The Lowcountry Open
Official Tournament Rules and Regulations

The Lowcountry Open is a combined OFFSHORE, NEARSHORE and INSHORE fishing tournament being held on June 29, 2019.

Rules and Regulations:

  1. Registration: Basic entry fee is $500 per boat for the Offshore Division, $500 per boat for the Billfish Challenge, $500 per boat for the Swordfish Rodeo, $300 per boat for Nearshore Division and $200 per boat for Inshore Division. Boats and kayaks are permitted and encouraged to fish more than one Division, but must pay the entry fee and TWT buy-ins for each division to be eligible for respective prize winnings. Charter boats are permitted to fish with multiple anglers, limited to 6 anglers per charter boat. Any entry fee paid with a dishonored check or credit card automatically voids boat entry.

The Lowcountry Open operating retention is 10% of monies paid into boat-entry or TWT buy-ins, and respective purse payouts are 90% of net expenses incurred by the tournament.

  1. Captain’s Meeting and Registration: The Captain’s meeting and registration event is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 5:00pm - 9:00pm at 68 Hagood Avenue, Johnson Hagood Stadium,Charleston, SC. Each boat should have a representative attend the captain’s meeting, and each boat receives a Captain’s Bucket with tournament promotional gear inside. Tournament rule changes may be made by the tournament officials at any time throughout the captain’s meeting. It is the responsibility of all participants to familiarize and abide by all rules and regulations of this tournament.
  2. Fishing Tournament Dates & Time Slots: FISH DAY – June 29, 2019. Weather day – June 30, 2019. Saturday June 29, 2019, at 3:00am boats may depart respective designated port’s within SC, NC and GA public waters only. Lines, teasers and lures permitted in water no earlier than 6:30 am. Swordfish Rodeo teams are permitted to fish within swordfish-only regulations prior to 0630. No other lines or species permitted. No lines-out enforced. The same time slots apply if weather day is activated. Weigh-stations info (see below) open from 3:00pm – 6:00pm. **tournament officials reserve the right to extend tournament to another date due to extreme inclement weather conditions**
  3. Ports & Boundaries (Fish Radius): Boats must depart from SC, NC or GA public waters only. Private waters or private saltwater ponds are ineligible. All fish must also be hooked within the following State’s public accessible waters: South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Teams are responsible for every angler on the boat properly licensed. Know the limits of your boat and crew, and every boat must meet the weigh-station open/close times to weigh qualifying species.
  4. Tackle & Angling Requirements: IGFA angling & tackle rules are strongly encouraged. All fish must be caught on a fishing rod and reel with a hook and line by any conventional method (fly rods permitted), and must be done within a boating vessel (kayaks permitted). For anglers targeting species in the Offshore Division and Swordfish Rodeo, J hooks are permitted on natural and artificial lures. If participating in the Billfish Challenge, non-offset circle hooks are mandatory for all teams using natural baits in accordance with federal regulations. Swordfish Rodeo or Offshore Division teams also entering the Billfish Challenge must adhere to the tournament/federal Billfish tackle regulations upon lines-in for the standard tournament day. Trolling, chunking, jigging, casting, kite fishing and live baiting are permitted. No limits on lines, lures, or teasers. No greensticks, darts, or harpoons permitted. Electric reels with hooked-baits may ONLY be used for Swordfish Rodeo participants. For all other divisions, electric reels may only be used for anything hookless (dredges, teasers, kites and planers).
  5. Federal & State Regulations: No boat is allowed to weigh more than 1 fish of the same species at the weigh-station for standard boat-entry or standard TWT eligible species. However, 1 extra species per Youth Angler, per Lady/Veteran Angler, Bullseye Bonus or College Rivals TWT buy-ins may weigh. Each boat and team member must obtain all required federal and state licenses before fishing in tournament. A Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit is required to fish for the tourney-eligible tuna as follows: bluefin, bigeye, albacore, yellowfin or skipjack (see stripes on belly). Blackfin do not require HMS permits. Bonita and False Albacore (Little Tunny – see spots on belly) are NOT eligible tournament species. Check current federal regulations by phone at 1-888-USA-TUNA (1-888-872-8862) or https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/. Billfishes requiring HMS permit are as follows: blue or white marlins, sailfish or swordfish. All billfish to be released may not be removed from the water. All recreationally caught Atlantic billfish/swordfish landed must be reported to NMFS within 24 hours of landing at the dock. Anglers can report by calling 1-800-894-5528 or by visiting https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/. Recreationally caught billfish may not be sold.
  6. Catch and Release Affidavits & Committee Boats: Inshore boats do not report catch and release on air, but affidavits must be returned to your respective weigh-station before closing. All Billfish Challenge species must be reported on air to committee boat, but only immediately upon time of release. Swordfish Rodeo releases must also be reported to committee boat during standard fishing hours. Catch affidavits must identify species, time released and boat name/number. Non-billfish and non-swordfish species are not to be reported to committee boat. The Lowcountry Open official tournament VHF channel is 65!
