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By Renee Sloan
Jimmy Price can remember the day he got hooked on fishing. He was just a young boy—about 7 or 8 years old—and was fishing with his parents and brother on the old Southport fishing pier, when a large fish broke the line on his fishing rod.
After the line broke, he stood beside his family’s car and cried.
“Me being a kid, I knew I couldn’t afford to replace the line, and my parents couldn’t afford to replace the line,” he said. “I knew I was done for the weekend.”
Price said his family tried to come to the Southport-Oak Island area to fish every couple of weeks.
These fishing trips were not extravagant vacations. Price’s parents drove from their home in Monroe. When they arrived, they slept in the car and ate food they bought at the grocery store. But Price didn’t mind; he just enjoyed fishing, and these trips were the beginning of a lifelong hobby and a lucrative career.
When he grew up, Price decided to relocate to the area he enjoyed visiting as a boy, and in 1969 he became a full-time resident of the Southport-Oak Island area.
“The place sort of grew on me,” he said.
Not long after he moved to the area, he became what he describes as a “fish-a-holic.” A bricklayer by trade, Price had plenty of work to keep him busy. But he had a hard time staying off the water.
“If I went fishing today and they was biting, I’d go back tomorrow,” he said. “That’s just how it was. In fact, I’ve nearly lost everything I own three times on account of fishing.”
He recalls a time when he missed work for weeks because he was fishing, adding that the contractors he worked for lost faith in him.
“They was ready to fire me,” he said.
Price said he realized he needed to get control of himself and provide for his family.
“I was sittin’ on Davis Canal—11th Street—and I started thinking about it,” he said. “I got up, went home, put my rod and reel down behind the door, and I started working. It took awhile, but I got the contractors to believe in me again.”
It took several years, but fishing eventually paid off in a big way for Price. He turned his hobby into a career as a backwater fishing guide. His career as a guide lasted more than 40 years.
As a fishing guide, Price noticed fish hit a variety of lures, and stresses that variety is key to any successful fisherman.
“You don’t want to eat the same thing every day, and the fish don’t, either,” he said. “If you was to eat a bologna sandwich every day and every day and every day, then one day, you’re gonna get tired of bologna sandwiches and want something different.”
Price said using a variety of lures is best because fish will often hit different ones depending on what they’re in the mood for that day.
As a fishermen, Price also saw the need for a 5/8-ounce lure and eventually invented a couple of fishing lures, including the flounder strips and trout killers by Gotcha Lures.
“I never thought I’d see the day I’d invent a fishing lure,” he said. “And now, thank the good Lord, I’ve got several on the market.”
In 2000, Price was once again awarded for his tenacity and passion for fishing when he was named the 1999-2000 Inshore Angler of the Year for North and South Carolina. To win the title, he had to catch three Spanish mackerel, three speckled trout and three flounder—and they had to be large enough to outweigh his fellow competitors’ fish.
Price was competing against one of his friends, Brandon Matthews, for the title, and recalls how they issued a friendly challenge over breakfast.
“He and his dad came into the restaurant and had breakfast,” Price said. “The restaurant was packed, and on the way out, he pointed at me and said, ‘I’m coming after you, old man.’”
Price, now 65, said as soon as Matthews left, he jumped in his car, rode to Walmart and purchased a sleeping bag, a camping stove and enough groceries to last two weeks.
“Then I went home and told my wife, ‘From now on, you’re a widow until this is over,’ he said.
Price said he fished for 54 hours straight, and only stopped then because he was satisfied his catches were sure to win him the title.
“I said to myself, ‘Well, if they can beat this one, then they can have it,’” he said.
Price won the title that year.
In his career, Price has caught a lot of fish, but he said he is most well-known as a flounder and trout fisherman. Back before there were limits, he caught as many as 117 flounder in a day.
“I regret keeping that many sometimes,” he said.
He said all the fish he kept fed his family, neighbors and friends, and was never wasted. However, he is in favor of limiting the amount of fish an individual can keep.
“I’m so glad they’ve got limits on it because that’s the only way we’re gonna have fish around for our grandkids and their kids,” he said.
Price enjoys teaching children—and adults—to fish, and travels up and down the coast giving seminars and lectures on fishing. He also enjoys helping his son by working in his tackle shop, Wild Life Bait and Tackle in Southport.
Price says while he hasn’t done a lot of fishing lately, he plans to get back out on the water this summer.
He said, “I just took my trailer up the road here, and told him to get the tires right ’cause I’m going to be needing it soon.”
Renee Sloan is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email her at email@example.com.