By JAY MASTRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001
Now it gets exciting. It's tournament time and there's something special about competing with some of the best kingfish anglers in the country.
While the polished teams that come from out of town may be intimidating with sponsors' patches covering their shirts and decals up one side of their 30-something footer and down the other, it's not required.
Sure, it'd be nice to have entry fees paid, a big sleek boat to fish in and tackle supplied by sponsors, but kingfish don't really care what kind of boat you're in, and as far as I can tell they don't know if you have sponsors. Besides, when you bust up the costs between three or four others it's not that big a deal compared to what you could win.
Surround yourself with a dependable crew while tournament fishing. Whether one other person or several, when chasing a $100,000 grand prize you'll want them on top of their game. Seldom will you get a second chance to land a 40-plus pound kingfish in a day. Better be ready when it comes along.
Nothing matters more than the gathering and condition of bait. It has never made much sense to crowd my livewell with 2-inch whitebait while Hog huntin'. Yeah, it has happened, but I'd rather take my chances trolling something a foot long.
I'll cage bait sometimes but don't like to. Other than bluerunners and cigar minnows, most don't stay very healthy. The only bait better than one caught the morning of the tournament is one caught while you're out there fishing.
A frisky, fresh-caught bait will outperform a beat-up one that was caught yesterday nearly every time.
And by the way, I don't think I could get my crew to wear those matching shirts even if we had them.
- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.