Smith reluctantly admits that such rewards bring out the greed in some men. More than once he has had to call an angler's bluff when a potentially winning catch turned out to be frozen. "Some of those fish were so cold on the inside, it stung your fingers," he says. As a precaution, he mans every weigh-in station with a state wildlife department marine biologist wielding a Torry Meter, a device that determines the freshness offish up to the hour.
Smith lives 200 miles inland and runs his tournaments out of a small renovated horse barn behind his Charlotte home. Memorabilia fill the walls, including photos of Smith with golfing heroes he's met—Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson. Two gold records, for Guitar Boogie and Dueling Banjos, also are on display. Smith sold his large studio a few years ago and now records in the barn, taping radio shows, commercials and songs. The new venue represents a change in Smith's life. In the last several years, he finds the fishing business has taken up more of his working hours.
The benefits of the Myrtle Beach tournament are sweeping. Not only do the hordes of fishermen aid the marine industry, but they also pump millions of dollars back into sluggish, tourist-dependent regions.
Curious about the impact of Smith's tournament, South Carolina conducted a survey and found that in 1983 the registered fishermen brought along a total of 9,958 friends, spouses and business associates. All told, the group spent $11,976,136. With South Carolina's 4% sales tax, the Arthur Smith King Mackerel Tournament was responsible for injecting the state's public school system with $479,045. Hilton Head's Heritage Golf Classic is the only other state event that comes close to rivaling the event in revenue surge.
That pleases the philanthropist in Smith. But what he likes more is the last day of each tournament, and the moment he takes the stage to duel with his musical instruments.