SEA ISLE CITY - Day two of the first Jersey Shore Striper Tournament proved challenging for participants as high winds and muddy waters made it difficult to catch anything, let alone the biggest catch of the weekend.
Despite those challenges, Bob Pepper, of the Clermont section of Dennis Township, smiled wide with his 27.15-pound, 42-inch-long striper Saturday afternoon. Pepper's was the 14th striper weighed during the three-day tournament.
"All tournaments are great," Pepper said before getting back on his boat with his crew of three other men. "It's terrible weather though, so everything we catch is definitely earned."
At 3:30 p.m., Pepper was in second place for the biggest striper catch of the weekend. Less than three hours later, his personal catch of the day was bumped out of the running by late afternoon catches weighing in 10 pounds heavier than his successful catch.
Prizes are awarded for the three heaviest striper in each category - caught by beach or boat - during the weekend. First place wins $2,000, second is awarded $1,000 and third takes home $500. Additionally, cash prizes are given to the two heaviest bluefish caught in both categories.
Organizers said they were looking for a way to draw business to the city in the off-season.
"I saw others towns do these tournaments, so why should Sea Isle be left out?" said Michael Monichetti, an event organizer from Mike's Seafood in Sea Isle City.
The event was sponsored by the Lobster Loft restaurant, also in Sea Isle.
In addition to providing an event for area fishermen, Monichetti said the tournament - which concludes at 2 p.m. today - was a new way to bring business to the island city.
"It helps the whole community," he said. "The restaurants are busy with fishermen."
With more than 200 anglers partaking in the tournament, Monichetti said local hotels are seeing an upswing in business even after the shoulder season - those weeks immediately following Labor Day - has quieted down. "Right across the board, the whole town has seen a boost in people you wouldn't normally see in November."
A 50/50 Striper Calcutta cash prize also was offered this weekend to the top three participating fishermen, with funds raised going toward advertising the Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism that will be held in Sea Isle City in February.
John Klacik and Chris Ritson, both of the Sweetwater section of Mullica Township, said they were glad to have a local opportunity to fish and spend time with other anglers.
"We get to get together, have some fun," Klacik said Saturday afternoon at Townsends Inlet. "It's a few laughs."
Ritson, however, came for more than just a good time. "I'm just here to get the big fish," he said and then joked that his friends were so disorganized he might need to fish by himself to win first place.
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