ATLANTIC BEACH — A familiar face to the third annual Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Saltwater Slam was all smiles on stage at the awards ceremony Saturday, Oct. 26.
Capt. Eddie Briley of Taylor/Made and angler Austin Waters walked away with $10,000 for a whopping 65.78-pound mackerel caught on Oct. 13. The boat beat out a field of 110 boats, big growth from a fledgling tournament that attracted 63 teams last year.
“We’re very pleased with where it has gone,” Tournament Chairman Curt Winbourne said. “It was another success this year. We couldn’t be happier. We had a lot more boats show up than last year and had great participation from well over
Briley was instrumental in the bringing the tournament back to Atlantic Beach in 2017.
“Some people had brought up wanting to bring back the king mackerel tournament,” Briley said. “It never really got off the ground until three years ago when we said, ‘Let’s make this work.’ That first year, we had just over 50 boats as what was expected. We had a five-year goal of 100 boats, which we were fortunate to hit in three.”
Briley was quick to dole out credit to others for the tournament’s recent uptick in growth.
“I kind of faded out of the picture two years ago after it got started up,” he said. “Last year, they took it to another level with the (ladies tourney) and added some really good elements to it. I think it’s fixing to really take off next year. It’s very close to what we had hoped to achieve when the idea came around.”
The tournament ran from Oct. 5-26 to allow anglers plenty of time to work around inclement weather. The long window was especially important last year when Hurricane Florence cut a swathe through the schedule. Anglers may fish on any day of the tournament. Fish must be brought to the scales at Chasin Tails Outdoors Bait & Tackle in Atlantic Beach by 7 p.m., except for the final day (Oct. 26) when the deadline was 1 p.m.
The tournament included a handful of get-togethers, including the captains meeting and awards ceremony which both took place at the Crow’s Nest Yacht Club in Atlantic Beach. Live music and food were provided at both events.
“We like to say it’s become a great Crystal Coast event with a nice little fishing tournament,” Winbourne said. “We had three events throughout the tournament that brought a lot of people together for a lot of fun.”
The nonprofit tournament acts as a fundraising vehicle for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department and the purchasing of lifesaving equipment, such as an AutoPulse Resuscitation System for Automated CPR.
“It’s good for the Crystal Coast as far as bringing people here, and it’s good for the nonprofit part of it with the equipment,” Winbourne said. “We have half a dozen testimonials of people whose lives have been saved with this equipment.”
Briley’s win was the highlight of the three-week tournament. The veteran captain exceeded his personal best of 54 pounds by more than 11 pounds with the whopper reeled in by Waters.
“That’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught,” Briley said. “It was the last thing I was expecting. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to fish it this year, but it all worked out.”
Winbourne added, “He was instrumental in bringing the tournament back, so it was really cool that he was able to win. I’m usually on his fishing team, but sadly, I was on my boat when he caught the big one.”
Briley also pocketed an additional $300 as the Senior Angler Category winner.
Second overall place went to Flat Broke, captained by Joshua Woodard of Princeton, for a 49.86-pound fish caught Oct. 13 that earned the team $5,000 in prizes.
Kathryn Hardee of Ayden took third place for her 38.94-pound mackerel caught aboard the Lil Half-N-Half, earning the team $2,000 in winnings.
The tournament payed through 10th place with John Lewis (38.44 pounds) aboard Second Chance placing fourth to win $1,000 and Wayne Hardee (38.41) of Lil Half-N-Half placing fifth to win $500.
A prize of $250 each went to Henry Tillett (36.95) of Windy Conditions in sixth place, Kevin Knox (36.52) of Angler’s Envy in seventh, Colby Bond (35.73) of The Whaler in eighth, Everett Cameron (35.5) of EverReady in ninth and Victor Tucker (35.11) of Job Site in 10th.
The Lady Angler Award went to Debbie Priddy of Second Chance for a 38.44-pounder that awarded a $300 prize.
Junior Angler Award winner Joshua Tucker won $300 for a 35.11-pound mackerel caught aboard Job Site.
Having set its goal earlier than expected, the tournament is bound to keep growing in its fourth iteration next year. The tournament is largely expected to remain the same with the possibility of a larger purse in the future.
“We have a few ideas, but basically, we’re going to build on what we’ve established this year,” Winbourne said. “We’re looking at possibly raising the prize money due to increased sponsorship.”