The Old Salt King of the Beach kingfish tournament is this weekend, and there are plenty of reasons to think itís going to take a fish in the 40-pound range to wear the crown. Last Sunday was the final leg of this yearís Wild West kingfish tournament series. The top eight finishers were all over 40 pounds, and the winner was a smokiní 52 pounds. Most all of the monster kings were reportedly caught well offshore, clear of the nagging Red Tide bloom that has hampered our nearshore waters for months. Some time ago the Old Salt implemented rules to level the playing field for entrants. A 30-mile offshore limit allows small boaters the chance to effectively compete with the big boys. With the amount of big fish caught over the past couple of weeks, it keeps hopes high that if you can find an area of untainted water holding a bit of bait, it could pay off. Catching, caging and keeping baits alive have at times have been a challenge. You need to keep an eye on them and have a backup plan. Nothing can raise blood pressure higher than arriving at your bait cage on tournament morning to find them all belly-up. As a safety net, consider some dead stuff. Ribbonfish or ballyhoo can be an effective bait. A deboned and properly rigged mackerel has fooled many a monster king. Even a box of frozen sardines can keep you in the game.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.