67th LBI Surf Fishing Classic

Night temperatures are cooling, leaves are turning color, and football games are filling stadiums. Fall is on its way, On Long Beach Island that means the LBI Surf Fishing Classic is fast approaching.

The 2021 version of this historic fishing tournament promises to be an exciting one with cash and other prizes awarded for four varieties of fish. Striped bass lead the way with prizes also available for bluefish, kingfish, and red drum.

This year is the 67th annual running of the contest with a starting date of Saturday, October 9, and ending up Sunday, December 12. Entry fee is $30 for adults with those seventeen and younger paying just $15.

Anglers can sign up at any of the three official weigh-in stations on LBI including Jingles Bait and Tackle in Beach Haven, Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom, and Surf City Bait and Tackle. Official Classic 2021 hats and decals are available to those who register early.

John Donnelly caught this quality striped bass off the LBI surf in last year’s Classic.

Once again there are daily, weekly, and grand prizes available along with special “Bonus Prizes.” There are also special prize categories for junior anglers seventeen and younger, “Senior Citizen” prizes for those 62 and older, and “Ladies Prizes.” Prizes range from $50 daily awards to $100 and $250 weekly prizes, $500 and $1,000 for 3-week segment winners, and $1,000 for the grand prize for bluefish.

Frankie Lenetti battling rough conditions to hunt fall run striped bass on the beaches of LBI. Photo by Aimee Higman

Local fishing experts are optimistic about this year’s fall fishing run on Long Beach Island and its impact on the Classic.

Steve Palmer, owner of Jingles Bait and Tackle, is looking forward to the upcoming action. “I have a gut feeling this will be an exciting tournament. We have had a good spring and summer on other fish, and I expect it to continue.” Palmer advises anglers to be ready to “put the time in.” He likes the prospects of action at Holgate to lead the way for surf fishing. He notes strong showings of mullet and other baitfish in that area already.

Greg Cudnik from Fisherman’s Headquarters also expects good surf fishing this fall. He points to a strong run of striped bass in the spring and feels the new striper regulations seem to have resulted in more fish already. Cudnik is expecting a good number of new entrants this year. He has seen an increase this year in anglers new to the area and looks for many of them to enter the contest. He too is encouraged by the amount of bait in area waters and is keeping his fingers crossed for good weather conditions. “We have had good, clean water all summer. We now have plenty of anchovies and
mullet around and as long as they are here, we should have fish feeding on them.”

Sue Castrati of Surf City Bait and Tackle points to striper action already happening around Barnegat Inlet and the LBI Causeway with good numbers of schoolie stripers showing up. “We are having a good start
already on bass, and the amount of bait in the water is encouraging.” Her shop has already had a goodly number of anglers signing up for the Classic and attributes the interest to “a great annual tradition.” She saw an increase in new registrations in 2020 and is hoping for more again this year.

Joe Czapkowski and his dog fishing sunrise on the LBI surf. Do you know of a better way to enjoy a fall morning on Long Beach Island?

Last year was the first to offer prizes for kingfish which will once again be included. “Adding kingfish was an attempt to get an early start to the Classic,” observes Jim Hutchinson Jr., chairperson of the Classic committee. “This move stirred up interest and developed winners right from the opening bell.” Hutchinson points to outstanding support from not just local bait and tackle shops but also, “the entire business community.” Some businesses supply bonus prizes. “All money raised goes to prizes and tournament expenses. There are no salaries, and we award scholarships to members of local high school fishing clubs.”

Kick Off Surf Fishing Seminar

Each year (with the exception cancellations due to covid) the tournament kicks off with a surf fishing seminar. This year it starts at 10am on Saturday October 9th. The location is the Ship Bottom Fire House, 2006 Central Ave, Ship Bottom, NJ 08008. It is between 20th and 21st street. Save The Date Today and be sure to join. There will be lots of information as well as door prizes.

Registrations and information for the Classic are available at any of the three official weigh-in stations. Information can also be located on the tournament website www.LBISFC.com and Facebook page, LBI Surf Fishing Classic.

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