Tournament Reports – Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge
Fisherman’s Post hosted its annual Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, an event that offers a variety of ways for local anglers to win cash and prizes and also serves as the kickoff event for the Inshore Tournament Trail, on May 29-30 at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. The event’s leaderboard this year awarded both the top 8 heaviest red drum and the top eight heaviest speckled trout, as well as three separate TWTs for red drum, trout, and “trash fish” (oyster toad and/or lizardfish).
Though modifications had to be made for this event to be able to happen due to COVID-19, such as the Captains’ Meeting beforehand and the Awards Ceremony afterward were both held via Facebook Live and Zoom to avoid social grouping, the event attracted over 40 boats to fish. This number of boats was even more impressive given the other complications, such as a deluge of rain the week before and a horrible weather forecast both on Friday’s registration and Saturday’s one day of fishing.
Taking home first place for the largest drum of the day was Mason Porter, his brother Richard Porter, and cousins Aaron and George Bryan, all of Team Marine Warehouse Center. The team launched from the Fort Fisher boat ramp and had a slow start to the day, pulling in only a few under-slot reds.
Finally, around 1:30 pm in 2-3’ of water near an oyster rock and fishing with minnows on the bottom and pogies under popping corks, M. Porter hooked a redfish that was just under 27” (the acceptable size for keeper red drum in NC is between 18-27”).
M. Porter, who works at Marine Warehouse Center and also runs Grand Slam Inshore Fishing Charters in Wrightsville Beach, says, “That fish couldn’t have been any longer. We’ve struggled to win, and finally we won one.” His fish weighed in at 7.61 lbs. and earned the team their first place win.
The 7.01-pound, 26-inch drum landing in second place was reeled up by Tim Fowler with the help of his brother Barry Fowler, son Cole Fowler, and their neighbor. The team used mullet minnows as live bait, which T. Fowler states were “hard to get and we were hunting hard for them.” Throughout the day, they caught about fifteen reds that were too small to keep, as well as 28” and 32” fish that were too large. After lunchtime, though, while covering some shallow water, their one keeper red drum of the day found Fowler’s minnow and brought home second place in the drum category for the team.
The jewel of the day, however, was reeled in by Brandon Sauls when he pulled up a citation trout weighing in at a whopping 6.95 lbs. Sauls was joined, as he usually is, with his brother Clay Morphis, and they fished as Team BoneCrusher.
The duo fished along the jetties using live shrimp under floating corks, and throughout the windier morning hours had only caught about eight trout altogether, none bigger than three pounds. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that Sauls flipped out a shrimp and let it drift no more than ten feet before it was hit hard by what would be the team’s winning fish.
The trout ran from the rocks to the boat, around the motor, and then shot back to the rocks. Sauls, thinking it was a bluefish by its behavior, was pleasantly surprised to see a monster trout coming to the surface. He says, “I yelled to Clay, ‘It’s a big trout! Get the net, man!’ We were man-hugging and high fiving even though that’s against the coronavirus rules.” The big fish won the team first place in the trout category and an official state citation.
The second place trout was caught by Trevor Snyder, from Southport, with the help of his “Gator Tough” teammates Michael Endicott and Jacob Danhorn. Their 3.87-pound trout ate a live pogie on Snyder’s Carolina rig, the team’s favorite setup to fish with, while working the back creeks near Bald Head Island.
On the Inshore Tournament Trail, the top three boats that enjoyed early payouts included Team Marine Warehouse in first (7.61 points), Team Fowler in second (7.01 points), and Team Kook Tacos in third place (6.60 points). The Inshore Trail boats head to Topsail where up to two red drum can qualify for Inshore Tournament Trail points. The Trail boats are competing to be one of the top ten boats at the end of five events, as the top ten boats qualify for the invite-only Trail Chamionship.
More information on the Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, including a complete leaderboard, can be found by visiting www.fishermanspost.com or following Fisherman’s Post on Facebook.
Other Fisherman’s Post events that are coming up are the Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge on July 24-25 (one red drum leaderboard) and the Southport Inshore Challenge on August 21-22 (one red drum and one flounder leaderboard).