The Southern Kingfish Association (SKA), sanctioning body of the Mercury Kingfish Trail and promoter of the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour, has shut down. SKA members and tournament directors received e-mails on March 26 from managing partner Jack Holmes stating the organization would cease operations immediately. The notice cited dwindling participation, reduced sponsorships and increased operation costs as the reasons for the decision.
SKA produced the Mercury Tournament Trail for 23 years and the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour for more than a decade. These trails covered coastal states from North Carolina to Texas and introduced many saltwater anglers to competitive fishing. Initially, SKA had lots of support from the boat-building and fishing-tackle industries, and it grew to a high-water mark of holding a dozen regional divisions consisting of 50-plus tournaments, culminating in a national championship with more than 300 teams competing.
As the economy began to falter in the mid-2000s, tournament participation fell drastically, and several popular tournaments disappeared completely. Struggles across the marine industry didn’t leave much money to support competitive fishing, and while there have been ripples through the industry each year, the full effects are finally being felt.
Members of SKA’s board of directors said they had been actively looking for someone in the industry – a group or an individual – to purchase SKA and bring new life and money into the sport but had seen little interest. However, a creditable source said there was a spike in interest immediately after the announcement, and negotiations fired up again.
“One thing I say almost too often is that sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, and this looks to be one of those times,” said Capt. Brant McMullan of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center (NC) fishing team, which was a three-time SKA national champion.
McMullan, who serves on SKA’s board and is tournament director for the Jolly Mon King Classic and the Fall Brawl King Classic, two tournaments formerly sanctioned by the SKA, said, “You never want to do something like this, but the SKA board has been discussing options for more than a year now and had spoken to several groups about purchasing the SKA. The discussions had fallen off until we voted to shut down last week and Jack sent the e-mail notices to members and tournaments. Now, there is another flurry of interest in the SKA and we’ll see where it goes. Hopefully someone steps forward to continue all the positive aspects of the SKA.”
McMullan stressed that the king mackerel tournaments, with the exception of the SKA Championship, could continue as scheduled without a sanctioning body. He recalled that before 1991, they were all independent tournaments put on by various civic and charitable groups.
SKA’s 2014 schedule had included full divisions in North Carolina and South Carolina and one division comprised of four North Carolina tournaments and one South Carolina tournament. Every tournament director who responded to requests for information said their event would continue as planned.
SKA’s announcement said it would begin liquidation of property was scheduled to begin in April. At that time, they will also begin to return 2014 membership dues that have already been received. The SKA website, www.fishska.com, is still functional and offers contact information for those with more questions.