Tournament Reports –Pleasure Island Team Surf Fishing Challenge
North Carolina surf fishing tournaments are full of strong competition, mostly from the veteran anglers who know the Carolina coasts’ sandbars and sloughs like the back of their sunburnt hands. It’s not uncommon to see the same names top the leaderboards year after year at any big surf fishing event, but at the 2019 Fisherman’s Post Pleasure Island Team Surf Fishing Challenge, the two teams that swept the competition in every division had only fished the tournament once before.
That wasn’t all that Fish It and Blue Bearings, the tournament’s winningest teams, had in common, though. Both fished just south of the Kure Beach Pier for almost the entirety of the tournament, and both ended up getting the same aggregate weight in the black drum division, with each of them catching exactly 7.50 lbs. worth of fish.
Since Blue Bearings weighed their fish in first, though, they took the first place prize in the division, relegating Fish It to second. Fish It, however, won the secondary Single Biggest Fish prize for the black drum division thanks to a 5.10 lb. catch.
Fish It also won both the primary and secondary prize for the red drum division with a 12.30 lb. aggregate weight and a big fish that weighed in at 6.40 lbs. They took the bluefish division with 8.00 lbs. worth of bluefish and a big fish that hit the scales at 2.70 lbs. In addition, they won the Team Aggregate TWT with 15.50 lbs. (beating second place It’s a Shore Thing by 4.6 lbs.), and took the Team Hall of Fame prize with 30.90 lbs. of fish. They earned $1,922.50 altogether in prize money.
While It’s a Shore Thing caught the biggest sea mullet at 2.00 lbs., it was again Blue Bearings who stomped the sea mullet division as a whole with a 5.10 lb. aggregate weight.
The team, comprised of Dustin Sanborn, brother Mason, and friends Jeff Sims and Eddie Butler, fished for eighteen hours straight before finally resting on Saturday night at 6:00 pm and returning Sunday morning at 4:00 am.
Aside from “putting in the time,” Dustin Sanborn says that Blue Bearings’ “primary source of success was our hand-tied rigs.” The team was fishing with a combination of shrimp, cut mullet, and sand fleas, and they caught a few bluefish and a 3.0 lb. pompano along with the three citation sea mullet (they caught 25 total) and three black drum that won them their divisions and a total of $800.
Their third black drum, the one that cinched Blue Bearings the victory, was actually very close to not being caught at all. Mason was reeling in their final fish while Dustin stood down at the edge of the surf itself and spotted for his brother. Just as the fish was coming out of the water, it popped off the hook, but Dustin didn’t hesitate.
“I reached down and grabbed him,” he explains, “and he spined me!” Sanborn’s whole palm was cut by the drum’s dorsal fin, but he didn’t loosen his grip until the fish was far out of range of the waves.
While Fish It’s victory didn’t result in any blood being drawn, it was far from easy. The team consisted of team captain Clifton Thomas, his mother Hollyn Watson, step-father Charlie Watson, and friend Manuel “Nicky” Cumbee.
“Me and Nicky had made up our minds that we were going to fish as much as we could fish,” says Thomas. “The two of us probably only slept three or four hours. We wanted to hit it and hit it hard.”
After fishing all day in the rain, Hollyn and Charlie Watson left the beach Saturday evening to get a good, dry night’s sleep back home in Rocky Point. But their return to Pleasure Island with bait and snacks on Sunday morning was integral to the team’s success and kept them going all the way until the end. Fish It caught two red drum, two black drum, and two bluefish total, with every single one of them falling for fresh shrimp on a double bottom rig. Each fish (with the exception of one of the blues) was also caught in the same hole, just a few hundred yards away from Blue Bearings.
While they were the only first place winners in the 2019 PI Team, Fish It and Blue Bearings weren’t the only ones to walk away with some cash.
Four Broke Fisherman took second in the red drum division with a 10.30 lb. aggregate, while It’s a Shore Thing came in third with 8.60 lb. total weigh in.
Team Fowler caught a bluefish aggregate of 6.30 lbs. to win second in the division, and 4 Amigos came in a close third with 6.10 lbs. total.
Shrieking Eels came after Fish It and Blue Bearings in the black drum division with 4.10 lbs.
In the sea mullet division, It’s a Shore Thing clinched second place with 3.20 lbs. of fish, while Green Team got their only leaderboard placement thanks to an identical 3.20 lb. aggregate weight.
In the Team Aggregate TWT, It’s a Shore Thing took second with 10.90 lbs. total, while Island Girl Outdoors won third thanks to their 8.50 lb. score.
So while they may have been tournament newbies before the 2019 PI Team, it will only be a matter of time before Fish It and Blue Bearings become tournament veterans themselves. With a sophomore showing like this, and their eyes on the many prizes at the Fisherman’s Post Topsail Spring Surf & Pier Fishing Challenge, anglers may soon have to get used to some new big names on North Carolina’s surf tournament leaderboards.