June is approaching mid-season for kings, and Georgetown is centrally located along the coast - giving fishermen a number of options for inshore wrecks, reefs and ledges where kings might be found.
Jack Bracewell and his wife, Eren, have chosen the right option a number of times over the past 10 years, carrying big kings to tournament weigh-ins and carrying home plenty of checks and hardware.
Eren Bracewell has been the top female angler in the Southern Kingfish Association's South Carolina small-boat division the past two years - an accomplishment that began to build years ago when the Bracewells caught a 38-inch king mackerel while leisurely trolling along the coast off John's Island. She even "hinted" that her husband might want to buy the 23-foot Contender that carries the couple to their king-mackerel hotspots - as well as carrying her name: Eren's Addiction.
The Bracewells trailer to Georgetown from their home in Summerville, but another Georgetown kingfish expert travels a greater distance. Capt. Arthur Simons tows his 32-foot Scarab from his home in Columbia to catch kings out of Georgetown.
The South Island Ferry is a popular public boating-access area, because it provides fishermen with a short run to the mouth of Winyah Bay and the king mackerel waters just outside. The East Bay public landing in downtown Georgetown is another alternative.
Once past the jetties, you don't need to run far to find kings. In fact, many of the smoker kings that win Georgetown tournaments are caught around the tideline that is set up by water being flushed out of the inlet.
"This is a June hotspot, with the Wacammaw River and Winyah Bay water pouring into the ocean," Jack Bracewell said. "It looks like chalk up against the ocean water - which has become know as "king-green water." The bait stacks up when these conditions exist, and it won't take long to figure out if the kings are biting or not.
"There's a green side and a dirty or brown side, and mostly, we'll fish the green side - but we will fish the dirty side as well," he said. "The fish are typically on the clear side, but not always. They're usually within 20 or 30 yards of the color change.
"If we're in a tournament, we've pretty much got to work it in little circles, but if we're fishing by ourselves, we can usually go down the tideline in one direction, then turn around and fish it from the opposite direction."
Also close to the inlet are two popular king-mackerel spots: the Palm Tree Hole and the 3-Mile Reef. The Palm Tree Hole has been slow the past year or two, but it is close enough to the Georgetown tideline that it is worth checking out.
"Kings return to spots that have favorable structure and livebottom, and these conditions vary from year to year, so just because the Palm Tree Hole has been slow recently doesn't mean that it won't produce this year," Jack Bracewell said.
"The Palm Tree Hole is so close in, sometimes you're catching fish in 15 feet of water. Most of the time, though, they're a little farther off, maybe in35 feet of water."
Bracewell said the hot spot is named for a group of palm trees on the bank directly in front of the hole, which is a spot with a number of bottom-contour changes.
"It typically holds bait, and if it holds bait, it will hold kings," he said, "But it's one of those places you fish for 30 minutes, and you know by then if they're there or not."
The 3-Mile Reef is an artificial reef sunk by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' marine division. It is officially named the "Georgetown Nearshore Reef" and is 2.7 miles from the end of the Winyah Bay jetties.
"The 3-Mile Reef is exceptionally good when the tide line runs across it, but that doesn't happen that often," Bracewell said. "And you never know when it's going to happen. It has to do with the wind direction and the current.
"The 3-Mile reef will hold bait, and it will hold kings more consistently than the Palm Tree Hole."
South of Georgetown, Bracewell likes the Cape Romain shoals and the Cape Romain ledge - a bit offshore of the shoals. Bracewell said the fishing right off the beach is consistently good, especially along the short run from the Winyah Bay jetties north to North Inlet.
Farther north is Murrells Inlet, where Capt. Englis Glover fishes extensively for kings. He's got plenty of good inshore and nearshore areas to target kings.
"The 'Not-So-Secret Hole' is on Maps Unique now, so (it gets) more pressure now than it used to, and the 'Belkie Bear' hole is getting pretty well-known too," said Glover, whose television show "Reelin Up The Coast" will debut on July 15.
The Paradise Reef out of Murrells Inlet is a spot that Glover often hits on his way to other areas. The fishing there is hit-or-miss, Glover said, but when kings are around, the action can be fast and furious.
Fishing with live bait has become the norm for serious king fishermen, and the Bracewells and Simons fall right in line.
"The classic live-bait set up for king mackerel has a pogie (menhaden) hooked through the nostrils with a 1/0 live-bait hook, with a trailing 4X strong treble hook to take advantage of the thrashing motion of a feeding king," said Simons, who uses a wire leader on his king rigs to prevent bite-offs.
The Bracewells fish custom Ugly Stik rods in the 10- to 15-pound class rigged with Shimano Torium 20 reels and fluorescent green 20-pound Trilene. Their spread includes six rods, but they count on the one closest to the boat, often right in the prop wash; it's their secret weapon.
"Almost always, the fish that takes the prop wash bait is a good fish, and I make sure to keep that particular bait looking good, since I can check it a lot being so close to the boat," Bracewell said.