By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001
CLEARWATER -- The Chivas brothers were pleased to find nobody fishing their secret kingfish spot.
"It's not really our spot," confessed 12-year-old Cody, captain of their fishing team. "We got it from Dave Mistretta."
"And it is not really a secret," his 11-year-old brother said. "Everybody knows about it now."
Still, it's always good to be the first boat to set anchor on the Clearwater hard bottom near Clearwater Pass. The trick is to get your chum slick working early. Then, by the time the sun comes up over the horizon and starts heating up the water, it might stretch a quarter-mile behind the boat.
"We need a big one," Cody said. "A tournament-winning fish."
The Chivas boys have caught their share of monsters over the years -- smokers, 30 pounds or heavier. Cody, the eldest of the Chivases, was the 1999 Southern Kingfish Association junior angler of the year. Kyle, his equally enthusiastic brother, also is an accomplished angler.
They know what it takes to win a kingfish tournament: the right tackle, the right bait and the right location. A little bit of luck doesn't hurt, either.
That is why they figure they stand as good a chance as anybody to win the April 20-21 Grand Ole Opry King Mackerel Sportfishing Tournament.
One bait. One fish. One-hundred-thousand dollars.
"Ladyfish, they are the best bait," Cody said. "If you want to catch big fish, you need a big bait."
The Chivas brothers have fished their share of tournaments. But they always were with their father, Frank, a veteran tournament fisherman. This tournament would give them a chance to show what they can do on their own. Then, they also could decide how to spend the money.
"I would buy a new boat," Cody said. "A 23-foot Donzi with twin 225s."
Kyle said he would buy a dirt bike.
"No you wouldn't," Cody said. "Mom would kill you."
One-hundred-thousand dollars would go a long way. You could buy 100,000 bags of peanut M&Ms, 200,000 McDonald's hamburgers, 666 skateboards or 800 surf trips to Costa Rica.
To win, the brothers have to beat 399 teams. But many of those anglers will be coming from out of town and don't have the benefit of local knowledge, more than 20 years' worth (combined) in Cody and Kyle's case.
They know where and when to find the big ones. But landing one is another story.
"We lost another one," Cody said, holding up a bait that had been sliced in half by a marauding kingfish. "This is one of those days when nothing goes right."
Two more hits, but both times the hooks came up bare. The boys were growing frustrated.
"Come on," Cody said. "We can't catch a fish."
By now, a crowd had gathered at the once-secret fishing spot off Sand Key. A half-dozen other boats were anchored behind the boys, hoping the chum slick would lead a fish their way, while another five or six slowly trolled in circles around the boys' 23-foot Sabalo.
"I wish we had some bottle rockets," I said. "Or maybe a potato gun."
"Yeah, that would be awesome," Kyle said.
Then a rod bent and the reel started screaming. Cody fought the fish as his brother readied the gaff. The anglers in the other boats watched as the boys worked together like a finely tuned machine.
"Oh ... it's just a baby," Cody said as he held the kingfish for the camera. "We can do better than that."
But by now, the bite had clearly slowed down. The boys talked about moving to another spot, then they decided to give it a rest.
"Let's go swimming," Kyle said. "It is too hot to fish."
So the boys weighed anchor and headed toward the beach.
There would be kings left to catch and plenty of tournaments down the road. And they had nothing but time.
WHAT: Grand Ole Opry King Mackerel Sportfishing Tournament.
WHEN: Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21.
WHERE: Coachman Park and Harborview Center, Clearwater.
NOTES: $100,000 cash for the first-place fish. Second through 50th place also will receive cash prizes ranging from $20,000 to $250 (based on 500 paid entries). The entry fee is $425. The event is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association. For more information contact Treasure Island Charities at (727) 363-0071.