WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH–It was a great match-up last year, and it’s even better this year.
On Friday and Saturday (June 21-22), Fisherman’s Post, Wilmington’s weekly saltwater fishing newspaper, and the nonprofit North Carolina Coastal Federation will hold the second of five fishing tournaments, planned through to mid-September, looking to crown a local fishing champion based on an aggregate weight of flounder caught during the events on the 2nd Annual Inshore Tournament Trail.
Though Fisherman’s Post has been sponsoring inshore tournaments for eight years, beginning in Carolina Beach, and later, Wrightsville Beach, last year marked the beginning of its Inshore Tournament Trail, as well as its relationship with the Stop Titan Action Network (STAN).
“Sarah (Gilliam, STAN coordinator) and I have known each other for a long time,” said Max Gaspeny, editor of Fisherman’s Post. “It’s a cause we believe in, so it was an easy choice.”
This year, the relationship has expanded to embrace the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and once again, Sarah Gilliam is spearheading the coordination process, and the match-up is even more relevant.
“The fishing community depends on clean water and healthy fisheries,” said Gilliam, “and it’s exactly what the federation is working for.”
According to Gaspeny, the partnership will reap benefits that exceed its own mandate. The tournament itself will be providing the federation with a portion of the proceeds, and before it’s over, a wealth of new members, while the federation is offering volunteer support and promotion assistance. Beyond that, though, the federation’s participation will help overcome what has been a natural tendency for fisherman to be suspicious of environmental groups.
“Some environmental groups have done disingenuous things that have impacted fishermen,” said Gaspeny, “and people have had some pretty negative experiences.”
“I think the Coastal Federation is making people realize that they have a lot in common,” he added. “Sarah’s doing a phenomenal job, and we’re excited about the four events to come.”
This year’s Tournament Trail (complete schedule below) includes the familiar Wrightsville and Carolina Beach events, the popular Southport and Topsail tournaments that were introduced last year, and a brand new kickoff event out of Ocean Isle Beach’s Ocean Isle Fishing Center (held May 31-June 1). It’s an all-flounder format this year for the main leaderboard, with the winner based on heaviest two-fish aggregate in the Southport and Carolina Beach events and single big fish in the other three tournaments.
With the single Ocean Isle Beach tournament in the rearview mirror, Wayne Crisco sits atop the leaderboard, having caught a fish weighing in at 5.11 lbs. Joe Zurad caught a 5.07-pounder, and Adam Meyer weighed in with a 4.95-pounder. In all, 28 fish were caught on the opening weekend of the multiple tournaments, ranging from Crisco’s leading weight fish, down to the 1.96-pounder caught by Andy Broadwell.
“In keeping with the conservation-minded tradition of the Inshore Challenge and the N.C. Flatfish Championship, live weigh-in (is being) encouraged,” wrote Gaspeny in his welcome message on the Fisherman’s Post Web site, adding that bonus payouts will be awarded for all fish making the leaderboard that are weighed in alive.
“Some of these fish are going to further aquaculture research at UNCW, and the remainder will be immediately released.”
Participants in the tournament will receive points corresponding to the weights of their heaviest single flounder in each event, competing for the highest total number of points, which will determine the 2013 Inshore Challenge Champion. That series champion will be chosen, based on the top three fish caught throughout the five events, which means that anglers need only fish three out of the five. In fact, if you fish only two events, and receive weight points that put you at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the five events, you could become the champion that way.
“We at the newspaper pride ourselves on putting on an event, instead of just a tournament,” Gaspeny continued in his on-line message, “so anglers can expect food, beverages, raffles, camaraderie, and more surrounding the Registration and Awards Ceremonies at each of the new tournaments.”
“Heavy-hitting sponsors like Berkley and Budweiser have already signed on,” he added, “and it’s their support that makes these ‘events,’ instead of just fishing tournaments.”
According to Gaspeny, last year’s biggest-drawing event at Carolina Beach brought out about 75 fisherman. Al Holpert’s 11 lb. flounder earned him the championship title.
“You tend,” noted Gaspeny, “to see the bigger ones later in the year.”
Along with the substantial cash and prizes involved with victory (listed below), the first 10 people that register for each of the five events will earn free membership to the federation. In addition to the 10 new members signed on at Ocean Isle, Sarah Gilliam said that other registrants signed on, as well. It is, for the federation at least, about the dissemination of information to existing members of the fishing community.
“It’s about building awareness and developing relationships with that community,” she said, adding that while, for the federation, it’s something of a membership drive, it doesn’t preclude participants from the fun of it all. “It’s cool, because this is something that families do together. There’s a whole family (the Lester family) that gets involved with this; grandfathers, sons, and grandsons.”
“It’s going to be well worth the time,” she said of the federation’s commitment in terms of actual time and volunteers. “If the first one (in Ocean Isle Beach) is any indication, I’m very excited about the rest of the summer.”
Tournament Schedule (remaining events)
Southport Inshore Challenge
June 21-22, 2013, at Southport Marina
Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge
July 19-20, 2013, at Wild Wing Cafe & Wrightsville Beach Marina
Topsail Inshore Challenge
August 23-24, 2013, at East Coast Sports & Sears Landing
Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge
September 13-14, 2013, at Inlet Watch Marina
(For individual event payouts, consult Web site information on each tournament)
2nd Two Riley Rods Custom Rods ($50?0+ value)
3rd Riley Rods Custom Rod and Penn 300 Battle ($350+ value)
4th Riley Rods Custom Rod ($250+ value)
5th Penn 4000 Battle Reel and Fenwick HMG 7′ Rod ($200)
6th Penn 3000 Battle Reel and Fenwick HMG 7′ Rod ($200)
7th Penn 3000 Battle Reel ($100)
8th Igloo Marine 72-qt. Cooler ($90)
9th Blacktip Tackle Bag ($90)
10th Gulp Alive – 4 buckets ($80)