Long, Jones, and Wilkinson Win The CatMasters
More than 5,350 pounds of catfish were caught by 214 anglers.
Hosted by Grizzly Jigs, 214 anglers on 88 teams from 19 states kicked off The CatMasters 2021 season on the Big Muddy out of Caruthersville, MO.
Day one was characterized by a hot day with light winds and a tough bite. The Mississippi River had just crested the day before and was on a hard fall for the anglers. Only one team brought a three-fish limit to the scales that weight more than 100 pounds to the scales on day one.
Adam Long, Hunter Jones, and Wes Wilkinson weighed 109.30 pounds to take the day one lead. Big Fish on day one went to Monty Bond and Scott Alaniz (Get Bent Catfishing) with a 65.07 pounder. More than a ton and a half of Big Muddy catfish were weighed on day one.
With a little more than 40 pounds separating the top 15 teams, day two was set up to be a shootout. One big Mississippi blue cat could move any team up the leaderboard to the top spot. When the day two weights began to be recorded it was obvious that the bite had improved on day two and the lead changed several times.
First-day leaders Adam Long, Hunter Jones, and Wes Wilkinson came to the scales on Championship Saturday needing just over 70 pounds to take the win. The B’n’M Poles team had a day-two total of 94.48 pounds to give them a two-day total of 203.78 and the win at Caruthersville.
Prefishing identified a couple of areas they would focus on for the tournament. They spent Wednesday and Thursday fishing without a hook so they didn’t sore lip the fish. They reported several “thumb-burning” bites, suggesting that they were in the right area.
“We found our fish in a couple of areas that have been good to me in the past,” said Jones. “The Mississippi River is my home waters. We had a plan A and B heading into the tournament. Plan A was a mud bank with lots of trees. Plan B was sand with a 2-3 foot roller coaster bottom. We were hoping that the fast falling river wouldn’t move our fish too far.”
Day one started on the mud with several teenage fish. About mid-morning they decided to change strategies and head to plan B.
“On our first drift Wes boated a 40 pounder,” recalled Jones. “Adam followed with a 55 on the same drift. Hoping more bigger fish were there we decided to leave them at 11 AM in hopes we could return on day two and catch a couple more good ones.”
The team finished day one with a total weight of 109.30 pounds and was sitting at the top of the leaderboard. They returned to Plan B on day two since it had produced the bigger fish.
“We made one drift and boated a 48- and a 38-pound blue,” reported Jones. “With those two overs, we set out after an under. Around 1:00 we caught our under for the 3-fish limit.”
The team fished upriver from Caruthersville using B’n’M Bumping Rods. They were most successful while targeting 30 to 40 feet of water in a very slow current with a 3-ounce weight.
“We want to thank B’n’M Poles, TTI Blakemore, and Grizzly Jigs,” concluded Jones. “Also thanks to The CatMaster’s for conducting a great event.”
Second Place and Top Finishing Youth (by Total Weight)
The runner-up spot went to the father/son team of Andy and Tye Needham with Brad Stout. After setting in 9th place on day one the team had a strong day on Saturday to move to the top of the leaderboard until the first place team weighed.
The team finished the tournament with a two-day total weight of 180 pounds and the second-place check. Tye won the Top Finishing Youth award.
“I had been prefishing as much as possible,” reported Andy Needham. “It was tough fishing with the water conditions and debris flowing down the river. We fished the twisted cat tournament last weekend and that gave us an opportunity to prepare for the CatMasters.”
“We were bumping down the river,” added Tye. “I really like the Mississippi River because you have the potential at any moment to hook into a monster catfish and possibly a new world record.”
“We did a controlled drift,” explained Andy. “We were bumping through the areas where I had marked fish. We used fresh skipjack caught on Thursday. I think that fresh bait really made the difference for us to get the extra few bites we needed. Fishing was tough but we were lucky enough to put some fish in the boat.”
Just as the CatMasters organizers are strong on fish care, so was this team. They understand the necessary planning to take care of trophy fish in a tournament.
