Reader Report: Little girl, big winning redfish

Corbyn Baker’s 513/4-inch red drum won the fourth annual Sarah Jane Fulcher Redfish Tournament last August by 3/8-inch.

Corbyn Baker explains how she won $30,000 while fishing

I have been fishing a lot with my family since we started camping at the coast several years ago. We love saltwater fishing, in the Pamlico Sound and out in the ocean in our boat, the Rogue Mullet. My dad, Garrett Baker, rebuilt the boat when I was born. We have gone offshore and caught cobia and dolphin, fished the shipwreck, the marsh, but I had one great day on the water last year, and we never left the sound.

I am a 12-year-old sixth-grader, and the first year we entered the Sarah James Fulcher Redfish Tournament at Cedar Island, we didn’t catch a single drum. We entered again last year, and they told us the prize money had gone up to $20,000. I begged my dad to enter the Calcutta. It was $100 more, and I said, ‘Dad, I’ll pay you back.’ I somehow convinced him — he’s very easily manipulated. So I entered, and one of the people there looked at me and said, “I hope you win, darling.”

The tournament starts at 6 o’clock and lasts until 10 o’clock at night. We spent the first couple of hours catching bait. My dad handled the cast net, dropped the mullet in the boat, and I picked them up and put them in the livewell. Then, we ran out into the sound and caught bluefish, and I caught a couple of Spanish mackerel, too. We had some large bluefish; that’s what we like to use for bait. We cut the head and tail off, sliced it up and put three or four big slices on the hook.

Corbyn Baker

Rain, rain, go away

At first, the weather wasn’t that bad, but as it got dark, it got worse. It started raining hard, the wind was blowing, and my dad moved us around the edge of one storm. About every 30 seconds or so, a lightning bolt would light up the whole boat.

We changed clothes three times, and we finally started fishing about 8 o’clock. The first few fish I caught were stingrays. You could tell, because it was like lifting up dead weight. There was no head bump like you get with a redfish. The fourth fish, I felt the head bump, and at first, she just ran away. She was very strong. The noise the reel makes when a fish is pulling line and you’re not reeling, it was really loud. Then, the fish was swimming back and forth. I was chasing it around the boat. It was definitely something big. It came up to the surface, and we saw that it was a huge drum, and it dove back down and nearly took me with it.

Dad nets the big redfish

I stuck the rod in the rod holder and started reeling her up. Then, I took the rod out so I could lift the fish and get it to the surface. I’d get in 3 or 4 feet of line, and she’d pull out 10 feet. But she got tired, and it got easier to pull her up. Dad had the net ready. The first time, he missed it, but the second time, he managed to get the fish’s head in the net. It’s not a very big net, so he lifted it up by the tail and got it in the boat.

All the fish in this tournament are measured and released. We had to measure the fish — it was 51.75 inches — and take a video very quickly and get her back in the water. That took about 45 seconds. It was the only drum we caught. It was about 9 o’clock, and we had to be in by 10.

Dad texted a picture of the fish to the tournament people, and they said it looked like a contender, but we had to show them the video. About that time, the storm cleared up, and we ran in and just parked the boat on the beach, put out the anchor and jumped out, and ran to the tournament tent. We had 15 minutes to spare.

This year’s redfish tournament is Aug. 13 – 15

They were listing the fish on a white board, and they put my name on the top. There were 10 minutes left before the tournament was over, and there were lots of adults around, people asking me questions, asking where I fished, what I used for bait. They were counting down the time, and finally it was time, and a lot of people cheered. They were taking a lot of pictures. I’m kind of shy and didn’t say much, but they made me go up on a stage and told me I didn’t have to say anything, then they made me say something.

I’m glad I talked my dad into entering the Calcutta; that worked out pretty good. I won first place in three categories; that was worth $30,000. They asked me what I was going to buy with the prize money, and I told them some new shorts for my dad. His fishing shorts were very much ripped up. I gave my mom $100 to give my dad for the entry fee as I promised him. For now, I have put the money in the bank to pay for college.

This summer, my goal is to catch a nice grouper, a big dolphin, and a few more cobia. I’m going to fish the Sarah James Fulcher tournament again this year and hopefully help out. I can’t wait.

— Corbyn Baker


The 2021 Sarah James Fulcher Redfish Tournament is Aug. 13-15 out of Cedar Island. For information, visit

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