"The old adage, 'never leave fish to find fish' was in the back of my mind as I pulled away from one of the most incredible kingfish bites I'd ever experienced," recalled Brant McMullen of team Ocean Isle Fishing Center. "We had been catching them none stop for five hours and had our biggest, a 44 pounder, in the fish bag."
But this was the SKA Nationals in Biloxi, Mississippi where 50's were common and he knew he had to find a bigger fish if they were going to make the leader board. So Brant decided to head away from the dozens of other boats hooked up all around him in an area of oil rigs and a massive salt dome 85 miles from the weigh in and go hunting. They didn't have much time left to score big and still make it back for the 5:30 deadline, but he quickly spotted birds diving and ran over to check it out.
"Our eyes lit up as we approached a large pod of menhaden circling in sheer terror as predators attacked the school from below," said father Rube McMullen. "That's all we use for kings back in North Carolina so finding pogies was like being back home."
Younger brother Barrett made one throw with the castnet and filled the live well with palm-size pogies as kingfish skied all around them. After catching a few fish to 40 pounds Barrett put out his favorite double pogy rig with two live baits and was immediately into a really big fish that blasted straight down and away almost stripping the Shimano reel on the first incredible run.
"I gained some line, the fish made few more lunges and then stopped," Barrett picked up the story. "It was a lot of weight for the 20-pound test so I had to pump and reel patiently for a long time to get it in. We never saw it from the time it hit until this huge head popped up alongside the boat. It was probably a good thing because if we knew how big it really was we probably would have all had heart attacks! Luckily it was the king that apparently died on the line after its last run."
Brant stuck a gaff in the monster mackerel and Rube and Barrett grabbed for the tail. It took all three of them to hoist the 63 inch king into the boat. They didn't know just how big it was, but they knew it was BIG! The biggest kingfish they had ever seen. Back at the weigh-in they brought their two biggest fish to the scales-the SKA National Championship is won by the team with the heaviest two fish aggregate weight.
The first fish out of the bag was 44 pounds. Then master of ceremonies Jack Holmes got a look at the second fish. "Oh my Lord, this one is a stud," he exclaimed and the excitement started to build as the weigh master strained to lift it onto the scale. When the digital readout settled on 74.10 pounds the crowd went crazy. People cheered, camera flashes popped, pandemonium and disbelieve reigned. The McMullen's had just scaled the biggest kingfish ever weighed in the 19 year history of the SKA, smashed the heaviest two fish aggregate ever recorded with a combined weight of 118.13 lbs and broken the Mississippi state record by ten pounds to boot!
When you stop and think that the SKA has sanctioned about 1,000 tournaments, each with fields of hundreds of boats, in locations stretching from North Carolina to Texas and this fish was the biggest caught in literally hundreds of thousands of fishing hours devoted to doing nothing but catching the biggest kingfish possible, the scope of the achievement really comes into focus. This was a truly an historic catch.
Brant, Barrett and Rube McMullen are charter members of the SKA having fished their tournaments since 1990. They have campaigned on the elite Professional Kingfish Trail for over ten of those years and also host two of the tournaments in SKA Division 9 from their tackle shop and charter fishing facility, the Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. No team has fished harder or could be more deserving of the ultimate crown, winning the SKA Nationals Championship and catching the biggest kingfish in tournament history!