Success Breeds Success With This Catfish Couple
by Ron Presley
Bill and Cindy White began catfishing for the dinner table but learned to enjoy tournament catfishing after moving to Alabama.
This catfish couple names Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick Lakes as their home waters. They didn’t always have such prime trophy catfish waters so near. Bill and Cindy White are quickly becoming part of the North Alabama catfish community from their new home near Athens, AL.
Bill retired from farming and Cindy retired from DuPont after 42 years of employment. Retirement gave them more time to catfish and they made the trek from Iowa to Alabama as much as they could. There was one large drawback, they dreaded the drive time to the Tennessee River.
“I love the Spring Flathead season,” explained Cindy. “In 2019 we fished with Josh Brown on Guntersville. We wanted to experience fishing for big blue cats on the Tennessee River. We learned that he caught flatheads on cut skipjack. We were surprised because live bluegill was the bait of choice in Iowa river fishing.”
In April of 2021, the catfish couple decided to travel to Guntersville Dam and try their hand at flathead fishing. Cindy researched skipjack fishing on YouTube and got the necessary gear to catch them. As luck would have it, Josh Brown was there on their first morning below Guntersville Dam. He was also there to catch bait.
“After watching Josh we figured out how to catch our own skipjack,” Cindy said. “That day was tremendous flathead fishing. We caught 19 fish. Seventeen of them were flatheads. We boated three fish in the 50-pound class and three in the 40-pound class.”
“We were in disbelief,” exclaimed Cindy. “We thought we would probably never have a day like that again. To say the least, we were hooked!”
Their total weight that day was an amazing 554 pounds. It is no surprise that from that day on Bill wanted to move to Alabama immediately. He couldn’t wait for Cindy to retire.
“We moved to Alabama in January 2022 from Southeast Iowa,” noted Cindy. “We wanted to be able to go catfishing whenever we wanted. Now our home waters are the Tennessee River near Athens.”
Even though they both have families in the Midwest, Iowa, and Missouri, they chose Alabama because of the great catfishing it offers. Their choice proved to be a good one and their knowledge increased after their trip with Capt. Josh Brown.
Admittedly, Bill and Cindy only fished for what they wanted to eat in Iowa. But once they started fishing in Alabama they began to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy population of trophy catfish.
“We never fished year-round in Iowa,” said Cindy. “We just fished a few months of the year. Cold weather was for trophy deer hunting. Since moving to Alabama we have practiced CPR and are 100 percent against transporting fish to pay lakes.”
“We practiced the same method while deer hunting for years,” added Cindy. “We let the young bucks go to let them grow.”
Team White quickly learned the importance of boats and the rigging of boats for trophy catfishing and tournament fishing. In September of 2022, they chose a 24-foot Monster Cat equipped with a 300 HP Suzuki to get them where they wanted to go. One month later they started tournament fishing.
“We have an Apex 19, Terrova trolling motor, MulTbar Rod Racks, and Monster Rod Holders,” verified Cindy. “The Monster Cat comes standard with just about everything you can imagine. We have a 105-gallon livewell with dual fill pumps and a recirculation pump. Our boat has huge rod boxes, storage compartment lights, interior lights, and enough storage space to suit a fisherman with a garage full of equipment.”
Unlike Iowa, Alabama offered year-round fishing and Bill and Cindy prepared for it. They included a full enclosure on their boat and had Dry Creek Marine install a diesel heater.
“Those accessories make fishing in the winter much more comfortable,” advised Cindy. “We purchased our boat from Chris Sapp at Dry Creek Marine. He and his wife Nichelle make us feel like family. Nichelle is our #1 cheerleader at the weigh-ins!”
Since moving to Alabama they have been bitten by the tournament catfishing bug. Bill and Cindy started following catfish tournaments on Facebook. It held their interest while they worked on their techniques and developed their skills. They had a goal of learning how to catch the whiskered critters more consistently throughout the year.
“Our first tournament was with the North Alabama Catfish Trail (NACT) in October 2022 on Wheeler and I was honored to be Top Lady Angler” recalled Cindy. “Since that time we have met so many great people that treat us like family.”
Their first “big” tournament was Bama Blues. As is so often the case they had trouble catching their unders. They ended the day with 90.5 pounds with only a .5 pound under. Still, they had what they described as, “an awesome experience,” as they finished just 5 pounds out of the money. They were primed for their next tournament adventure.
“We fished the CatMasters in February,” informed Cindy. “We were able to catch 101 pounds the first day and 68 pounds the second day. That placed us in 6th place out of 91 boats and we won Top Finishing Female. We have also fished three King Kat tournaments in 2023 where we continued to meet amazing people.”
Fishing as a Couple
“The number one test of fishing as a couple was surviving the first 3 months after I retired,” joked Cindy. “We haven’t killed each other yet so we are doing good. As we fish together we each play a role. First, we discuss where and how to fish. We both catch bait and enjoy it about as much as catfishing.”
“Bill captain’s the boat,” continued Cindy. “I am the electronic guru. Once we get to where we want to fish I set us up according to the fishing method of choice. In the meantime, Bill is cutting bait and then we work together to deploy the baited rods. If we are dragging I throw out the rods and if we are anchored Bill cast the rods because he can get more distance.”
Admittedly, Bill and Cindy are tournament rookies with a lot yet to learn. They say they have learned a lot by fishing new waters and moving outside their comfort zone. Fishing with the likes of the Fountain brothers and the husband/wife Westbrook team has taught them that they have to work hard to make the best decisions they can to be successful. In catfish community fashion, they have found several local anglers including Capt. Mike Mitchell who was willing to share their knowledge and shorten the learning curve.
“Fishing tournaments have allowed us to meet some amazing people,” said Cindy. “Those relationships have made us better at analyzing and understanding what fish are doing and that allows us to make better decisions. To fish as a couple it’s helpful if you both share the passion for trophy catfishing and you are content with whatever role you choose to play.”
“When we made the hard decision to move away from family to chase our passion, we never imagined that we would start tournament fishing,” concluded Cindy. “We wouldn’t change anything and are very grateful for the opportunities that have come our way. We hope to continue to be able to fish for many more years to come!”
Epilogue: In early May of 2023 Bill and Cindy claimed their second career tournament win and Cindy grabbed another Top Female Angler Award. They came to the NACT scales on Wilson Lake with a total weight of nearly 100 pounds in 3 fish to take the win. Their weight included Bill’s personal best blue at 69.46 pounds and gave him the Big Fish honors of the tournament.
Their success in May came just about a month after winning the April NACT event on Pickwick Lake where they weighed 96.06 pounds to claim the win and honor Cindy with the Lady Angler Award. All this on Pickwick, a lake they had never fished before joining the NACT. As of this writing, the catfishing couple were leading the NACT Overall Points Race and Cindy was leading the Lady‘s Points Race.
Bill and Cindy were joined on their journey by several sponsors. They give Dales Tackle, Caveman Clips, MulTbar Rod Racks and Dry Creek Marine credit, and thanks for their support. “As we continue to venture out to new waters in the future, it wouldn’t be possible without their support,” said Cindy.”
For more information on the North Alabama Catfish Trail check them out on Facebook or their website. Tournament Director, Lisa Haraway can be reached at 256-263-2085.