Tournament Reports –Pleasure Island Fall Surf Challenge
The annual Fisherman’s Post Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge gave anglers a chance on October 18-20 to test their surf fishing skills with a variety of ways to win big money. As southern NC’s largest surf fishing tournament, this year over 500 anglers entered to compete, despite a ominous weather forecast that started on Tuesday predicting Tropical Depression conditions moving through the area late Saturday.
This year’s anglers found the familiar format of a 36-hour round-the clock fishing event, with a leaderboard consisting of payouts for the heaviest bluefish, trout (gray or speckled), pompano, black drum, and sea mullet, plus a TWT for redfish.
However, one major difference between this year’s Surf Challenge and similar tournaments in the past was the absence of the flounder division. Instead of a replacement species, the tournament made the decision this year just to eliminate the flounder division and push the flounder payout money into the other five divisions.
The champion of the bluefish division was Randy Marks who weighed in a gorgeous 5.5 lb. blue, winning him over $2000 in prize money. Marks caught the fish on a shrimp down at the south end of the Fort Fisher beach on Saturday morning around 9:00 am. Marks began fishing the tournament with cut popeyed mullet, but the mullet didn’t produce anything. He switched to using shrimp, and with shrimp as bait he caught an over-slot (32.5”) red drum and a handful of juvenile blues, along with his trophy fish.
Andrew Bullard was the bluefish runner-up with a 4.0 lb. blue.
The trout division was dominated by the 7-year-old Ian Culp, who fished the tournament alongside his father Edmond Culp. On Sunday morning the duo began fishing at 8:00 am by wading off the beach at Fort Fisher. Using Fishbites bloodworms as bait, the first fish they reeled in was the breadwinner, a clean 2.5 lb. trout. About ten minutes later, they pulled up another big trout, which surprised them, as trout are usually more difficult to catch in that area.
“In years of fishing this spot, I’ve never caught big ones,” stated E. Culp. A lucky day for father and son as they took home the $2,000+ payout and first place plaque.
The second place trout weighed 2.3 lbs. and was caught by Hillman Bass.
The heaviest sea mullet brought to the scales came from Bobby Summey and weighed 1.8 lbs. Summey, a native to Oak Island who has fished this tournament three years now and has placed two out of three times, was fishing two-drop bottom rigs that he tied himself. Staying around Carolina Beach, his winning fish hit hard on Saturday around noontime, before the weather conditions worsened. He was fishing with both sand fleas and live shrimp and found both to be successful.
Summey went home with the $1,000+ sea mullet payout. In second place was William Marion with a 1.7 lb. sea mullet.
The largest pompano weighed in at 4.0 lbs. and was caught by Robert Carter, who was also awarded $1,000+ for his catch. Kenneth Savage was the second place finisher in this division with a 2.9 lb. pompano.
The heaviest black drum brought to the scales was a 7.9 lb. fish caught by Shannon Bunton who took home a payout of just over $2,000. The runner up was Robert Buehler with a 5.0 lb. drum.
The optional but popular Red Drum TWT awarded anglers who brought to the scales the heaviest slot redfish (18-27”). The top three winners for this year’s Red Drum TWT were Zac Gooch in first place with his 7.4 lb. drum, Emma Walker in second with a 6.9 pounder, and Bill Nance in third with a red drum weighing in at 6.5 pounds. Gooch’s top red drum was worth over $4000 in prize money.
The junior angler champion was Kobe Windsor with a 2.8 lb. bluefish, the top lady angler was Mandi Waddell with a 2.7 lb. bluefish, and the senior angler title went to R. Buehler with a 5.0 lb. black drum.
New this year was the Havana’s Restaurant Junior Angler prizes. Thanks to the support of Havana’s Restaurant, every junior angler at the Awards Ceremony that weighed in a fish received a tournament t-shirt and recognition in front of the hundreds in attendance.
The next Fisherman’s Post Surf Fishing Challenge is the Topsail Fall Surf & Pier Fishing Challenge on November 1-3, 2019.
A more complete leaderboard for the Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, as well as information on the upcoming Topsail Surf & Pier event, can be found at www.FishermansPost.com.