By 5 p.m. Nov. 5, 477 teams had lined up to weigh their kingfish catches for the Fall 2016 Old Salts King of the Beach out of Madeira Beach.
Kyle Applefield was one of those 477 with team Loaded Down. He fished with his wife, Jenny, and had been done fishing since 10:30 a.m. Instead of eagerly getting through the line, the Applefields let everyone in front of them to get a feel for what weights were hitting the scale. They had a big fish, but they weren’t quite sure if it was big enough.
“I thought it was going to take 60 pounds to win; that’s what we’ve been seeing recently,” Kyle Applefield said. “I heard of two other big fish. One was weighed in at 37 pounds and the other was also in the 30’s, so I thought we might have it.”
While the tournament was only a one-day event, it started much earlier in the week for the charter captain and commercial angler. Applefield spent nearly three days catching the “perfect bait” and penning it up to keep it alive for the tournament. On tournament morning, he arose before his life and fishing partner, went to gather his bait and saw there was a problem.
“Someone had raided our pen. We had bluefish, ladyfish, and other big baits. It was really good bait, better bait than anyone around. All they left us with was half-dead shad and ladyfish.”
Applefield gathered his emotions and did what he has done every spring and fall since he was 14, got ready to fish in the King of the Beach.
“Right off the bat after the first two baits hit the water we hook a fish and it gets off within 5-minutes. Another fish then skied on a shad and missed it, came back and missed it again. It was a big fish. It came back again, missed it, and then on the fourth pass it skies and lands with the bait in it’s mouth and I can tell it’s a 40 pounder.
“After burning drag on a long run, that fish came off. We were pretty down because fishing where we were in the mouth of Tampa Bay you don’t hook many fish. I was sick to my stomach and almost ready to give up.”
The duo continued fishing for another 2 hours before gaining a chance at redemption.
“We had a fish cut two lines then get hooked. When it got close and I saw it, I knew we probably weren’t going to catch a bigger one than that. I stuck it with a gaff, put it on ice and we went home. My wife went to the gym, and I took a nap.”
The scales bent for 476 other teams before team Loaded Down stepped up, the last team to do so. The number to beat was Team Who R You’s 37.96, and when the scales showed 44.70 the Applefields were stunned.
“It didn’t really sink it; it’s been a dream of mine,” the smiling Applefield said. “I’ve fished a lot of tournaments, and this one was above and beyond anything before.”
For the victory Kyle and Jenny took home $70,780 in winnings.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data