SOUTHPORT — Terry Efird knew when he hauled in a big king mackerel on Saturday there was a chance it would place in the top five of the 2016 U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament off the shore of Southport and Oak Island.
And when the fish weighed in at 40.2 pounds, Efird adjusted his thinking.
“I was even more sure the fish would be a top five,” Efird said. “I didn’t think it could get us a first-place finish, but I was hopeful it would be top three.”
Later in the day, after all the weigh-ins were completed, Efird was summoned for a polygraph test.
“I knew when they called for the lie-detector test that we might have won,” Efird said. “It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Efird, who is a Parkton native now living in Supply, and his fishing partner that day, Rusty Locklear of Lumberton, went through all the post-tournament protocols and were declared the overall winner — and awarded the $25,000 Largest King Mackerel first-place prize, along with a $17,510 check for first place in the King Tournament Within a Tournament category.
The winning fish was 1.5 pounds ahead of second place from among the 464 boats.
“I’m just overwhelmed with what happened,” Efird said. “It’s easily the biggest king mackerel tournament of the year, a very hard tournament to win.”
Making Efird’s win even more impressive is that it’s the first time he’s competed in the tournament in about nine years.
“I don’t know what made me want to go back, but I just decided to go try it again,” Efird said.
On top of that, Efird was captaining his father’s boat, the Screaming Reels, and fishing with a first-time partner.
“Normally I’d be fishing with my dad, but he was recovering from surgery and couldn’t go,” Efird said. “I’d say fishing with Rusty for the first time was a success — he might have been my good-luck charm.”
Efird added that he’s sure he’ll be fishing the 2017 tournament — and beyond.
“Oh yes, and Rusty will probably be with me,” he said.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.