“We used oxygen in our livewell,” explained Andy. “We transported our fish for about an hour and fifteen minutes travel time to weigh-in. That is a very critical step to help these big fish make it after a stressful journey. But as anglers and sportsmen, we owe it to the fish to do all we can for fish care.”
Fifteen-year-old Tye Needham has had a lot of success in catfishing. Last weekend the team won second place in a Twisted Cat Outdoors tournament out of Cape Girardeau, Mo. And earlier in the year they won first on the Arkansas River in an AACH tournament.
Last year in this same tournament the team finished in ninth place and Tye won the Top Finishing Youth Angler. He came back in 2021 to repeat and take the Top Finishing Youth Angler presented by ROCK CREEK, LLC.
“We want to thank The Catmasters for putting fish care high in their priority,” concluded Andy. “Also a special thanks to the City of Caruthersville and the police force for helping organize and stage the boats at the livewell check and weigh-in. Finally, thank you to SeaArk Boats for all their support of catfish tournaments and catfish anglers.”
Roy Harkness, Don Sweat, and Bill Dance held on to the third-place spot from day one. The B’n’M Poles team brought 92.07 to the scales on day one and added 79.84 pounds for a two-day total of 171.91 pounds and the third-place finish.
“It was a tough bite,” said Harkness. “I worked all week trying to figure out something with the big rise and the big fall in the water level. I located some fish and checked them a few times to see if they were moving and adjusted our strategy.”
The team caught their two big fish on day one in the first 30 minutes of fishing. They struggled after that trying to find an under. They succeeded when they moved to a grainery and Sweat landed an under for their 3-fish limit.
“It was an early bite,” confirmed Dance. “We caught our fish early and then had to work hard for that under.”
Day two started in another spot, but the outcome was about the same. They had their big fish in the first 30 minutes but struggled to find an under.
“We continued trying to upgrade our overs,” explained Harkness. “The fish kept moving and we tried to stay on them but still couldn’t get an under. So, we made a run to a spot where we expected to catch an under and were successful.”
They caught that under fairly quickly and returned to trying to upgrade their bag. Around 1:00 PM the bite turned back on for them and they caught several more fish before heading for the scales.
The team found fish in 45 to 60 feet on day one in heavy structure. The next day they were in 50 to 60 feet on mud bottoms. The fish did not move far. They moved down the banks from the shallow where they were earlier. During the day they would move out into the heavier current.
“It is an honor and I am humbled to be able to fish with Bill,” offered Harkness. “We have a blast fishing. I am also thankful I get to fish with Don. He coaches and helps me make good decisions. It’s truly a team effort to keep going and fish efficiently.”
“Congratulations to all the winners,” continued Harkness. “It was truly a challenge and a hot one at that. It was a tough bite for everyone against some of the best anglers in the country at one of the best-run tournaments in the country.”
“The SeaArk Dynasty performed awesomely,” concluded Harkness. “Thanks to all my family and all sponsors that help us do what we love—B’n’M Poles, Barnes Marine, Big River Cats, Spread Em Planer Boards, Bottom Dwellers Tackle, Abu Garcia, Berkley Fishing, RIGRAP, SeaArk Boats, Engel Coolers”
Big Fish Overall
Big Fish of the tournament was brought in on day two by the team of John Berglund, Eddie Henney, and John Hoverson. The 75.03-pound blue helped the team move from 46th place on day one to finish fifth in the tournament. Hoverson was on the rod to boat the bruiser blue.
“It was a very tough week of prefishing,” reported Berglund. “We arrived at Caruthersville on Monday afternoon and did a little scanning and found some fish to go after Tuesday.”
The rest of the week was tough for the team. They didn’t find fish and couldn’t buy a bite. They only caught one fish all week prefishing so that’s where they started on the first day of the tournament.
“We were marking fish but could not get a bite,” recalled Berglund. “Finally, about 2 pm Eddie hooked up and we put a 28.81-pound blue in the boat. “Knowing that other anglers in the area were catching a few we decided to go back on day 2 and just grind it out.”