  7. Billfish and Swordfish Catch and Release: Swordfish must be 50” in fork length from lower jaw to finfork to be weighed. All billfish and swordfish must be attested to by signature of boat captain or agent aboard the boat at the time of the catch/release on the Billfish/Swordfish Affidavit Form provided by the Tournament Committee. This form shall be returned to the offshore weigh-master at the offshore weigh-station. Release forms must be turned in no later than 6:00 p.m. to qualify. Billfish/Swordfish forms may also be photographed and emailed to info@thelowcountryopen.com. Please put “Billfish Form” in subject line of your email.
  8. Passing Fish to another Vessel: Passing a fish to another vessel is permitted only due to mechanical breakdown. Fish must be accompanied by a signed catch report and confirmed with committee boats on VHF channel 65 at time of transfer.
  9. Weigh-Stations: Manage your travel time! Boats with qualifying swordfish/offshore/nearshore species must be weighed at Ripley Light Yacht Club (RLYC) between 3pm – 6pm, or confirmed by the check-in boat by 6pm. All qualifying swordfish/offshore/nearshore fish must arrive to weigh-station by boat. No exceptions. Inshore catch reports and Flounder Bullseye Bonus species must be submitted/weighed between 3-6 pm at Bristol Marina on fish day. Boats must be visible by weigh-masters or check-in boat by 6:00pm. Boats shall contact tournament officials via VHF channel 65 or LCO weighmaster’s phone number (843)697-8641. No mutilated fish will be weighed. Fish shall be accompanied by a catch report, and the boat agent or angler is required to sign the finalized catch report upon completion of weigh-in. At which point, your team has approved the official weight of your catch as final. Fish are subject to examination by tournament officials.
  10. Catch and Release INSHORE: The basic inshore tournament species must be caught and released, and attested to by signature from all adult anglers present at the time of release on the Inshore Affidavit Form. Photographs of catch detailed below. Points per CnR are as follows: Redfish (10 points), Speckled Trout (20 points) and Flounder (30 Points). The only species exception to catch and release would be for boats participating in the Bullseye Bonus TWT (details below). No private ponds or private waters permitted to target or catch fish. Fly rods and kayaks are permitted. Anglers are required to hook and reel each tournament species to the boat, board fish, digitally photograph with ruler and token, and immediately release each fish at the boat. Adult anglers are permitted to set the hook and hand off rods (no-fight) to youth anglers, after which exchange no adult angler may touch the rod, reel or line until the leader has touched the first guide. If no leader tied to mainline, an official catch and release is achieved through release rules above. (See purse payouts and deferment rules below)
  11. Tie Breaker: In the event of a tie for any tournament species weighed or caught and released, the first weighed fish of its species or earliest Catch and Release Affidavit returned to the weigh-station will be the winner. Weigh-station time limitations strictly enforced (above).
  12. Protests & Polygraph: Protests require a $500 nonrefundable protest fee, and must be submitted within one hour after the published closing time of weigh-stations. Tournament officials reserve the right to request a polygraph test of any and all winning teams or anglers.
  13. Responsible Seamanship: Boat captains, crews, anglers and any other members on a vessel enter this tournament at their own risk. Captains, crews, and anglers must make their own judgments whether to fish under the prevailing weather conditions based on the size and seaworthiness of their boat, their Seamanship skills and any other relevant factors known.
  14. Disclaimer: It is expressly understood that all registered boat captains, anglers, crew and any other person herein are known as participants in The Lowcountry Open, herein known as the tournament, do so at their own risk and judgment. The participants hereby indemnify and agree to hold harmless, the tournament and its respective officers, directors, employees, volunteers, agents, sponsors, partners, members, and/or attorneys (collectively the “tournament parties”) from and against any and all claims that arise from, or in connection with, any negligent act or omission of the tournament indemnified parties. All persons connected directly or indirectly with the operation of the tournament, whether individual, limited liability company or corporation, shall have no liability whatsoever for any special, incidental, consequential, punitive, exemplary and/or any other damage including without limitation, any damages arising from libel, slander, loss, damage, negligence, harm, injury or death. The tournament officials reserve the right to refuse entry to any boat team or person. Participants specifically agree and consent to the use of any photography in which they appear, or audio recording, by the tournament for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to, resale, advertising and promotional material without compensation or restriction of any kind.
  15. Tournament Payout: All prize money will be distributed within 15 days of the Tournament’s conclusion provided there are no outstanding appeals, disputes or errors. While our intent is to submit winning payments within 2 business days or less upon tournament conclusion, we first want to ensure the utmost accuracy with regard to winners and prize money is met. Payouts will be made payable to the authorized agent or entity so indicated on the boat entry form and/or W-9. W-9 must be received by the tournament officials to receive payout.
  16. Credit card transaction fee: credit card transactions require a 3% transaction fee on the amount charged.

