The Fisherman’s Post Topsail Island Surf & Pier Fishing Challenge was a huge success this year, with 207 total anglers fishing in the event. This yearly event showcases Topsail’s many miles of beachfront and three iconic fishing piers, a perfect setting for both pier and surf anglers.
With two divisions and separate leaderboards, the 47 pier anglers only competed against other pier anglers, and the 160 surf anglers only competed against other surf anglers.
This year’s schedule of events mimicked that of years past, with a 36-hour, round-the-clock open fishing time from Friday night (Nov. 1) at midnight to Sunday (Nov. 3) at noon. As a result of this year’s flounder fishery closure, the leaderboards had to be modified. For the Pier leaderboard, the event substituted slot red drum, and for the Surf leaderboard, flounder was replaced with a trout (both speckled and gray) category.
Winning the Pier Sea Mullet category was Debbie Norman, from Morganton, NC. As a frequent visitor to the Jolly Roger Pier, Norman decided to enter the tournament on a whim as she would be fishing in the area at the time anyways. With a fresh shrimp at the end of her line, her 1.5 lb. winning sea mullet struck hard around 6:00 a.m.
“After so many years of fishing, you know it’s a bite when it hits. It’s a no brainer,” she said. Norman also placed third in the Pier Bluefish category, adding to her winnings.
Weighing in first place for the Pier Red Drum division was R. Pinion, who has entered Fisherman’s Post events for the past couple of years. Pinion had a slow start to the tournament, fishing through miserably cold weather with a slow bite. Luckily, the action picked up as the tournament rolled on, leading to his winning redfish catch, a 5.7 pounder that fell for a live finger mullet off of Seaview Pier early on Sunday morning.
Zack Hubbard, who won first place in the Pier Bluefish Category with his 2.1 lb. blue, stayed busy this year. Throughout the duration of the tournament, lots of fish took his bait, including a big one early on. Fishing off Jolly Roger Pier and using blue and white Gotcha plugs, Hubbard’s winning catch struck his line shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.
He successfully reeled it up, and then remembered, “I just had to worry for the next 20 hours.” Hubbard also was at the top of the Trout TWT for most of the tournament, but he lost it to M. Eller later in the weekend.
The trout, which he had been aiming for, were not biting at all. Sholar, like many other anglers in this year’s tournament, found there to be interference with anglers drawn to the area for an off-and-on spot run. Unable to get to his usual fishing spots, Sholar settled for uncrowded areas of the pier, aiding in his misfortune until Sunday morning when the spot anglers cleared out.
The Pier Trout TWT’s top finish went to Mark Eller, from Wilksboro, NC, for his 2.3 lb. speck. As a first time angler in the tournament, he stuck to Jolly Roger Pier to search out his trout. Starting early on Saturday morning, he fished through to Sunday morning. His winning bite took off with his Carolina-rigged live mullet around 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and put up a decent fight. “No hang-ups, it just worked up perfect,” Eller disclosed. His buddy who fished with him, Josh Sheets, placed third in the Pier Trout TWT.
In the Surf division, the heaviest bluefish was caught by J. Wilcox, who was fishing the Challenge for the first time this year. With an 8-month-old back home in Hampstead, he fished on and off throughout the duration of the tournament. His prize-winning catch found his hook around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
On his last cast of the day before packing up to head home, Wilcox was using up the dregs of a half bitten finger mullet for bait. Not expecting to catch anything worthwhile, he surprisingly reeled in his 2.8 lb. bluefish and took home the first place plaque.
The Trout winner this year was W. Green Jr. with his 2.5 lb. fish. Kelly Boughton took home the Black Drum plaque with his 2.0 pounder. L. Wiggins won first place for Surf Sea Mullet this year with a 2.1 lb. fish, and the Surf Red Drum TWT was won by V. Almaguer, with his 7.6 lb. drum, the largest fish brought in by any tournament angler.
The Special Prizes were a combined competition, with both pier and surf anglers vying together for the Junior, Senior, and Lady Angler titles. Emmerson Timbers won the Junior Angler award with his 1.9 lb. bluefish, Susan Coe took home the prize for Lady Angler with a 2.4 lb. bluefish, and Mike Davis left with the title of Senior Angler with his 1.8 lb. bluefish.
For a more complete leaderboard, as well as information on the spring version of this event scheduled for May 1-3, 2020, you can visit www.FishermansPost.com.