We’ve got special love for September. It’s not because the kids are back in school, or because hunting seasons are underway or just around the corner. The month, in its chaos of hurricanes and meetings, fishing trips and haul-outs, marks something special to the Governor’s Cup. It’s the time to celebrate.
And, with that, following review from the Gov Cup’s Advisory Board of Directors, we are thrilled to officially announce that the Jackpot of Wilmington, North Carolina, a 63-foot Ricky Scarborough, is the winner of the 2019 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series!!! Congratulations to owner Mr. Joe McKinney, his son Jackson McKinney, Captain Sean Dooley, mate Thomas “Smalls” Garmany, mate Watson Brown, and everyone else who fished aboard the Jackpot this season!!
The Jackpot crew fought hard for this win, accumulating release points under difficult fishing conditions throughout the summer. Although they didn’t win any legs in the Series, they took second place in two and earned points in others. The Jackpot managed to maintain something that is extremely difficult in sport fishing — consistency. To do that, it’s critical to have a crew that operates as a team.
“I have the best crew you can ask for, because we are all really good friends,” said Captain Sean Dooley. “Jackson and his buddies all grew up together fishing and hunting around Wrightsville Beach. Some had more fishing experience than others, but they are all now very good fishermen and I would take them anywhere in the world.” The feeling appears to be mutual. Jackson McKinney said, “Captain Sean Dooley is awesome! I look up to him as an older brother.” That family vibe is nearly tangible when you spend time with the Jackpot boys. They’re funny, driven, and skilled, and they always have a good time together, whether offshore or dockside.
For Captain Sean Dooley, the Series win is special for a number of reasons. “Working for the McKinneys has been a great experience. They gave me an opportunity to be a boat captain and I will always be grateful for that,” he said. Captain Dooley’s job aboard the Jackpot is his first as a captain, and he’s certainly left an impression on Charleston’s sport fishing community since taking the helm. Over the last four years, he’s consistently found the fish, racking up blue marlin and sailfish releases season after season. And, it turns out, he’s also a great leader.
“Working for Captain Sean Dooley has truly been an honorable experience,” explained Garmany. “The way he keeps a boat is top notch, whether it’s mechanical or appearance. Working for him as a mate has also been truly enjoyable because he is always able to put us on the fish.” It wasn’t until the 2019 Series when Captain Dooley’s consistency on the fish and leadership from the bridge led to a Series win. As a relatively newly minted captain, it’s a rewarding victory for him and the Jackpot team. He said, “To catch the most out of this group of great fishermen that we have fishing the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series is a huge accomplishment and shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
A Series win like this doesn’t come about without considerable expertise in the cockpit. And there is no shortage of skill in mate Thomas Garmany. A highly sought-after and decorated fisherman from Charleston, Garmany is goofy, charismatic, hardworking, and an expert angler. He happens to be a great coach too. McKinney said, “Thomas is the man with the plan in the pit, and is an awesome person to learn more from each and every day we go fishing.” When speaking of McKinney and his steadfast friends, Lambert Long and Harris Shaw, Captain Dooley said, “Their progression as fishermen really took a giant step when Thomas started fishing with us. They all have done a great job of listening to him and following his instruction. A couple of years fishing with Thomas has done them a lot of good.”
All of this new talent, combined with the profound skills mate Watson Brown brings to the table, added up to a nicely stacked deck for the Jackpot, further securing the chances for a 2019 win. McKinney said, “This summer was much different than last summer — everything was clicking for us as a team, whereas last summer we had a lot of close calls. This season we executed and I couldn’t be more thankful!”
Although Jackson McKinney has learned a lot from Captain Sean Dooley and Thomas Garmany over the years, he’s no stranger to the Gulfstream. He first ventured offshore when he was 10 years old, and it didn’t take long for him to get hooked on gamefish. He always enjoyed hunting and freshwater fishing among family and friends, but McKinney found that the pursuit of billfish offered something different. He said, “I enjoy the camaraderie of the sport as a whole and the competition between friends in tournaments. Besides, who doesn’t love a blue marlin teaser bite?” With camaraderie and competition in mind, McKinney and team fished — and fished well. That especially came to light toward the end of the season.
Going into the final leg of the Series, the battle for first place in the Gov Cup remained tight. The Jackpot was in third place, and to capture the overall win, they’d have to out-perform both the Home Run and the Blue Sky. And, as if that wasn’t challenging enough, they’d have to do it from another boat. The Scarborough had sold earlier that month, leaving the team of hopefuls boat-less as the days waned ahead of the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament. Fortunately, the team was able to use the Haint Blue to finish the Series.
The final tournament turned out to be quite memorable for the Jackpot team. Their strategy for the last leg? “Don’t miss!” exclaimed McKinney. It turns out, they didn’t. In those final days of competition, Captain Dooley again put his crew on the fish, releasing 1 blue marlin and 6 sailfish. As lines came out of the water on the last day of fishing in the 2019 season, the Jackpot crew learned they had unofficially captured the win of the Series. McKinney recalled that moment, “I was very excited when I found out we won, especially for Sean and Thomas. I know Thomas is trying to catch his father in Series wins, and Sean deserved the win for all the hard work he puts in!” With 3 blue marlin releases and 11 sailfish releases, the team earned an overall total of 4075 points, a thousand points more than the next-highest-scoring boat.
As this year’s highest scoring team in the fleet, the Jackpot name will forever be etched into the Gov Cup’s Perpetual Trophy, an eternal reminder of their successes in 2019. But, there’s more to this win than awards.
“It’s not even necessarily getting your name stamped on the trophy,” McKinney explained. “The Gov Cup’s boats and anglers are a really good and serious group of fishermen who don’t play around. Just knowing that we surpassed everybody in points this year is definitely something to be proud of!”
Garmany shares in that pride. He said, “Winning the Gov Cup doesn’t come with a big check, but I thoroughly enjoy coming to my hometown and fishing the tournaments. I think everyone involved in making all the tournaments happen does a great job as well. Lastly, the competitors that you fish against are some of the best fishermen in the world, in my opinion.” Individual tournaments award cash prizes, but winners of the Series don’t go home with any additional earnings. However, as noted by these members, taking the top prize in the Series isn’t about money. It’s about family, team work, dedication, consistency, and a solid year’s worth of bragging rights.
So what’s next for this award winning crew? First, they’ll meet us in Charleston at the end of the month for the 2019 Awards Reception to be hosted at Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing, where we’ll toast, then eat, then toast again to the Jackpot and the rest of this year’s winners and participants. But after all the celebrations wrap up, we can expect to see the team back on the water aboard a new build. McKinney said, “Next for us is a new boat to compete on next summer! We just let our rig go, and I hate to see her go, but there are bigger and better things in the Jackpot crew’s future!”
We look forward to seeing what’s next for this talented crew! We hope we’ll seem them again in 2020.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series — Sean, Jackson, Thomas, Watson, Lambert, Harris, Mr. Joe, and everyone else who fished aboard the Jackpot this year! You earned this!
The Teaser is a series dedicated to showcasing the stories of the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series and its lively community. The Gov Cup was created several decades ago to encourage the conservation of ocean resources through the tagging and release of billfish. Learn more here.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.