Beaufort News

Action slow at Fripp Island Kingfish Tournament

Hamp Manning scanned the surrounding water for bait early Saturday morning, looking to birds to give away the location of the sought-after menhaden.

But after retrieving an empty cast net, he declared the search over and turned his 32-foot Century center console toward his first fishing hole.

Love of spicy fried chicken, Bud Light and country music are requirements to board "Sweet Deal." Patience is not.

But Manning and his crew, fellow Augusta, Ga., residents Pierce Blitch and Andy Moseley, would grow accustomed to waiting Saturday during the 21st Fripp Island Kingfish Tournament.

The initial decision to go without live bait paid off within 20 minutes at the first stop, when Blitch reeled in a 15-pound king mackerel. But the boat waited more than eight hours for another catch, a small Spanish mackerel that finished out of the placing.

"This was just an odd day," Manning said. "And I think the hurricane had something to do with it, because it was too nice out for us not to catch fish."

The king, though, was good enough for second place and $1,350. Hane Simmons and his crew, with a 20-pound fish, won the king category and the $2,350 top prize.

For Sweet Deal and its occupants, the final pull wasn't a bad consolation after experiencing little luck on the water. Manning and Blitch, who are cousins, say they have fished the tournament each year since 1992 and vacationed on Fripp with their families long before that. Moseley started fishing the tournaments with the pair five years ago.

The original excursions to fish Fripp Island were the result of a covert plan by Manning and Blitch, when they purchased a condo at a bargain without telling their wives and used the place as a fishing getaway.

They called the condo "Sweet Deal," and branded the boat the same.

"This was our little fish camp," Manning said. "We came down here for five or six years, and they never knew anything about it. It was just a little sweet deal."

Despite little luck on the water Saturday, Sweet Deal's initial catch looked better as the day progressed, as captains' chatter on the radio reported a slow bite.

Moseley said the group was ready for the spring, when the action is much heavier and the dolphin plentiful.

"It gets better around the Heritage (golf tournament)," he said.

21st Fripp Island Kingfish Tournament

(Boat, Captain, Weight)

King mackerel

1. Nomad, Hane Simmons, 20 pounds

2. Sweet Deal, Hamp Manning, 15 pounds

Spanish mackerel

1. Molly Carolina, Robert Wallace, 2.4 pounds

2. Three Kings, Bill Turbeville, 1.82 pounds