Bryan St Ama Wins CatMasters Major League Tour at Texoma
Big Fish goes to Shiloh Womack.
November 26, 2022, marked the debut of The CatMasters Major League Tour on Lake Texoma. This new concept in competitive catfishing pitted solo anglers against each other for a one-day shootout.
Ten catfish anglers were chosen to be a part of the inaugural event. Each angler fished solo and could not be helped by the marshal or cameraperson on board the boat with them. About half the boats had cameramen and marshals on board the other half just had one marshal on board. The marshals’ job was to weigh, record, and assist with the release of all fish over 5 pounds. In the interest of catfish conservation, a penalty of 5 pounds was applied to any dropped fish.
Individual anglers were aware of their competitors’ weights as fish were caught, recorded, and reported.
The winners were determined by the total weight of all legal fish caught and recorded during the day. There was no limit on the number of fish that could be weighed they just had to be over 5 pounds. That included a mystery fish of the angler’s choice which would go into the livewell and the weight would be revealed only at the final weigh-in.
Hosts Ty Nall and Spud Barton brought updates throughout the day via Facebook. Set up at Cedar Buoy Marina on Lake Texoma, Nall and Barton had to adapt to the challenges of inclement weather and poor internet connections during the day to keep information flowing to fans who were watching. They were aided behind the scenes by CatMaster Production Manager, Jesse Swanson.
“The weather was a serious factor,” reported Swanson. “It upset our desires to live stream with our new Starlink technology. It was dark all day and I wish I had been prepared with more lighting. Overall I feel it was a success, especially when we had the top three anglers on at the same time talking smack to each other.”
The crew adapted to the weather by prerecording interviews with anglers from the water and reposting as quickly as they could to social media. They had as many as four anglers on at the same time. Thanks to Swanson’s recording, editing, and posting viewers at home could enjoy the action of the new format.
The final report from Nall and Barton had Brian St Ama leading the field. Trey Franklin was following in the runner-up spot. Tommy Vaugh was holding down third place. One of two women in the field, Kyli Baldwin, was setting in fourth. In the end, both wives in the competition, Kyli, and Courtney McDonald finished higher in the standings than their husbands. The final results were determined at the weigh-in where the anglers’ mystery fish was revealed.
In what will likely be his only opportunity to fish a CatMasters Major League Tour event, Brian St Ama put the right elements together to take the win on Texoma. He caught 7 fish on the day for a total weight of 99.84 pounds to take the win. His biggest fish of the day was his first fish at 23.50 pounds.
St Ama got off to a late start after leaving his scales at the dock and by the time he started to fish he was coming from behind. The new format sends updates when competitors successfully weigh a fish and several were recorded before his fishing began.
“By the time I got bait in the water Trey Franklin had 3 fish in the boat,” stated St Ama.
St Ama was dragging baits with Parks Planer Boards in 43 feet of water using B’n’M heavy weight rods. Some were rigged with peg floats and others with Livingston Lures floats that emit electronic bait fish sounds (EBT).
At one time during a social media feed, St Ama had two fish on at the same time and was reminded that he had to do it all. By the time he landed one fish the other had gotten off. There is no netman in this concept to help out.
“I caught one of my bigger fish using a bubblegum-colored Livingston Lure,” noted St Ama. “That’s actually my favorite color. I caught most of my fish on that color. I also attached a small light that flashes green and red. In this deep water, I think the flashes are bouncing off that Livingston Lure attracting the fish to it.”
St Ama had his best luck using pieces of striper for bait. That observation indicates that he was fishing on the Oklahoma side of the lake. Laws do differ and gamefish can be used on the Oklahoma side as long as they are caught legally.
“My first fish came off a flat,” reported St Ama. “The second one came more off the ledge. I was kinda’ moving in and out on it. I was seeing a lot of fish on the screen and seeing a lot of takedowns but they weren’t really taking it. The ones that do were pretty aggressive.”
“In the end, I was blessed with the win,” said St Ama in a Facebook post. “This new tournament format will be something to look forward to in the near future. See y’all on the water!”
