If the third time tells the tale, the tale has been told on the fishing knowledge and abilities of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center fishing team, which this past Saturday won its third Southern Kingfish Association National Championship.
Fishing out of Biloxi, Miss., the OIFC crew of Brant, Barrett, Rube, Amy, Caroline and Brayden McMullan caught king mackerel weighing 56.28 and 48.82 pounds for an aggregate weight of 105.1 pounds to win the national title for the third time in the past five years – also becoming the first team to win three times.
The OIFC win capped a huge day of fishing for North Carolina teams, which also finished second and third. Both the runnerup and third-place finishers have ties to Ocean Isle.
Team Choice of Two, led by Corey Bellamy of Calabash and sponsored by OIFC, finished second with 94.82 pounds, including the tournament’s big fish, a 58.44-pound king. During the single day of fishing, Choice of Two called the McMullans and convinced them to join them in the hot action near the Horseshoe Rigs.
Team Windy Conditions, headed by Henry Tillett of MoreheadCity, had Steele Park of the OIFC on his third-place crew, which finished with 91.86 pounds.
A fourth North Carolina boat, Randy Griffin and the crew of Team Wild Ride, finished sixth, giving Tarheel State fishermen four of the top 10 spots. North Carolina teams also took the fourth through seventh spots in the Small Boat Class, with Miller Time, captained by Brent Gainey of Carolina Beach, in fourth with 78.84 pounds. Billy Goss’s Wahooligans was fifth, followed by Corey Durako’s Blew By U and Randall Edens’ East Coast Sports.
“We were in a pretty good bite and already had several fish in the high 40s, when we had a strong double,” Brant McMullan said. “Amy and Rube were fighting them, and she got hers in first. It came up awkward, and Barrett couldn’t see it well; not wanting to gaff a fish smaller than what we already had, he just reached out and grabbed it by the tail and slung it into the boat. When it hit the deck, we all looked at it and realized it was the largest yet.”
While there was some drama while fishing, the real drama for the McMullans happened on the way in to weigh the fish. Fishing has been cancelled on Friday due to extremely rough conditions, so fishermen were tasked with weighing in two fish on the second day. Team OIFC hooked a big fish just as they were planning to leave and in fighting it to the side of the boat, stayed a little longer than they had planned. The wind had strengthened, and the ride home that was already long was going to be bumpy.
“About 38 miles from the scales, one of the motors quit; it just shut down cold,” Barrett McMullan said. “Fortunately, or unfortunately as it actually may be, we had this happen on another motor before and guessed it was the fuel pump, which it was. I crawled into the bilge, and Amy laid down on a fish bag on the deck and reached in, and we took turns pumping the primer ball all the way back to the dock. It was tough, but by taking turns, we kept that motor running to get in with just a few minutes to spare."
Rube McMullan said all the OIFC’s fish were caught on large blue runners. He said they made the decision not to mix any mullet with them and didn’t have any ribbonfish. He said they trolled some, but the tactic that produced the largest fish was drifting with the wind and letting the baits out on light lines.
The McMullans' previous SKA national championships were in 2009 and 2011. Their 2009 championship included a 74-pound king that is the Mississippi state record and the largest ever caught in an SKA event.