In other words, Murrell's Inlet is the glazed-over hole in the middle of the donut. It's certainly worth sampling, but there's probably more good stuff around the perimeter - north to Little River or south to Georgetown.
Those are the options that Murrells Inlet king fishermen have as Halloween passes and Thanksgiving approaches. Stay close and enjoy some sweet fishing, or make a run of about 25 miles to the real sugar.
"You know, we do have some good king-fishing down here," said Grantham, whose "My Three Sons" fishing team finished third in the national 2006 FLW Kingfish Tour points standings - including a $100,000 tournament victory. "We've caught fish into January, depending on when the weather gets really cold. But we get a major concentration of fish here later in the year."
Grantham said a king fisherman can go so many places and catch fish in late October, through November and into December; it's just a matter of how far he or she wants to run. Kings can be as close as just off the beach or as far out as 20 or 30 miles.
Just think rocks, reefs and live bottom.
The area from Little River Inlet on the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, to Murrells Inlet and south to Georgetown covers about 50 miles of coastline. Along that stretch are dozens of inshore rocks, ledges, live bottom and artificial reefs - many within a short run of the beach for most seaworthy center-console boats.
"I know people who will run 20 or 30 miles offshore, when you can stay close to the beach," he said. "There's a reef about three miles right off Murrells Inlet that I can see from me (beach) house, and you can catch fish right there."
The water temperatures are often still in the high 60s - and sometimes in the low 70s - when November arrives, and that's plenty warm enough to keep kings around. There isn't a great deal of difference between Little River on the north end of South Carolina's "Grand Strand" and Georgetown's Winyah Bay on the south end in terms of water temperature. It's just a matter of deciding what area you're going to fish and hitting the hot spots in each area, picking up a king or two or three at every stop.
Little River Inlet probably has the most good inshore spots for late-fall kings, Grantham says, so the 28-mile run up the beach is acceptable. He wishes Murrells Inlet was connected to the Intracoastal Waterway so he could make the run up in flatwater, but that's more of an inconvenience than anything else.
When he runs north, Grantham usually picks up Joel Coker of Myrtle Beach, a member of the "My Three Sons" crew and a veteran Grand Strand fishermen. Between the two of them, there probably isn't a rock or wreck that hasn't had one of their boats slow-trolling or drifting a live bait directly above.
"We'll still have that good 65-degree water," Coker said. "You know they'll be on the beach when you start hearing about people catching them on the piers in Myrtle Beach - the Apache and the Springmaid."
Those are indeed good indications that kingfish are within a few miles of the beach, because they'll seek out structure that holds baitfish anywhere within their temperature comfort zone. And that can mean fish coming out of 15 feet of water or 45 feet of water - and anywhere in between.
And the fish can be anywhere in size from 10-pounders that were tiny "snakes" earlier in the season to 40-pound smokers that can strip a reel of monofilament in a single run.
"We'll get kings of all sizes, but the fishing is a lot better in the fall than any other time of the year," Grantham said.
The Little River area is chock full of good fishing spots, almost all of them within 20 miles of the inlet. It starts with the Little River Inshore Reef (Jim Caudle Reef), which is less than three miles from the sea buoy. The 390 rocks are about 6.2 miles southeast of the Caudle Reef, and the Little River Offshore reef is 2.6 miles south-southwest of the 390 rocks, about 10 miles out of the inlet.
Next, there's the General Sherman reef, 6.6 miles out of the inlet on almost a due south course, and 10 miles south of that, the "Jungle," a series of ledges at the 60-foot curve. And on the run up or back, Grantham recommends fishing the Myrtle Beach Rock, about six miles due east of the Springmaid Pier. Plus, there is a lot of live bottom up and down the beach, about four miles out, that's worth working for fish that are closer to the shore.