Bryan’s Sponsors: Parks Planner Boards, Monster Rod Holders, B’n’M Rods, and SeaArk Boats.
At one point in the competition, Kyli Baldwin was tied for last place. At about 11:30 she started catching her fish and slowly moved up the leader board. When she pulled her “mystery fish” from the well the Accu-Cull scales read 30.14 pounds and pushed her up the leader board to a solid 2nd place finish. She caught 4 fish on the day with a total weight of 86.48 pounds.
Kyli prefished on the day before the tournament and found some fish in 70 feet of water. She reported catching fish in that depth throughout the week. She used cut shad and carp on Santee Cooper rigs while dragging and Carolina rigs on anchor.
“I made my game plan to hit this deep area on tournament morning,” reported Kyli. “When I got to my spot it was a ghost town. No bait. No fish. I panicked.”
She went ahead and pulled planner boards for about an hour without success. Then she decided to do a sideways drift across the area to see if she could pull out a fish. Still no success.
“I realized fast that I needed to find some fish,” continued Kyli. “The fish were not in the deep area so I decided to move shallow to see what I could find. Sure enough, I pulled into the arm of a cove where a creek ran into the lake. I started marking nice fish along with some bait.”
She anchored up and within 30 minutes she started catching fish. She made one more move after that to end her day. It was a good choice and she caught her mystery fish in that last area.
“I had an absolute blast once I found my fish,” Kyli said. “It rained on us all day and we, unfortunately, didn’t have a top on the boat to escape the weather. Nevertheless, I’m super thankful for my marshal, Conner McPherson, for loaning me his boat and sticking out the bad weather conditions for me to be able to fish the tour.”
Kyli said she thought the new format was great. She enjoyed having the marshal/camera person on the boat recording the action and giving her updates every time someone caught a fish.
“It was exciting to know what everyone was catching,” continued Kyli. “It really got you thinking of the next gameplan when you aren’t catching anything but your competitors are. The mystery fish made for an exciting twist because that one fish could be a game changer.”
Kyli’s regular fishing partner, her husband Chris Baldwin, agreed with her assessment of the tournament.
“I love the solo format,” Chris said. “I will pick that format over 3 fish tournaments any day of the week.”
“Most importantly I like that this format is informative to the people that get to watch it,” concluded Kyli. “We tried our best in the live feeds to explain what we were doing and how we were fishing. I think this is going to be a game changer for the catfishing industry and hopefully, help grow it.”
Kyli’s Sponsors: Catch the Fever, Monster Rod Holders, Tackle Bandit, Parks Planer Boards, and Slime Line.
Trey Franklin is a local angler and owner/operator of Tight Lines Guide Service. Franklin was one of the early anglers on the board and caught a total of 9 fish on the day and scored the most caught by any angler. His first fish was a 6.34-pounder but it was dropped on the deck and a 5-pound penalty was applied.
Franklin didn’t keep a mystery fish. He had 6 fish in the boat the first hour and everything after that was smaller. His total weight of 70.28 pounds earned him the third-place spot.
“I fished between 40 and 50 feet,” reported Franklin. “I was dragging baits on planer boards. The fish was stuck tight to the ledges so I stayed right on the river channel ledges. I worked them back and forth from .6 to .8 mph.”
Franklin said that the faster he went the better bite. That surprised him because the fish he was catching were covered with mud indicating they were buried up in the bottom.
“I was using fresh-cut gizzard shad filets and white bass filets,” revealed Franklin. “I stuck with those fillets most of the day but I did get some fish on the head pieces. The weather was tough. It poured on us all day long.”
“I thought the new format was great,” concluded Franklin. “It was a great experience being able to talk to the viewers and tell them about what we were doing and why we were doing it. It definitely gives a lot better perspective to the viewers when the angler is dialed in fishing live. Fishing solo was a bit tougher having to do everything yourself (Baiting, casting, set up, netting, and weighing fish). But all in all, was a great experience and I think this will tremendously help out catfishing as a whole including the younger anglers.”
