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The excitement of fishing in a tournament

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

The phone rang late in the evening with the voice on the other end saying, “I have live shrimp.” It was just the kind of phone call I needed to give my clients and me a great chance at finding a tournament-winning redfish in the Fisherman’s Post Flounder Tournament.
Scott Rivers, Deana Rivers and nephew Jackson Simpson got on a red-hot redfish bite with me Saturday morning. The problem we had was landing the right size fish. We had several fish that were too large to handle, breaking our lines and pulling the hooks on several upper slot reds.
We continued to work the school of reds we had found, hoping to find that 26-incher. We caught all the sizes we didn’t need and I am sure we lost at least two fish that were close.
Rivers managed to get a 24-incher to the boat, making a respectable showing for the tournament. Simpson landed our largest redfish that was well over the slot, more than 30 inches. We didn’t go down without a fight. We chased down corks that redfish were still attached to after breaking the line only for them to break the end of the leader. It was an interesting start to our morning.
During our assault on the redfish school, Simpson landed a 17-inch flounder for our first keeper.  We were happy, knowing we wouldn’t have to walk the trail of shame and would weigh something. Simpson, being our junior onboard, also secured a free cast net for himself with that fish. We landed several more reds in the lower slot and pulled the hooks on two more nice ones before the bite shut down. We moved on to find the big flounder.
We pulled up to a surprisingly quiet area where we expected to see several folks anchored. We were the only boat in the area. On the third cast I felt a really good thump on the end of the line. I had felt the live pinfish get nervous just before the strike. Anticipation was building as I allowed the flounder to enjoy his last meal. Setting the hook, I could tell the fish was decent and immediately asked for the net. Indeed, we landed a solid 21-inch fish I estimated to be 3.5 pounds.
We now had a respectable redfish and a flounder in the box. We started going big with our baits, looking for a giant. We caught speckled trout on some large menhaden, completing our inshore slam—but not helping with our tournament standing.
Despite all the lines broken and hooks pulled, we had an awesome day catching some great fish. Our 3.8 pound-flounder put us in the top 10 out of 48 boats. I think we made a great showing and look forward to the opportunity to improve on our execution next year.
The backwater is really starting to get its act together. The flounder are finally showing up in places besides Tubbs Inlet. Redfish have been caught all over the place, with the Little River jetties firing off several times earlier this week. I expect to see more and more redfish pictures from area guides in the coming weeks.
Speckled trout have been scattered throughout the backwater with flounder fishermen landing incidental catches, which is normal for this time of year. The Little River jetties have been the most consistent place to go to find a good speckled trout bite.
Live shrimp under a cork continues to be the best thing for reds and trout. Finding live shrimp has been difficult, but the creeks are starting to come alive. I caught several 2-inch shrimp in a cast net a few days ago and it won’t take long for them to be perfect size for fishing. Fresh shrimp fished on a Carolina rig is going to be the next best thing for reds and black drum.
Finger mullet have been difficult to find, but more and more schools of this year’s hatch are starting to show. The go-to live baits you can easily cast-net yourself now have been menhaden near the Ocean Isle Marina in the waterway or Calabash River, or live pinfish at dead low tide along the oyster bars in your favorite creek.
That is what is going on in the backwater along the Brunswick Islands. I expect things to change rapidly as we see the finger mullet mature and the shrimp grow to size. We may be a few days behind last year on the calendar, but it is eventually going to come together, making this another great year to be on the water.
Capt. Jacob Frick, who has 10 years of knowledge and experience in guiding family, friends, and clients in the backwater surrounding Ocean Isle Beach, is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at (803) 315-3310 or jacob@oifc.com.