Catfish Tournaments

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Published on: Jun. 30, 2010

we spent the balance of the night. After they set out the six lines permitted by tournament rules, we settled in and relaxed between bites. There was lots of time between bites.

The moon was only a crescent on this particular July night, and it didn’t rise until 2 a.m. Out on the river, far from city lights, the Milky Way stood out like a brush stroke of phosphorescent paint. We watched the passing bow lights of kayakers training for the upcoming Missouri River 340 race and were serenaded by barred owls, whippoor-wills and coyotes.

When coffee eventually lost its grip on our consciousness, Tim and Larry took alternating watches to be sure they didn’t miss a bite. Apparently impervious to the 52-degree chill and a heavy dewfall, they curled up on the bristly all-weather carpet of the boat’s deck.

Difference No. 4

Fish Size

The only thing I can figure that keeps catfishers warm under those conditions is dreaming of big fish. Boating a 10-pounder would be cause for wild rejoicing in a bass tournament. A catfish angler won’t even look up from his coffee at a fish that size. In 2007, Larry won the big-fish prize in this tournament with a 69-pound, 6-ounce blue cat. The all-time tournament record topped 90 pounds. You can imagine what it takes to win the big money for total catch.

Difference No.5


Anglers in big-bucks bass tournaments sport fancy clothes plastered with sponsor’s names. They drive boats worth more than a modest home. Attire and equipment at a Missouri River catfish tournament lean toward dilapidated jeans, Carhartt jackets and aluminum johnboats. You see some fancy rigs, but most are simple decked aluminum jobs. Fast and fancy don’t count for much on the river. A team in a 16-foot johnboat with a 25-hp motor has about as good a chance of bringing in a winning catch as anyone.

Catfish Management Pays Off

Unlike many states, Missouri classifies channel, flathead and blue cats as game fish. The Conservation Department banned the commercial take of catfish on the Missouri River in 1992, and anglers reported catching and keeping more catfish in subsequent years. Just a few years after the end of commercial catfishing, sport anglers were catching twice as many flatheads as before. The Department implemented a new catfish management plan in 2004. According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by USFWS, catfish and bullheads accounted

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