Franklin’s Sponsors: Big Cat Fever Rods, Catch the Fever, Slime Line Fishing Line, Spread Em Planer Boards, and Dirty South Dragging Weights.
The Big Fish Award went to Shiloh Womack. He went to weigh-in with 2 fish recorded during the day weighing 14.6 pounds. When he revealed his 51.98-pound mystery fish his total weight grew to 66.58 pounds and move him up to 4th place in the final standings and Big Fish overall.
With water coming into the lake from the rain Womack had thoughts of fishing where the Red River comes into the lake but stuck with the plan he developed in prefishing. He had been catching some nice fish up near the dam in 90 feet of water but the wind in open water on tournament day was not favorable so he ended up in an area where he found some bait.
“I covered very little water on tournament day,” said Womack in a Facebook post. “I broke down the two areas I was fishing not knowing that I would be making a run to an area that had not been prefished. The move I made was a last-minute decision with only 2 hours left in the tournament.”
“We found bait just a half a mile from where we caught our fish the previous day,” reported Womack. “At about 11:00 I moved to the Red River and about 30 feet of water. I found the mud line where the dirty water was coming out of the river. There was a lot of debris floating everywhere.”
Womack positioned the boat about 100 yards from the mud line and started pulling Spread Em Planner Boards. He was running Santee Cooper rigs on his planner boards and 3-way rigs on his down rods. The 3-way rig included a 2-foot leader line down to a chain swivel and then an easy clip. He finished the rig off with a float, a hook leader, and a circle hook. He baited up with gizzard shad that he brought from his home lake.
“I feel like the catfish like to feed along that line,” explained Womack. “It’s easier for them to ambush prey. I caught the big fish in 7 feet of water.”
Womack’s decision to move was a good one and in the last couple of hours of competition, he boated the 51.58-pound blue that gave him the Big Fish title!
Shiloh’s Sponsors: Waurika Lake Marina and Spread Em Planner Boards
“I think the tournament was a huge success,” stated CatMaster Director and live feed host, Ty Lee Nall. “We’ve got some details to work out but all in all it was a lot of fun and the anglers enjoyed it.”
“I enjoyed it because I didn’t have to pick up all of the fish,” joked Nall. “The concept is not new to fishing but for catfish anglers, it took a while to wrap our heads around it. We are all sitting on my porch this morning brainstorming on how we can do better next time.”
Nall went on to thank the sponsors that stepped up to make the inaugural CatMasters Major League Tour a success. They include SeaArk Boats, Suzuki Marine, Marine Master Trailers, Monster Rod Holders, B’n’M Rods, and Parks Planer Boards.
“We would also like to thank Brent Shores with Lucky2Creations,” Nall said. “When we were looking for a good set of scales that are waterproof and would weigh up to 110 pounds he came through for us with the Accu-Cull weigh system.”
Each boat had the exact same Accu-Cull waterproof scales. They were calibratable and would weigh up to 110 pounds. They were tared to zero with a fish grip attached before each use so that anglers and spectators would have confidence in the weights.
Spud Barton joined Nall to broadcast the tournament to fans online. He explained to the viewers in real time what the anglers on the boat were doing and why they did it. It provided a new element to tournament catfishing that is not available in traditional tourneys.
“It was a bitter/sweet experience,” revealed Barton. “I would normally be in the boat fishing and not in front of a camera talking about it. Still, it was exciting to be a part of this new platform for catfishing. The concept is proven in other tournaments but is new to catfishing. It produces a new style of pressure on the angler that’s not present in regular tournament fishing.”
By all accounts, the anglers enjoyed the new experience. They knew exactly where they stood at any given time because they received updates as the weights were tallied for the other anglers. It produced that “new style of pressure” that Barton mentioned.
“I have always been a fan of CatMasters,” concluded Barton. “It’s just that I have always been on the angler side. Now, being on the production side I see all the work that goes on before a tournament ever starts. It is much more work than an angler would ever experience. CatMasters has always been a leader and innovator in the catfish industry with larger payouts, greater conservation efforts, and now a new platform aimed at taking things to a new and higher level.”