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Monday, September 18, 2000

AJ's Win Falls to Venice Marine - Tounament Win

Southern Kingfish Association
September 18, 2000

Destin, FL— Destin is dubbed as one of the top fishing destinations in the South, and despite rainy weather and tough fishing conditions during the weekend the reputation stood as such. The Venice Marine fishing team of Brent, Deborah, and Brandon Ballay, along with Jerry Franks and Kirk Lewellen emerged as the winners of the tournament with a 42.8 pound kingfish.
Newcomers to the SKA Mercury Tournament Trail, they fished over 120 miles from the scales to find their winner. “Everyone else ran the ditch,” according to team captain Brent Ballay, “while I think we were one of the only teams to head out the jetties.”
After running their OMC-powered HydraSports center console hard in the six foot seas, they finally arrived at their numbers by 10:30 in the morning. “We had only a couple sharks there,” Ballay reported, “so we picked up and ran to the nearest rig.” The kings quickly responded, with a double-header right off the bat, followed by a triple hookup once the baits had been redeployed. Their biggest fish of the day hit a jumbo hardtail down 50 feet on the downrigger at 1:10 PM. Deborah grabbed the rod and proceeded to angle the fish to the boat in just 15 minutes.
“We use about 10 pounds of drag on 30 pound test line in the Gulf, so it usually doesn’t take us very long to get them to the boat,” Ballay said. The team then made the long journey to the scales, and would remain in the lead for the remainder of the tournament. For their efforts, the team won not only the event’s top prize of $10,000 but a beautiful hand-carved kingfish trophy.
Neal Foster and the Intense team came to the scales near the end of the day on the first day of the tournament, after having made the same long run as most of the fleet with the tournament’s second place fish aboard their Yamaha-powered Contender. Unfortunately, the team weighed in right in the middle of an intense downpour (pardon the pun), so there wasn’t an opportunity for any photos to be taken of their fish.
“We ran a total of 370 miles today,” Foster reported, “all the way to Dauphin Island and then 55 miles offshore.” Foster said there was a hot bite in progress most of the day, as the team caught and released nearly 40 kingfish during the first day. Their kingfish hit a hardtail on the topline for Robbie Montgomery in 115 feet of water.
“He only fought the fish for about 10 minutes--we saw that he was hooked really well in the jaw, so he put the pressure to him,” said the happy captain. “I’d like to thank both Contender and Yamaha, though--the boat holds the fuel that gave us the range to fish that far from the dock, and the motors had the fuel economy and reliability to let us run. In fact, there were only a couple boats at the spot that weren’t Contenders. It’s just a great ride in the ocean.” The Intense’s 42.5 pounder would put them in second place overall, just three-tenths of a pound behind Venice Marine.
Third place in the tournament went to the Triple Action team of Mark McDonald, Chad Pierce and Jimmy Duke, fishing aboard a triple-Mercury powered Donzi 35. They were first to the scales on Day One with a very nice fish aboard. Their 40.9 pounder would eventually be dropped down to the tournament’s third spot after leading for a short while. “We only had about 5 or 10 gallons of fuel left in the tanks,” McDonald reported. “We ran hard and burned a lot of gas today!” The team ran 20 miles from Dauphin Island to 100 feet of water. At 10 AM, their number was called when their biggest fish of the day came calling. “We had a double on the flatlines, then about five minutes later the big boy hit deep,” Pierce reported. The big king proved to be a stubborn adversary, however, dogging deep and refusing to come to the surface.
The tournament’s fourth place finisher is certainly one of the most consistent teams in the upper Gulf--Mark Kennedy, his son Tyler, Steve Ennis, Max Williams and Jeff McKoy on the Kwazar. The team also elected to make the long run off Dauphin Island in their Contender to find the fish, coming to the scales shortly after the Intense and also in the rainstorm during Day One. Their fish weighed forty pounds even, earning Tyler yet another SKA First Place Junior Angler plaque for his efforts with the team during the day.
The Rag Tag, captained by Creighton Parker with Robert Merritt, Geoff Persell and Hal Hudson aboard, is usually one of the top boats at AJs. This year would be no exception as they rounded out the top five. They chose to run the ICW to Fort Morgan before heading out to the rigs in 100 feet of water. “We could barely keep the lines in, that’s how strong the bite was today,” Parker reported. Their biggest, a 39.8 pounder, hit a Better Baits ribbonfish that was being let out on the downrigger. “We were trying to put it down, and he just smoked it. Robert [Merritt] fought the fish for 15 minutes or so before we could boat him,” Parker said later. “We ran the boat extremely hard today in the ocean--I need to thank both Yamaha and Contender for making our day today. We had the range and fuel efficiency to find the fish and get back in time.”
The staff and volunteers at AJ’s deserve a hearty pat on the back for their hard work during the weekend. Gary Jennings from CCA-Florida pitched in as tournament weighmaster, and he did an outstanding job. Although the weather was not good, everyone enjoyed the weekend and all said they would return next year.

Final Standings
1. VENICE MARINA’S TEAM HYDRASPORT......................42.8
Brent Ballay
Deborah Ballay
Brandon Ballay
Jerry Franks
Kirk Lewellen

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