The Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament is one of these tournaments taking place in July every year and is headquartered at Sister’s Creek on the Northside of Jacksonville. We got the scoop from Tournament Chairman, Steve Thompson, on everything “kingfish” before this year’s tournament.
Tell us about the Kingfish Tournament and its history.
Steve: This is the 37th year of the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament (GJKT), which was first put together by some of the movers and shakers of the marine industry and fishing clubs to get people out fishing for prize money….and kingfish. Kingfish, being the “bread and butter” of the charter and commercial fleet, was the most likely suspect to fish for. One of the pioneers of the tournament, Pete Loftin had fished in the Arthur Smith Kingfish tournament in South Carolina (considered one of the largest and first Kingfish tournaments anywhere). Those movers and shakers said, “why not Jacksonville?”....and so it was.
And since back in those days there were only a few tournaments, Jacksonville became THE TOURNAMENT to fish. Even today, the GJKT is one tournament that very few true kingfishermen will miss.
Why should someone consider coming to Jacksonville for the tournament?
Steve: Simply put, the prize money up for grabs. There are very few tournaments that offer up a prize valued at over $85,000. But secondly, Jacksonville is a great location to have a tournament of this magnitude. First, it takes place in the summertime, when the annual migration of the Atlantic stock of kings are off our coast. This alone is intriguing, in that almost any size vessel has a chance - and has won - this tournament. Second, the weather is calm and fishable and the fish love our beaches.
As far as a destination to visit, Jacksonville has it all for the touring kingfishing family. Great beaches, fantastic state parks, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, and hundreds of restaurants from the quaint to upscale eating establishments. Amelia Island is just to our North on A1A and the oldest city, St Augustine, is just 30 minutes to our south.
There is no shortage of things to do in Jacksonville!
What would you say are the most unique things someone should know about fishing in the Kingfish Tournament? In Jacksonville?
Steve: What’s most unique is that you will see all sizes of boats, from the 16-foot bow-rider, to giant center consoles up to 35 feet with triple and quad motors pushing them across the waves at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. These boats can travel great distances, with visions of grandeur dancing in their heads. Where on the flip side of the coin, guys like myself can fish in a single engine Panga, less than 10 miles from the inlet and have just as good a chance of catching a tournament winning kingfish as the big boat counterpart.
But our tournament has adapted with the times, and knowing the great divide in the sizes of boats, we instituted a single engine class of boat, who are still eligible to win the big prize, but are also fishing for the single engine money if they don’t make the overall board.
We have also added a ladies’ division, that will honor the top 10 ladies fishing the tournament.
What did you wish everyone knew about the tournament that isn’t common knowledge?
Steve: I think most people’s perception of is the GJKT is this money-making machine, but what I want them to know, which is not common knowledge, is that this whole tournament is run by volunteers. We have only one paid employee who works year-round doing administrative work. For most it’s just a labor of love, and a great sacrifice to put on a great tournament.
Why is Sisters Creek the home of your tournament?
Steve: Sisters Creek is the best centrally located place and most logical to hold a tournament of this size. We are at the confluence of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and St Johns River, just minutes from the ocean. Sure other places could hold the weigh in….but not the festival….nor the parking. That is the reason that the GJKT and the Jacksonville Marine Charities has invested so much time and resources to this park. It is really a good location.
The Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament will be held July 15-20, 2019. For a complete tournament schedule and information on registering visit www.kingfishtournament.com/. We will see you on the water in July!