Kevin Sneed, a saltwater guide from Holden Beach, N.C., experienced a day of fishing with three partners that was more than just a little bit of good fortune.
Ever hear about luck turning on a dime?
That would explain what happened to Sneed’s team leading up to his first saltwater tournament win, which captured the largest prize ($127,755) ever awarded in a king mackerel tournament. Not only that, the Kingfish Cup at Ocracoke Island was Sneed and his team’s first king mackerel tournament victory.
But the Nov. 4 win came only after Sneed and his team battled man-made and other near-disasters before the tournament even started.
Sneed, the 38-year-old owner of Rigged&Ready Charters (910-448-3474), along with wife, Kim, plus fishing partners Jimmy Stubbs of Pittsboro, and Jody Gay of Hampstead, overcame by perseverance and the kindness of friends and strangers a series of mind-boggling bad breaks.
Sneed prepared well for the final event of the King Cup year-ender after placing high enough in four qualifying events to make the final 30-boat cut.
But almost immediately, the trip began to unravel as Sneed, his wife and their two dogs drove 176 miles from Holden to the Cedar Island Monday morning (Oct. 31) then crossed Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke Island by ferry.
“When we got ready to get off the ferry, my Dodge Ram’s DuraMax (V-8 diesel engine) wouldn’t start, so we’re stuck, apparently,” he said. “Of course we also knew we couldn’t launch our boat (until after the truck was repaired).”
After being towed by a stranger to the island’s boat ramp, Sneed called a golf-cart business and rented a buggy. The owner generously drove his own vehicle to the ramp and transported the Sneeds’ clothing, dogs and fishing equipment to their rental house.
The tourney was scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
But more near-disasters and adjustments followed:
* Sneed called Laurinburg’s Phil Hayes, who was bringing his boat Timber Sales, to Ocracoke and asked Hayes to bring a starter and two batteries for Sneed’s truck. It was repaired the next day.
* A Thursday night blustery cold front changed Friday and Saturday fishing days to a one-day, two-fish aggregate-weight Sunday tourney.
* Both a Rigged&Ready teammate and his replacement son decided (Saturday) not to fish, leaving only Sneed and his wife as anglers.
* A call to Pittsboro friend and barbeque king Jimmy Stubbs garnered one volunteer. Stubbs traveled 235 miles to reach the island).
* Still needing one more angler, Sneed convinced Jody Gay (Bluewater Candy saltwater tackle vendor) to leave Saturday at 4 p.m. and cover 140 miles. He arrived at the island at 11 p.m.
* The next morning at 3 a.m. nearly all live baits in Sneed’s menhaden pen were dead.
* Moored next to Sneed’s boat, King Carnivore Capt. Matt Wilkins of Bolivia, N.C., offered seven large mullets to add to the team’s few viable pogies and bluefish.
* Finally, Hayes volunteered his GPS numbers for past Ocracoke king haunts because Sneed never had fished the region.
“We turned south out of (Ocracoke) inlet at blast-off,” Sneed said, “to avoid the rough seas. Most everyone else went 20 miles north to the Smell Wreck. We followed Timber Sales and went 10 miles to Weezle Rock, had no luck, then called Billy Goss of the Wahooligans boat. He said to try Potlicker Rock.”
After a slow, two-mile trip north, a 33-pound king slammed Rigged&Ready’s first bait (on a top line). After four more hours, Sneed’s team had landed two smaller fish.
“By 2 p.m., our baits looked shot,” Sneed said. “They all had red fins.”
That’s when their luck, nearly gone, changed after a kiss.
“Jody (Gay) grabbed the biggest, liveliest mullet out of the back livewell, kissed it on the lips, put three hooks in it and named it ‘Elvira,’ ” Sneed said. “He dropped it over the side on a long line and said, ‘Go to work, Elvira.’ At 2:30 p.m., the reel started screamin’ and dumpin’ line.”
Sneed turned the boat to follow the fish as Stubbs and Kim cleared three remaining lines.
“Jody was on the rod and got it to the boat in eight minutes,” said Sneed, who turned the wheel over to Stubbs, gaffed the big king and swung it over the gunwale.
“It wasn’t that long, but it was chunky,” he said. “We guessed it at 50 pounds.”
Added to the 33-pounder, the 48.4-pound king gave Rigged&Ready a total weight of 81.4 pounds and the record top prize. The OIFC (Ocean Isle Fishing Center) team of Brant McMullan, Amy McMullan and Brayden McMullan finished second with 67 pounds (42 pounds big king) and earned $76,655. The Rasta Rocket boat with Zack Shackleton, Shane Britt, Daniel Blanks and Stanton McDuffie ended in third with a 34-pound lunker for 64 total pounds and won $25,740. The Breaking Bad team of Gary Pollard, Nesbit Noble and Austin Aycock took fourth with 58 total pounds (34-pound big king) to win $25,362.
The second-biggest king mackerel prize on record is Dieter Cardwell’s $107,464 Tide Line award, collected at the 2018 U.S. Open KMT fished during October out of Southport, N.C., after weighing a 37.20-pounds king.