The PBR Classic Fishing Tournament was held at
the Avon Fishing Pier over Veterans Day Weekend, and the event, which
raises funds for The Sons of the American Legion’s Operation Comfort
Warriors, made a big impression in more ways than one.
The November tournament targets two types of
popular fall fish – bluefish and red drum – and the 71 participating
anglers were treated to a barrage of big drum catches that began on
Friday and lasted all weekend long.
67 red drum that measured more than 40 inches
were caught during the tournament, which included 51 that were caught
in a 24-hour period alone.
Tournament organizer and Avon Pier owner Joe
Thompson says that in addition to the record number of huge drum
catches, the tournament also surpassed milestones when it came to
fundraising, with roughly $10,000 raised for Operation Comfort Warriors
– a hefty increase from 2017’s total of $6,700.
The annual tournament, which celebrated its fifth
year in 2018, partnered with The Sons of the American Legion’s
Operation Comfort Warriors three years ago after a conversation with
Detachment Judge Advocate for the organization, Steve Gower, who is
also an Avon homeowner.
“In order to grow the tournament, we needed to
find a cause,” said Thompson. “After talking with Steve, we shifted the
tournament to Veterans Day Weekend and brought Sons of the American
Legion [on board], and it has been growing every year since.”
“The nice thing about Operation Comfort Warriors
is that every dollar passes straight through to the veterans,” he
added, “and they assist in areas that aren’t being met by traditional
support – such as transportation costs to VA hospitals, or medicine
And over the past five years, the tournament has
hosted a return group of dedicated anglers who make attend the
weekend-long event every year.
“It’s one of the smallest fishing tournaments on
the Outer Banks, but it’s amazing how many of these people have been
fishing every year at the tournament,” said Thompson. “[Many of] these
individuals did not know each other the first year, and have become
really good friends over the years, so it’s become quite a brotherhood
/ sisterhood, which is a great thing for this island.”
And this year, the loyal anglers were certainly rewarded for their participation.
Social media was swarming with pictures of huge
drum being reeled in off the pier on the first day of the tournament,
with the winner alone catching more than 320” of red drum.
In fact, Thompson reports that during the
tournament, a pier regular, Jimmy Mason, caught a 46” drum during the
tournament, while his son Danny Mason caught a 47.5” drum, and his
grandson Justin Mason caught a 48.5” on his 16th birthday.
“We ended up giving out additional prize
categories because there were so many drum caught,” said Thompson. “It
was very, very impressive.”
Of course, it takes a village to make any fishing
tournament a success, and the PBR Tournament was boosted by prize
donations from primary sponsor PBR, as well as Kellogg Supply Company,
Frisco Rod and Gun, Tidewater Coffee, Tower Circle Motel, Sonny’s
Restaurant, Food Lion, Frito Lay, Anglers Choice, and Calcutta. Crazy
Johnny’s Bar-B-Que also pitched in with the event by providing the
And though the tournament officially wrapped up over the weekend, plans are already in the works to expand it for 2019.
Space at the end of the Avon Pier is inherently
limited, which means that it can only comfortably handle a set amount
of anglers who are targeting red drum. “We can’t grow the number [of
drum fishermen] without diminishing the experience for those guys, but
we can grow the number of recreational anglers fishing off the sides of
the pier,” said Thompson.
As such, next year’s tournament will have an
elite red drum category, a category for bluefish, as well as a new
category for sea mullet – also known as whiting. “They’ve been catching
sea mullet in big numbers all week long, so adding sea mullet will open
it up more to even more recreational anglers, [including] children,”
And the name of the proposed “new” tournament for
Veterans Day Weekend 2019? The very appropriate “Red, Whiting and
“Friday was literally a National Geographic
Moment for [drum fishing],” said Thompson. “It was really impressive
the number of fish caught over the course of 2.5 days.”
“We’re going to expand the footprint of the
tournament next year,” he added, “and in turn, that will allow us to
expand the number of contestants, and the [amount] of fundraising for a
very worthy cause.”
CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW
Red Drum Category:
1. Brian Sanderson 321.5 total inches of red drum
2. Devon Hoskins 270 total inches of red drum
3. Joel Love 229 total inches red drum
Largest Red Drum Caught:
Paul Whitehead with a 51 inch drum
Largest bluefish: 12-year-old Caiden Westhal at 15.75 inch
1. Chris Sunda 14.5 inch
2. Roxanne Ward 14 inch
3. Jack Lovoie 12.25 inch
Note that tournament T-shirts are still available for sale at the Avon Pier.