel.
Kingfish stocks are in good shape and according to most fishery directors, have made a tremendous comeback over the past few years. In the Gulf of Mexico the stocks were almost annihilated back in the early eighties but through sound management and reasonable bag limits, the stocks are back to pre-1980 levels.
Schooling king mackerel have been found to have three distinct migration routes. From the mouth of the Mississippi river west through Texas waters, down into Mexico is one pattern. Second is the school that ranges from south of the Dry Tortugas up the Florida west coast and west to the Mississippi river. The Mississippi delta in the summer months hosts the best king mackerel fishing in the world. The eastern stock travels from the Florida Keys up into Virginia waters and back each year. When the two schools meet in January and February in the Keys, fishing is superb. Some of the largest kings can also be found in late October when they're off North Carolina's Outer Banks. Schooling kings are easy to catch and on light tackle offer some very interesting challenges.
In '91, armed with some sponsor products, the SKA trail was formed, with just an 11-tournament schedule. Today, the trail has grown to over 50 events and has expanded to cover an area from the Outer Banks of North Carolina south through Florida, up Florida's west coast and around the Gulf States to Texas. Over three million dollars in prize money are up for grabs in these events. The SKA also hosts the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour--five high-energy events each season for fishermen with financial backing from sponsors plus their own pocketbook, who possess better than average skills. There's over $600,000 in prize money on this trail.
The Mercury Tournament Trail is where most of the 7,000-plus fishing teams join in friendly, family, competition. The trail is broken down into 11 geographic divisions with three to five events in each division. Anglers compete to post their best three kings in a division with the top 25 teams in aggregate weight from the open class going to a National Championship at the end of the year. For the recreational angler who competes in a boat 23 feet and under there's a special class just for him or her. In this class the top 20 from each division gets to go to the Championship and a champion will be crowned. Imagine, fishing your home waters, fishing local events, then qualifying and getting to go to the big event where your team could not only win great prizes and cash but return home as the best in the country. It could be the dream of a lifetime! That reality has already happened for many fishermen.
In the '05 National Championship, 10 out of the top 20 finishers were families. More and more teams are made up of husband and wives and yes even the kids compete. The SKA rewards the ladies each year with top lady honors with a beautiful Silverstar gold and diamond pendant. The top junior and senior anglers are rewarded also.
Factories have seized fishermen and boosted their hobby by rewarding them with factory incentives. This has enabled many to broaden their horizons, meeting new friends and competitors all over the southeast and southwest as they find new tournaments and waters to fish.
Because of the strength of the trail and its broad, knowledgeable, member base, manufactures have called on the SKA fishermen to help them design and improve their products. They have literally changed the size and quality of the product they use today and revolutionized the industry. At no time in the history of the sport has so much attention to detail and quality gone into the boating industry. They've discovered that the trail is the true proving ground for their products. If their boat can withstand the rigors and punishment a season of fishing can produce, then problems the average consumer would endure are virtually eliminated. When in the market for a boat, just visit a local SKA event and see what the big dogs are running. That ought to help in the decision process. What will really amaze you; however, are the brands that are conspicuous by their absence.
Participating companies are rewarding and using these talented fishermen in their national ad campaigns. It's beneficial to them to be associated with good fishermen plus it rewards the anglers by giving them the exposure they need. Just look at the national publications and you'll see what we're talking about. Who knows, in a short period of time this could be you and your team.
Mackerel fishermen are benevolent also. The majority of the events making up the circuit are charity driven. Each year these events give back over one million dollars to local charities and marine enhancement programs. It's something the anglers are very proud of.
The SKA trail is fun, exciting, and more often than not, extremely rewarding. What other sport can you get into today and make a name for your self so quickly? It only costs $70 per year for new members and for that you get Angler magazine, the official publication of the SKA, an embossed membership card, free classified ads, discount marine insurance, and SKA fishing clothes at reduced prices. So come on, get off the couch and get in the boat. It's time to go tournament fishing, the SKA way!
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