Heavy Weight Tournaments

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

Red and gold streaked the sky as dawn crept above the treeline. Twenty-four boats bobbed in the water. Each held two anglers--a total of 42 men and 6 women--waiting anxiously for a signal. The clock moved to 7 a.m., a loud horn sounded and all boats immediately jumped on plane.

Within 15 minutes, I was making a looping overhand cast that threw my bait about 4 feet in front of a small brushpile. The bait splashed into the water and sank. A moment later, I set the hook with a sweeping motion of my medium-heavy rod. Moments later, I was putting a 2- pound fish into the livewell.

In the front of the boat, my fishing partner flipped her bait toward a large brushpile along the rocky shoreline. As soon as her bait hit bottom her rod was nearly jerked from her hands. She pulled at the fish until the rod nearly doubled. The fish darted from right to left, then headed into the brushpile, a tactic it seemed to have learned from previous battles.

I moved the boat toward the brushpile, and the sudden slackening in the pressure caused the fish to make a hard run toward deep water. My partner held it back with the pressure of the heavy rod. Moments later, I was placing the 9-pound fish into the livewell.

That 9-pounder would almost surely qualify as big fish of the day in most bass or walleye tournaments, but in a bonafide Missouri River catfish tournament, where sometimes gargantuan fish are brought to the weigh-in, it had only a middling chance of taking that honor.

If you don't know about big river catfish tournaments, then you probably haven't picked up a fishing magazine lately. There's a growing interest in sportfishing for catfish. It's here; it's now and it's building in Missouri's big rivers.

Catfish have long been considered table fish, great for fish fries and family meals. But anglers have recently discovered that they also make great sportfish. They are challenging on a rod and reel, wily as an old coyote and bigger than almost any other fish in our waters.

St. Joseph's 4F Flathead Club has been fueling the flames of the catfish revolution. For several years now, a group of men and women have been gathering at a private Missouri launch ramp in St. Joseph for a good hard day of fishing. These people come from all walks of life, but they have

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