A local angler hooked the winning fish in the 10th annual Kingfish Shootout last weekend at Carrabelle’s C-Quarters Marina.
At Sunday’s awards ceremony, Tommy Merrell, owner of Merrell Automotive on US 98 in Carrabelle, carried the day with a 46-pound king hooked on Saturday.
Team Knot Ready, including Merrell and his fishing buddy Chester Cowart of Archer, walked away with $5,000 for the monster fish and took home another $650 as the Calcutta prize because they invested $100 in a jackpot ticket for the heaviest fish.
In second place, with a 45-pound fish, was Team Loose Connection, which walked with $4,000. Third place went to Panhandle Outdoors who took first prize two years ago.
Team Real Smoker was fourth, followed by Team Genesis, Bluewater Predators, Team Steamer, Team Charlie O, Team Seawolf and the Doodle Bugs.
This year, for the first time ever, every fish in the leader board Top 10 tipped the scales at more than 30 pounds. The top six fish were all caught on Saturday but fishing was great all weekend long.
“It was one of the better weekends for a long time,” said Master of Ceremonies John Hill. “That’s the reason we’re seeing so many big fish.”
Outstanding Lady Angler this year was Denita Sasser who landed a 29-pound king. Top Junior Angler Payton Pittman brought home a 26.7-pound fish. Both were awarded Ugly Stick fishing rods, courtesy of Coastal Angler magazine.
The Kingfish Shootout has become a tradition for many teams and families. The Doodlebugs, who were tenth on the leader board, have attended every year.
The Paulk family of Daytona participated since 2006 as Team Weathermaker. This year, they fished as Team Fear Knot. Son John Paulk, who was on the original team, has since passed away, but his sister Tanya and father Paul scattered his ashes at the buoy where he landed his kingfish in the 2006 tourney.
The other side of the Kingfish shootout is the incredible contribution it has made to the Leukemia Research Foundation. Over the last decade, the tournament raised $703,000, including $36,500 from this year’s event. The tournament is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Crowder Jackson who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001.
In addition to revenue from entry fees, a silent auction with donated prizes raised more than $6,000 this year to once again contribute to the take.
Ron Hays of Camilla, Ga. makes a special contribution to the Kingfish Shootout. Each year, he donates a custom-made smoker to be raffled during the tournament and promotes the raffle among his friends and business associates.
“I build these smokers to donate to schools and charities. So far, we have raised $40,000 to fight leukemia. This year, we have raised about $11,500,” he said Sunday.
Hays began making the donation after his son Matt was diagnosed with leukemia. He said Matt is now completely healthy and attending college.
Tina Crowder, daughter of tournament founder Jimmy Crowder and sister of Lisa, offered thanks to the many supporters of the shootout and the Leukemia Research Foundation.
She vowed that the tournament will continue. “People hear rumors and they have asked me if this is the last year for the tournament. My Dad said, ‘As long as I have breath, I won’t stop.’”