General entry information

Basic Entry Registration: Basic entry fee is required to fish the tournament, and entry fee is on a per-boat basis. Heaviest fish from the Atlantic or its inshore tributaries caught during the tournament wins! Heaviest fish shall include qualifying tuna, wahoo, dolphin, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, amberjack, flounder or swordfish. No other species is permitted at weigh-station. Billfish division is a catch and release category only.

Tournament Purse: The “Tournament Purse” originates from 1) entry fees paid and 2) TWT buy-ins paid. Only one boat must enter, pay basic entry fee and attempt to fish to be considered a tournament. If no fish are caught during the tournament, and subsequent tournament dates not activated, the purse will be refunded to registrants. The Lowcountry Open operating retention is 10% of monies paid into boat-entry or TWT buy-ins, and respective purse payouts are 90% of net expenses incurred by the tournament.

Distribution of Purse: Allocations of purse will be distributed to the registered agent’s name, address and signee of the boat registration form and at discretion of boat agent. Winning payout qualifications as directed below:

Offshore Aggregate Weight Winner for Entry Fees and TWT buy-ins: The following rule applies equally to both boat registration payouts and General’s Bonus TWT buy-in payouts. In order to win the published payout as “Division Aggregate Winner” in the Offshore Division, 1) no boat shall weigh more than 1 fish of the same species at the weigh-station, and 2) no boat shall weigh more than 3 fish (per division) at the weigh-station within boat entry contest, only exception being 1 extra division species by youth, or if entered into the bonus TWTs. You may not weigh any species at the weigh-station to determine the heaviest entry. 3) The boat with the heaviest aggregate (combined or singular) weight of 3 maximum species, per offshore division will be declared the Division Winner of The Lowcountry Open. General’s Bonus winners are the Top 5 agg weights per boat, split according to published payouts. Any boat winning the Aggregate Winner may also win the heaviest Species Winner for their registered boat-entry. All winning teams are subject to polygraph testing.

