The national championship events for the FLW and SKA pro fishing leagues recently took place, with two Richmond Hill teams faring well at each.
Both leagues ran their championship fishing tournaments within two weeks of each other out of Biloxi, Miss.
Double Gobble, made up of Richmond Hill residents Ellis Phillips, Mark Gerrald, Steve Miller, Rodney Rogers and Michael Hodges, finished 29th in the FLW tourney. Just Fishin, made up of Richmond Hill residents Lee Southland, Rocky Mallard, Tracy Shaw and Mike McGauhey, placed 12th in the national SKA championship.
The event also garnered $1,900 in cash and prizes and secured Just Fishin as the Southern Kingfish Association overall series divisional champs for Georgia Class 23-foot-and-under boats. They are currently ranked 15th in the world for the 23-foot division. The SKA has 12 divisions that stretch from North Carolina to Texas. They are the first ever pro fishing division champs to hail from Bryan County.
Just Fishin fisherman Southland said the team formed several years ago, stemming back to being members of the Fort McAllister Fishing Club.
"In the past ten years, we’ve finished in the top 15 every year but one," Southland said. "It’s expensive, but a lot of fun. This past year marks the first year that our prize money has been enough to pay for our expenses. It runs about $2,000 an event."
Southland said Just Fishin will be back at it this coming season. This includes five tournaments, starting in May, throughout the state. They recently created a website (www.teamjustfishn.com) as part of an effort to gain McKee Craft Boats as a national sponsor.
"I just bought a new boat and we’re going to try to do it again," he said. "Our goal is to win the nationals this time."
When the Just Fishin team isn’t out at sea, Southland is a college professor in Brunswick, Mallard sells cars at Coastal Chevrolet, Shaw is a builder, and McGauhey is a regional manager for Haverty’s.
Meanwhile, Double Gobble's adventures are being chronicled by the FSN network. The national event was broadcast to 29 countries with a million dollar purse on the line.
A 26-pound mackerel garnered the team $3,200 and a top 30 finish in Biloxi. Combined with two top 10 and one top five finishes earlier that season gives them a 19th place national ranking for the season.
As team captain Phillips looks toward the next season, starting in May, he said the roster may change. Many of his current teammates, who are in the home building business, will not return to the circuit due to the expenses involved in relation to the decline in the business. Double Gobble will continue on though, Phillips said the team will soon welcome Richmond Hill resident and Savannah chiropractor Dr. Bart Worthington along with his dad.
Phillips said he is excited about the new season. Their previous national sponsor Johnson & Johnson will continue backing the team. Phillips said there are only eight pro teams with big sponsors and it took him 15 years to get them. "It’s very hard to get sponsored, and I’m tickled to death that they’ll be behind us again next season," he said.