"Before (Hurricane) Hugo (in 1989), it was a much larger area of live bottom," Grantham said. "Hugo tore it up. You can't believe the strength of a hurricane. It moved one wreck 200 yards, picked it up out of the sand and moved it. But now there's more live bottom - it's just really starting to regenerate itself. And the rocks and reefs, you've got kings out on all of 'em."
Most of the good inshore structure off Georgetown is to the east and northeast, which leaves it a quick run from Murrells Inlet - so much so that several spots off Murrells Inlet are runs of only 5 to 10 miles from some of the Georgetown stuff.
The Paradise reef is three miles due east of Murrells Inlet; it's a sleeper, an area that has produced for Grantham when other boats were marking longer runs.
"I called him one day and asked him where he was," Coker remembered. "He said he was on the 3-mile reef, deck-loading them."
A pair of well-know and popular 10-mile rocks are on a 130-degree course out of Murrells Inlet, with another local favorite, the "Blue Dot" 12 miles due east of the inlet. "The Blue Dot is in 45 feet of water, 12 miles straight out of Murrells Inlet, and it will usually hold a good concentration of fish in the fall," Grantham said.
About 5.3 miles almost due south of Murrells Inlet is the Pawley's Island Reef, in about 30 feet of water. It's just about halfway from Murrells Inlet to the mouth of Georgetown's Winyah Bay.
A few miles south is the North Inlet Reef, which makes almost a perfect triangle with two well-known spots in the same general area: the Georgetown Rock and Georgetown Reef. The reef is about seven miles from the Winyah Bay sea buoy; the rock is about six miles from the sea buoy on a north-northeast path.
Due east of the Georgetown Reef are a handful of spots close to the 60-foot curve known as the "Inshore Holes." The "South" hole is the closest to the beach, with the main hold about 13 miles from the Sea Buoy and the "East" hole about 20 miles off the sea buoy.
About the most southerly area that Grantham and Coker regularly fish out of Murrells Inlet is the C.J. Davidson Reef, about 15 miles southeast of the Winyah Bay sea buoy.
"Out of Georgetown, that inlet is so big, you can pull up and fish the tideline and catch fish," Grantham said. "You can pull a 30- or 40-pound king right off the tideline, because they like to get on it a lot."
Coker said that it's not unheard of to take kings in deeper holes just off the Winyah Bay jetties. "When all the baitfish starts running out of the inlet, those fish will stage up there and ambush the bait," he said.
The best winds for fishing the 50-mile stretch of the Grand Strand are light northwests and southeasts. Winds from the northeast and southwest will keep the ocean choppy and, at times, unfishable.
The late-fall weather can be a key. Grantham likes a little cold snap, but not an extended one that really changes the nature of the water and moves kings farther off the beach.
"Sometimes, you get a little bit of cold weather that will really make the fish bite hard, make them real aggressive," he said. "But as the water gets a little colder, the kings will move more offshore. They're looking for warmer water as the inshore water cools off. That's why, later in the fall, we'll go up toward Myrtle Beach a lot."
Grantham, Coker and the rest of the "My Three Sons" Crew: Chris Blanton of Murrells Inlet and Kelly Sisk of Jackonville, Fla., don't do anything out of the extraordinary when it comes to king-fishing techniques. They like to slow-troll with live menhaden or live bluefish - often hooking two and three menhaden through the nose on single treble hooks to simulate a small school of bait in the water. They like to fish ribbonfish about halfway from the surface to the bottom on a downrigger.
Grantham fishes Shimano Trinidad reels and live-bait rods from Strike Zone, rods with a stout butt for handling big kings for a limber tip so fish can hit the baits without the rod pulling the baits out of their mouths.
"The only problem we have late in the fall is the bait situation," Grantham said. "The (menhaden) have usually moved out, so you've got to try and find some mullet or use ribbonfish. If you go up toward Cape Fear, you can find (menhaden) at the Cape, but here, they're usually gone. One thing we'll do is try and catch cigar minnows by jigging off the bottom around the wrecks. We'll use bluefish if we can find 'em."