As the sun came up on the second, of two days of offshore competition, founder of the 15th Annual Kingfish Shoot-Out, Jimmie Crowder reflected, “Old-time watermen used to say, ‘the beginning is in the morning’.”
Storms gave anglers the runaround on Saturday, but after Crowder fired off a flare on Sunday, 50 entrants, staged in the middle of the Carrabelle River, ran like performance boats in a bass tournament to tap honey holes, and secure spots on the leader board.
Entries included a 42-foot Hydrosport, but most impressive was a boat called “Anotha Brotha,” captained by Jarvis Bedford that carried crew member Dakota Massey, from Carrabelle, fishing for the first time this year.
Massey used to help with this tournament, until a life-changing auto accident in August 2015, shattered his neck, face and skull, fractured his hip and leg, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and on life support for nearly a month, with doctors fearing he would be in a vegetative state the rest of his life.
But Massey was back at it last weekend, landing a 9-5 pound King.
“I have been blessed to grow up around the C-Quarters gang. I had to relearn everything, but I thank God, my family, and brotherhood of anglers, for pushing me through my toughest days,” he said.
“It’s a good place to fish,” Massey told the crowd. “And we want all of you to come back next year.”
Bedford reinforced Massey’s feeling at the captains’ meeting Friday, “It’s so easy to be a poor sportsman and take this opportunity for granted,” he said. “But it is bigger than that,” he said. “It’s about the camaraderie.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s not some serious fishing, and 45-minute line fights going on. This was the story, of a big one that got away from Spencer Ensley of team Outta Sight, who brought in the top-weight 39.1 King.
“The mystery part is having fun with what’s in the fish bag,” said retired Carrabelle C-Quarters Marina dockmaster Millard Collins.
To Bedford’s point, this local event has also become one big family party, held in memory of Crowder’s daughter, Lisa Crowder-Jackson, who was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2002 and passed away seven months later. It is the largest stand-alone fundraiser not specifically hosted by, but supportive of, the Leukemia Research Foundation.
Over the weekend, it put a stamp on its own beginnings, as well. Money collected from sales of entry fees, raffle tickets, and BBQ sandwiches totaled $85,025. The event had previously raised $915,000 over 14 years, and by contributing this amount, the proceeds given over its history to fund projects related to blood cancer sailed over the million-dollar threshold, and came to $1,000,025.
“Everyone really enjoys themselves, while advocating for a cause that helps so many,” said organizer Mary Lawhon.
This was echoed by foundation representative, Arleen Boudart. “They will be funding next year’s projects, and support for the patients going through the diagnosis,” she said.
“I love being here,” Boudart said. “It is amazing that they can raise this kind of money, and it’s really exciting.”
Crowder himself has never fished the tournament. “If I won, I’d have a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
But his heart is in it, and Lisa’s grandchildren swarmed the stage, as the checks were presented.
“The pain of losing Lisa, has also given our family strength,” said sister Tina Crowder-Oakes. “We walk forward for the little ones. Dad could have kept his pain inside and put on any kind of fishing tournament, at any time. We started this for other people and when you show up and spend money on gas and bait, it means a lot to us.”
First-time local competitors also included Adventures Aboard the C-Scout charter boat, with captain Brad Segree, Dwayne Coulter, Jeff Hewitt and Jeff Lansley, that finished in the top five with their 32.2-pounder.
“We always catch them to eat,” Hewitt said. “So why not put one on the board?”
Team Miller Time finished in fourth place and also clinched the target weight category with a 14.5-pound fish that came closest to the 17.6 limit without going over it.
“It was a little bumpy out there,” said team member Craig Wilson. “But we chased him down with the boat” about its 32.9-pound contender.
The top youth angler award was presented by Coastal Angler Magazine of Panama City and went to two-year tournament veteran, 10-year-old Colton Humphries of Dothan, Alabama who turned in a 15.9-pound King on the first day. He caught his fish on a trolling outrigger, out 20 miles, with live bait.
“He was pulling hard, but we got him,” he said. “My dad got him onto the boat. He got a good gaff shot.”
Denita Sasser of Outlaw Oyster Company in Panacea earned outstanding Lady Angler for landing a 29-pound King. The team also finished in second place, with her husband Blake’s 37.4-pound hit. This couple met five years ago, at the Sun Coast Kingfish tournament on Treasure Island.
In the Spanish mackerel category, Reel Skills II, comprising the Nunnelly family, held the lead steady with its 5.7-pound fish.
Ronald Hayes who has donated a custom-built, single-axle smoker each of the last 10 years, again came down from Camilla, Georgia. “Our son was diagnosed (with leukemia) and research made a big change in his chances,” said Hayes’ wife, Carol.
Last year's smoker winner, Michael Urquhart cooked on it both days, assisted by Alan Russell who is restoring the former Papadopoulos-owned Carrabelle restaurant, The White Kitchen. $25,000 worth of tickets were sold to win this grill.
Other big prizes this year included a filet table from Boat Outfitters, worth $1,000, and an 18-foot Nautic Star flats boat, with 115 Yamaha engine, and trailer - a $39,771 boat value won by Sid Lingerfelt.
The next local opportunity to compete on kings is at the 22nd Annual MBARA Kingfish Tournament in Mexico Beach on August 24-25.