Fish Post

Tournament Reports – The Inshore Trail

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The Inshore Trail Championship was held on Sunday, September 15, the day after the Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge, the last of five qualifying events. The top ten boats from the regular season (heaviest aggregate weight of the three heaviest red drum weighed in over the course of the five events) qualified for the invite-only Championship, and the winners of the one-day event were based on a team’s single heaviest red drum.

Pete Donat, Luke Donat, and John King with the winning redfish in the 2019 Inshore Trail Championship. The 7.60 lb. red drum was caught in the Cape Fear River on a Carolina-rigged mullet and bested the invite-only field of the top ten boats from the season.

Team Spot On Charters, comprised of Luke Donat, Pete Donat, and John King, took the top honors in the Championship with a 7.60 lb. red drum.

The trio had fished together in all five events, and while they steadily put together a top ten aggregate over the course of the season, the team never found themselves on the leaderboard until the last event, the Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge.

“We always finished either one or two places off the leaderboard,” said L. Donat. “Going into the next to last event we were in second place. Then we dropped to fourth after the Southport event but were less than a pound off of the lead. We knew that if we could just cull one or two fish in Carolina Beach, then we would be good.”

Sam Daughtry, of Team Parker, with the second place red drum in the Inshore Trail Championship. The fish weighed 7.12 lbs.

“We ended the season in fourth place, and we were happy with that, but we were really happy just to be a part of the shootout,” explained L. Donat on their place in the Championship.

After a strong finish in the Carolina Beach event on Saturday, the team knew they wanted to target most of the same waters on Sunday.

“We knew where some fat fish were, but we knew it was going to be a grind all day, and we knew our bite was going to happen late in the afternoon in the lower tide,” L. Donat continued.

The team caught two fish during the course of the day. Both fish were a little over 25”, but they were heavy, estimated at mid-6 lb. fish. Then the day took a fortuitous turn right at the end.

“Literally five minutes before we had to leave for the scales,” remembered L. Donat, “we hooked into a 26.25-inch red, and she wound up being that 7.6 fish. It was a solid fish. I knew it was going to be in the 7’s, but I didn’t know it would go 7.6 lbs.”

The team had targeted an area in the Cape Fear River north of Snows Cut, and not only did they like the bite but they also liked the quality of fish.

“There’s a lot of biomass up there for them to feed on, such as shrimp, crabs, mullet, and pogies,” L. Donat continued. “There’s a lot less competition for them, so especially at the end of the year, not only are they pretty but they’re fat. The fish are dark red, tails are bright blue, and they weigh heavy.”

The team’s action that day came on the outgoing tide. It was a day of slow moving current in the river. Trying to find current was difficult for most of the day, but finally towards the end of the day, the current started to actually fall. The team landed all of their fish anchored up and Carolina rigging mullet in 2-4’ of water.

In second place was Team Parker with a 7.12 lb. red drum, and third place went to Lunar Low with a 6.45 lb. red.

For a more complete leaderboard on the Championship, as well as the regular season final results, you can visit

The Inshore Tournament Trail will return again in 2020, with the first qualifying event hosted in Ocean Isle in early June. Due to the flounder closure, the 2020 Trail will be modified to focus entirely on red drum (but there will still be a couple of qualifying events that offer a Flounder Division leaderboard and TWTs).