When Ben Woolcock left Dimock in the fall for college, he was thinking about the coast.
The 2017 Elk Lake grad had spent time fishing in the ponds and lakes around his house. This included Big Elk Lake, a 77 sq. acre lake in Susquehanna County that harbors smallmouth bass, sunfish, bullheads, crappies, and perch.
But it was fishing for snook and redfish in Florida with his uncle that peaked his saltwater interest.
Woolcock, a business major at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., is part of the CCU Saltwater fishing team.
“I joined the club to open opportunities for me and learn as much as possible about saltwater fishing,” he said.
While on the team, he has won overall first place Inshore Slam and Festival and largest speckled trout and redfish. Woolcock was also part of the team that set the Marlin Quay Marina Wahoo record at 91.4 pounds.
According to Woolcock, the fishing tournament dictates the species they are fighting for.
He said, “In October, we fished an inshore tournament. It was a redfish, flounder, and speckled trout tournament. There were categories for largest of the three species of fish, and the overall winner had to have the heaviest aggregate weight of the three species.”
In that tournament, CCU ended up winning the largest redfish, largest trout, and the overall aggregate weight, coming out on top of the field.
This coming fall Woolcock will be fishing the Southern Kingfish Association’s Kingfish tournament series in hopes to place at Nationals.
The CCU team took third at Nationals in 2017.
Coastal Carolina University Saltwater, which boasts about 60 people, is a club team for the school. The tournament sets the requirement for team size but only three people fish the inshore tournaments and five fish the offshore tournaments.
The CCU Saltwater team doesn’t challenge rivals like other teams at the university. Coastal Carolina is a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school, competing in the Big South Conference. As a club sport program, they provide a competitive alternative between varsity NCAA athletics and intramural sports. Club sport teams provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate in a variety of sports and recreational activities.
“We compete in tournaments from Southern North Carolina and the Northern half of South Carolina. We compete against locals and captains in the area. Anyone can pay the entry fee and compete in the tournaments,” Woolcock expressed.
Woolcock and his teammates fish out of a 36-foot Yellowfin boat that belongs to one of the professors on campus. Captain Joe, as he is called, captains the boat with the help of the team members.
The Chanticleer team helps in all phases of the sport. They get the boat and tackle ready before setting out on the water. Upon returning, the team cleans the boat and the fish. They even help pay for the gas to go out on the trip.
Though they use the gear belonging to the Captain and on the boat, the anglers are welcome to bring their own. They are also encouraged to suggest where and how they should fish to be successful.
As for bait, Woolcock says, “For the inshore fishing for redfish, trout, and flounder, we use live bait (mullet). For the king fishing we use a mix of artificial and live bait.”
“The tournaments are usually a certain number of fish, and the heaviest weight of them. The Kingfish tournament is one fish, heaviest one. This is trophy fishing. We either eat the fish we catch, or some tournaments donate all the caught fish to charity,” explained the former Warrior about the points systems.
The tournament series ends in November and picks up again in March. As part of the team, Woolcock fishes from August through November and March through May.