On Saturday morning they started their first drift. They only bump when they come to the Mississippi, but that’s the name of the game on the Big Muddy. In the first 30 minutes, John Hoverson put a nice flathead in the boat. It was in the 20-pound range and a new personal best for him.
“So we were feeling good about the area and we kept making passes,” said Berglund. “With no more bites by around 11:30, we knew we had to shoot for the fences. We decided to run another 20 miles upriver to an area where we had marked some good fish early in the week. It paid off big time, to say the least.”
The team started drifting down a current seam over a sand bottom. Almost instantly Henney hooked an under blue. Within minutes he hooks into another fish.
“We knew was a good fish,” stated Berglund. “It was pulling drag. It was another blue and turned out to be our second biggest fish around 45 pounds. At that point, we had our 3 fish limit so we kept bouncing in hopes of upgrading.”
Another 50 yards into the drift Holverson hooks into the giant which gave him his second PB on the day at 75.03 pounds.
“I knew he was a good fish as soon as I set the hook,” recalled Hoverson. “It was a soft bite and I waited a few seconds before I set the hook. I wanted to ensure he could get the big piece of bait in his mouth. Once I set the hook, I could barely move him. The fight was on.”
“We learned a lot about those bigger fish on day two,” continued Hoverson. “We made some key adjustments before landing those two big fish that were critical in our success. John and Eddie are the two best fishermen I have ever been around. It’s truly amazing to watch them work the water.”
Hoverson’s big blue allowed the team to cull the flathead for their 3-fish limit.
“We were stoked,” recalled Berglund. “We drifted a little more and caught one more fish. At that point, we felt what we had in the livewell would be hard to upgrade so we decided to head back towards the ramp and take it easy. Those barge waves can be brutal on equipment and fish and we wanted to make sure our fish would be safe.”
“It was one of the toughest weeks of fishing I have ever had on the Big River,” concluded Berglund. “We only caught 6 fish the whole trip and I personally never got a bite. Thanks to my teammates we made it happen. I made for a good Captain and net man though. Lol. It was a great event and we look forward to the next one in Helena.”
Big Fish Day One
The Big Fish on Day 1 was brought to the scales by Monty Bond and Scott Alaniz. Their 65.07-pound blue helped them finish in 14th place on day one. The team finished in 17th place for the tournament with 110.34 pounds.
Remaining Top Ten
Fourth Place Capt. Ben Goebel, Rob Clodfelder, and Mark Blackburn – 168.68
Fifth Place John Berglund, Eddie Henney, and John Hoverson – 167.72
Sixth Place Travis Hunter, Jeremy Ransom, Ryan Casey – 157.82
Seventh Jason Masingale, Daryl Masingale, and Matt Bingham – 148.13
Eighth Place Rick Eiselt, Jason Reynolds, Rob Benningfield – 146.16
Ninth Place Jake Derhake, Justin Borgfield – 145.68
Tenth Place John Jamison, Justin Neece – 143.84
Top Finishing Female (by Total Weight)
Courtney McDonald fishes with her husband Shay McDonald, on Team Here Kitty Kitty. She took home the Top Finishing Female award with a total weight of 121.91 pounds.
Top Veteran Angler (Big Fish)
The Top Veteran Angler award is sponsored by Heroes Outdoor Therapy (HOT). Leslie VanDerau, Founder and President at Heroes Outdoor Therapy was on hand to help with the tournament and congratulate the Top Veteran Angler Justin Borgfield. He was fishing with Jake Derhake. The team finished in ninth place.
The Catmasters continue to focus on producing catfish tournaments that are fun for everyone attending. Anglers are their primary focus but lots of work goes into every aspect of their tournaments including the fans and the sponsors. The CatMasters emphasis on fish care is recognized throughout the catfish community as they develop catfish tournaments for the future.
Catfish fans can check out all the statistics from the Classic at American Catfishing Association (ACA) website by clicking here. For the latest from The CatMasters follow them on Facebook or visit their website.