Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Whistler, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member


    Luke Clayton

    The World Championship of Catfishing/Catfish Derby is possibly the oldest fishing tournament of any kind in the country. Catfish anglers have been competing for cash and prizes since the ’30 on the Tennessee River and from the great time I had fishing the tournament recently, I can easily see why the event is so popular. The Catfish Derby is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops (BPS) and tournament director Ken Freeman, who heads up the BPS Big Cat Quest, does a great job directing this world class catfishing event. The event headquartered on Lake Pickwick at the Pickwick Landing State Park. Fishing was allowed on the lakes and in the river within the boundaries of Tennessee. In essence, “lakes” along the river consist of water backed up by the dams.


    Catfish pro and guide Phil King with his team of Tim Haynie and Leland Harris took first place this year with a total 5 fish stringer weight of 96.10 pounds. Teams previously consisted of 2 anglers but, in efforts to allow older and younger fishermen the chance to compete, the rules were amended to allow a third team member, either 17 or younger or 65 or older. Leland filled the “bonus seniors division” member of the team. Second place went to the team of Carey Ricketts, Ron Ricketts and Wesley Roberts with 5 fish that totaled 92.40 pounds. Big fish was a 54.4 pound blue landed by Ken Gatlin.

    I had the pleasure of fishing the tournament with James “Big Cat” Patterson who makes his living guiding clients for trophy catfish on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of Memphis. I was holding down a position in Patterson’s boat usually occupied by his catfishing partner, the legendary Bill Dance. Bill was doing some filming for his TV shows in Florida and was unable to attend this year’s event. Even with a moderate current the day of the tournament, fishing the Tennessee was vastly different from rivers such as the Red and Brazos I am accustomed to fishing here in Texas.

    On March 3, the weather was less than ideal for any kind of fishing. At registration the evening before the tournament, Patterson briefed me on the current conditions. “Fishing will be tough. With a full moon and north wind predicted to blow 20-30 mph, catching fish will be a challenge; we’ll earn every fish we put in the tank. Rather than fish the lake (Pickwick), I think we will run 20 miles or so downriver and try some of the deeper holes.”

    Fresh Skipjack Herring is a hands down favorite in the area for catching big blue catfish and Patterson had a good supply onboard. Herring are a very oily fish and leave a good scent trail in the current. We began by trailoring the boat 20 miles or so downstream from the Pickwick dam, then launching and running another several miles to a bluff where the river channel fell from around 35 feet into a deeper hole around 50 feet deep. We used a method Patterson describes as a “controlled drift” to slowly drag big chunks of skipjack along bottom. With the trolling motor on low power, Patterson kept us moving very slowly with the current. The technique was simple; simply lift and drop the rod tip every few seconds to keep the bait up just off bottom. As we drifted by a high bluff, we spotted a bald eagle’s nest that appeared to be six or seven feet high in the upper branches of a big tree. James says he has seen the nest there for several years and the nesting pair of eagles adds more branches to it every winter. As we watched, a beautiful eagle soared overhead and landed on top of the nest, then settled down to incubate her eggs. Fishing was slow but the scenery spectacular.

    After spending time on the water as a contestant, and covering the event as a journalists, I can happily report the sport of tournament catfishing is alive and well. The event was obviously well managed and organized and, other than the fact the targeted species was big catfish rather than bass, it had all the trappings of a big bass tournament. Mr. Bucketmouth, make way for Mr. Whiskers, the sport of tournament catfishing is going strong, thanks to well managed and promoted events such as Bass Pro Shop’s Big Cat Quest!

    BPS’s Big Cat Quest is coming to Lake Texoma on May 19 and will headquarter at Lighthouse Marina. For more information, go to

    Listen to Luke Clayton’s Outdoors online at
  2. SEMOcats

    SEMOcats New Member

    Jackson, Missouri
    Glad you had a good time! Ken puts on a great tournament. I figured Phil had a pretty good chance of winning since he's from there. I'll be fishing several of BP tournaments this year. See you there!


    TIM HAGAN New Member

    I got to talk with Ken today by phone and he say there was 91 teams for this tournament not a bad turnout.
  4. ShilohRed

    ShilohRed New Member

    West Tn
    Phil called me Sunday evening. And told me it was a tough day. With the high winds and such.
    But that is why he wins, He fishes in what ever there is and works with it. I did hear we did not have but a few local teams unlike most years where we have a lot of local teams.