Swordfish Rodeo Winner for Entry Fees and TWT buy-ins: The following rule applies equally to both boat registration payouts and TWT buy-in payouts. In order to win the published payout as Swordfish Rodeo Winner, 1) no boat shall weigh more than 1 swordfish measuring 50” or greater of fork length at the weigh-station, 2) Gunny’s Bonus is won by the top 3 boats with the heaviest swordfish, and 3) any boat entering the Release points TWT will score 100 points per leadered release, and the most points winner will split a payout of 70%(boat)/30% (veterans charities). You must complete your release affidavit and return by close of weigh-station. All winning teams are subject to polygraph testing.

Species Winner Offshore/Nearshore for Entry Fees and TWT Buy-ins: This is a Big Fish tournament format applied equally to both boat registration payouts and TWT buy-in payouts.  In order to win the published payout as “Species Winner” (e.g. Dolphin Winner, King Mackerel Winner, etc.) for either Offshore or Nearshore divisional species, you must weigh the top 3/5 heaviest fish to be the winner. There are only 3 species per division eligible for species winner payout. The heaviest winning species may be as follows: (1) winner per Dolphin, (1) per Wahoo and (1) per Tuna; (3) winners per king mackerel in boat entry, (5) kingfish winners per Master Chief’s Bonus, (1) per Spanish mackerel and (1) per Amberjack. Any boat winning the Species Winner may also win the Division Aggregate Winner for their registered division. All winning teams are subject to polygraph testing.

Inshore Aggregate Catch and Release Winner for Entry Fees and TWT Buy-ins: This is a Catch and Release tournament format applied equally to both boat registration payouts and TWT buy-in payouts. In order to win the published payouts as “Division Aggregate Winner” in the Inshore Division, each boat will compete for the aggregate (total) amount of points between caught and released redfish, speckled trout and flounder. Points per CnR are as follows: Redfish (10 points), Speckled Trout (20 points) and Flounder (30 Points). You are not required to catch and release within all three species to qualify.  1) Redfish must meet a minimum of 15” TL (total length) with no maximum TL to qualify. 2) Speckled trout must meet a minimum of 14” TL with no maximum TL to qualify. 3) Flounder must meet a minimum of 15” TL with no maximum TL to qualify. The boat with the most aggregate release points is the Division Winner, and eligible for the boat entry and/or TWT payouts as published. Any boat winning the Division Aggregate Winner may also win the Species Winner for the inshore division. All winning teams are subject to polygraph testing.

Inshore Species Winner for Entry Fees and TWT Buy-ins: All catch and release rules of the tournament apply, as do any or all state or federal regulations. The boat with the most catch and release points per species shall win the published Species Winner payouts for boat entry and/or TWT buy-ins. In the event of a tie for points, please see tie-breaker rule #12 above.

College Rivals TWT Winners: This is a Big Fish format per division for select species, or for most aggregate release points in select divisions. Each winner will have a first and second place payout split between the winning boat-team and selected colleges represented. 1st place winners will receive a split payout of 30% to boat, and 30% to their selected college. 2nd place winners will receive a split payout of 20% to boat, and 20% to their selected college. Species weighed during the boat-entry tournament will be applied to this TWT, and release points earned during the boat-entry tournament will be applied to this TWT for winners. No additional species weighed per team are required or permitted. No additional release affidavits per team are required or permitted.

Youth Anglers: Qualified youth anglers must be 16 years of age or younger by the date of the tournament Fish Day. Each division has an eligible youth angler winner in boat entry, not TWT, but qualifying youth anglers must be declared and verified on tournament entry forms prior to Fish Day. The tournament reserves the right to award winning anglers with trophies, sponsorship gear, certificates, plaques, etc.

Lady/Veteran Angler Winners for TWT: For Offshore/Nearshore Divisions, the single-heaviest qualifying, division meat fish species weighed by a Lady Angler and/or Veteran Angler shall win their payouts per division. Lady angler winners split a 60/40 payout between first and second heaviest. Veteran winners are a WTA payout. As for the Inshore Division, the most qualifying aggregate release points by a Lady Angler and/or Veteran Angler shall win the inshore bonus TWT payouts as published. Boats with winning Lady/Veteran Anglers may also win the Species Winner and/or Aggregate Winner per division.

