Fish Post

Topsail Inshore Challenge

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Ray Fowler with the 6.96 lb. flounder that won him the Topsail Inshore Challenge. The big flatfish bit a live finger mullet at a drop-off in Snows Cut.

Ray Fowler with the 6.96 lb. flounder that won him the Topsail Inshore Challenge. The big flatfish bit a live finger mullet at a drop-off in Snows Cut.

“I found that spot about a month ago,” Wilmington’s Ray Fowler said, “and I caught a couple nice fish. It made me want to stay there all day in the tournament.”

Fowler’s sedentary strategy worked beautifully, leading him to the 6.96 lb. flounder that dispatched the competition in the second annual Fisherman’s Post Topsail Inshore Challenge, held August 23-24 out of Surf City’s East Coast Sports and Sears Landing.

After being unable to fish from when he found the spot until tournament day due to work and the rain that dogged the area for the last month, Fowler set out early on the morning of the event to make sure he got to his spot before anyone else. Fishing solo aboard an 18’ Duracraft jon boat, he had an easy time baiting up.

“I went out at 3:00 am,” Fowler continued, “to catch bait. I got it faster than I thought I would, and I was ready to go by 5:00. I just sat there for an hour waiting.”

After catching a livewell full of finger mullet in a creek off the Carolina Beach boat basin, Fowler motored the short distance to his hole, a small point towards the west end of Snows Cut with a sharp drop-off that put his boat in 19’ of water.

Once he began fishing at 6:00 that morning, Fowler caught several quality flounder in the 3-4 lb. range, but a fish that missed the hook wouldn’t leave his mind.

“I had a bite early on,” he explained. “And I picked it up a little bit and I knew it was a big fish, but he let it go.”

The drama played out several more times over the course of the morning.

“He bit again 45 minutes later,” Fowler continued, “and I knew it was the same fish. There was a sharp drop-off there, and he’d bite as soon as I dragged a bait over it. I kept changing baits and dropping back in the same spot.”

The fish returned a short time later, biting and dropping baits several more times until it finally found Fowler’s hook at 11:30 that morning as the tide neared high.

With the fish finally hooked, Fowler still had to get it into the boat.

“He came up pretty easy till he saw me,” the angler reported. “Then he tried to go under the boat and back toward the motor. I pulled him up hard because I know there’s a lot of structure there, and I didn’t want it to get back to the bottom and cut me off.”

After a few tense moments around the boat, the angler finally slid a net under the big flatfish and pulled it aboard.

“That had to be the same fish,” Fowler said. “I stopped fishing a little while after that—I was exhausted.”

Capts. Jason Dail and Brent Stanley--Team "Silverspoon"--with a 17.5" flounder and the 6.86 lb. red drum that earned them the top spot in the red drum TWT at the Topsail Inshore Challenge. Stanley caught the red on a Rapala Skitterwalk topwater on a flat in the New River.

Capts. Jason Dail and Brent Stanley–Team “Silverspoon”–with a 17.5″ flounder and the 6.86 lb. red drum that earned them the top spot in the red drum TWT at the Topsail Inshore Challenge. Stanley caught the red on a Rapala Skitterwalk topwater on a flat in the New River.

With the near-7 lb. fish in the boat, Fowler decided to go ahead and close some of the considerable distance between him and the scales.

“I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time,” he explained, “so I rode up to Topsail and messed around at some spots I fished over the winter up there.”

After finding nothing that could rival his Snows Cut fish, Fowler headed for the scales a bit early and was the first boat to weigh in. His 6.96 lb. fish took the top spot on the leaderboard and in the event’s two flounder TWT’s, and he never surrendered the lead.

Fred Davis and daughters Bethany Arnold and Leah Inscore earned second place on the main leaderboard and TWT’s with a 4.98 lb. flatfish. Dewayne Kirby’s 3.88 lb. flounder secured third for the “She’s Mad” crew.

Scaling a 6.86 lb. red drum to earn first place in the Red Drum TWT were Capt. Jason Dail, of Silverspoon Charters, and fishing partner Capt. Brent Stanley.

Their occupations as charter captains led to plenty of pre-fishing opportunities for the “Silverspoon” duo, and they located a school of drum up the New River to return to on tournament day.

“I found some fish last weekend on a flat up there,” Dail explained, “and we went back there early that morning.”

The reds proved cooperative, readily striking topwater plugs, but the anglers quickly decided they needed to move on.

“Most of those fish were over-slot,” Dail continued, “so we went to another spot I’d fished a week or so back.”

Once they arrived, they located another school of reds on a second flat in the New River, and it didn’t take long to put the fish they wanted in the boat.

“Brent came tight on it on a topwater at 9:30,” Dail said. “I figured that was the best upper-slot fish we were going to get and figured we should call it quits and go look for a flounder. Brent wanted to stay and keep playing with the reds.”

The flounder search proved unsuccessful, but the “Silverspoon” red easily slid past the competition and topped the TWT.

Addison Tokoly and the “Just One More” crew took second place in the Red Drum TWT with a 4.87 lb. drum, and Adam Meyer and “Total Liability” earned third with a 4.02 lb. fish.

More information on the Topsail Inshore Challenge and the Fisherman’s Post Inshore Tournament Trail can be found at fishermanspost.com.