By LARRY BLUE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2001
To catch a king mackerel big enough to win $100,000, Mark Kennedy traveled 90 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. He made the right decision. Ninety miles was a short ride considering Kennedy drove from Mobile, Ala., for the Grand Ole Opry Sportfishing Tournament. Teammates Steve Shook of Golden Meadows, La., and Max Williams from Pensacola assisted Kennedy. The king (46.78 pounds) was lured by a huge blue runner near a bait school in the area known as the Middle Grounds.
Kennedy is no stranger to our area. He fished his first Southern Kingfish Association event here in 1991 and has fished most local SKA tournaments since. Last year, Kennedy won his fifth gulf division title with a three fish aggregate of 165 pounds. Shook was 1998 SKA Top Angler.
Chris Mariani and Charlie Kottmeier on No Guarantees made the run to the Tampa Bay shipping channel for second place (41.36). Mariani said they were fishless until 2 p.m. when they finally hooked up. As soon as they caught and landed the fish they quickly headed to the weigh-in in Clearwater.
Brian Hasson and his dad, Billy, on Change Order worked a ledge in 65 feet west of John's Pass. Using a down-rigger, they dropped a blue runner for bait and drifted the ledge. "We popped a good one, what can I say?" Brian said. "It's all about team effort." The 39.12-pound king was good for third place.
There were 435 boats entered with 105 fish weighed in. Payout was 1-50 and the 100th-place fish weighed 14.54 pounds. This weekend is Old Salt's King of the Beach.
- To report tournament information, contact Capt. Larry Blue (727) 397-3773 or e-mail, CaptLBlue@aol.com.