Bullseye Bonus TWT for Offshore, Nearshore and Inshore: Each division will have an optional TWT buy-in for a fun cash bonus. Each division will have a targeted tournament species, and the target weight for each respective species will be determined at the Captain’s Meeting. The closest over/under to the target weight wins a shared payout with our veteran’s charity. All registered tournament boats automatically qualify if 1) Paid your boat entry fees for respective division(s), 2) you must pay/enter the respective Bullseye Bonus TWT buy-in per registered division, 3) you weigh at least one division-targeted, Bullseye Bonus species at the weigh-station. Offshore and nearshore boats may weigh 1 extra Bullseye Bonus species to win. Inshore boats may weigh up to 2 live flounder. If no Bullseye Bonus winners declared, those monies defer to respective species winning categories per division.

Deferment of Offshore Species Winner for Entry Fees and TWT: If no tuna is weighed within regulations, its ENTRY/TWT monies defer to the heaviest dolphin and wahoo winners, split equally 50/50. If no wahoo is weighed within regulation, its ENTRY/TWT defers to heaviest dolphin and tuna winners, split equally 50/50. If no dolphin is weighed within regulations, its ENTRY/TWT defers to the heaviest wahoo and tuna winners, split equally 50/50. If the Offshore Division has no species weighed within regulation, the combined net ENTRY/TWT monies will be refunded. * 92% of the net (administrative expenses) Offshore ENTRY/TWT monies will be paid out unless otherwise specified.

Deferment of Nearshore Species Winner for Entry Fees and TWT:  If no kingfish are weighed within regulations, the ENTRY/TWT monies defer to the heaviest Spanish mackerel and amberjack winners, split equally 50/50. If no Spanish mackerel is weighed within regulation, its ENTRY/TWT monies defer to the heaviest kingfish and amberjack winners. If no amberjack species is weighed within regulation, its TWT monies defer to the heaviest kingfish and Spanish mackerel winners. If the Nearshore Division has no species weighed within regulations, the combined net ENTRY/TWT monies will be refunded. * 92% of the net (administrative expenses) Nearshore ENTRY/TWT monies will be paid out unless otherwise specified.

Deferment of Inshore Species Winner for Entry Fees and TWT:  If no redfish are caught and released within regulation, its ENTRY/TWT monies defer to the catch and release flounder and speckled trout winners, split equally 50/50. If no flounder is caught and released (or weighed) within regulations, its TWT monies defer to catch and release redfish and speckled trout winners, split equally 50/50. If no speckled trout is caught and released within regulation, its TWT monies defer to the catch and release redfish and flounder winners, split equally 50/50. If the Inshore Division has no species caught and released within regulations, the combined net inshore ENTRY/TWT monies will be refunded. * 92% of the net (administrative expenses) Inshore ENTRY/TWT monies will be paid out unless otherwise specified.

Deferment of Lady Angler/Veteran Angler Winners for TWT: If no Lady Angler winner is declared in either respective division, its winning allocation will first defer to the Veteran Angler winner of the same division. If no Veteran Angler winner is declared in either respective division, its winning allocation will first defer to the Lady Angler winner of the same division. If no Lady Angler or Veteran Angler winners are declared in either respective divisions, its winning allocations will defer to the Species Winner categories 33% each, or to the respective species caught for each division.

Disqualification: If a winning boat should become disqualified for any regulatory reason within the governing rules, to include polygraph results or tournament committee findings, that boat’s entry fees and TWT monies will be disqualified from tournament payout(s). If the winning heaviest fish in its category is the only fish weighed per division species, and becomes disqualified, that category or species will assume a no-catch status. Boat ENTRY/TWT deferment rules immediately apply.