NACT Catfish Tourney on Pickwick – Top Honors Go To Husband/Wife Team of Bill and Cindy White
by Ron Presley,
First-place team also claims Big Fish honors and Top Lady Angler.
The North Alabama Catfish Trail (NACT) kicked off the 2024 season on Pickwick Lake out of McFarland Park in Florence, AL. Even with the nasty weather the January 27, 2024 event attracted 18 teams. Fishing hours were 6:30 am to 3:30 pm with anglers required to be at the scales by 3:30 pm.
NACT draws a variety of anglers to the sport. The 18 teams were made up of 42 anglers, 8 were veterans, 6 were lady anglers, and 1 youth (The youth numbers were low due to the bad weather).
Anglers were challenged by Mother Nature with cool temperatures, rain, fog, and increasing wind throughout the day. The tournament began with northeast winds at 8 mph and ended with winds out of the west at 10-plus mph. When the weigh-in was complete, it took more than 125 pounds in 3 fish to win.
First Place, Big Fish, and Top Lady Angler
The top spot at NACT went to the husband/wife team of Bill and Cindy White. The relatively new tournament anglers fought the inclement weather and won. They brought 125.48 pounds to the scales to earn first place. Their bag included a 57.94 blue cat to give them Big Fish honors and lift Cindy to the KatMama Industries Top Lady Angler award!
The weather definitely had an impact on the tournament. Bill and Cindy began experiencing the bad weather when they left home and it did not let up.
“It was pouring rain when we left home,” recalled Cindy. “I knew the weather was going to be less than desirable but with our full enclosure on our Monster Cat boat we could definitely get out of the rain.”
The team found the current running at 5 mph and more because Mother Nature had dumped more than 7 inches of rain in the previous week.
“The river was full of debris,” noted Cindy. “It would cover your lines so bad that every 15 minutes or so we were having to reel in and clean them off.”
Although they prefer to pull boards, the river conditions suggested that fishing off of the rope would be best.
“Anchor fishing is not our strong suit,” Cindy said. “We prefer to pull our B-Kat Boards but the current and heavy debris suggested otherwise. We took notice and anchored all day.”
The team got off to a great start with an early hookup. That first fish turned out to be the Big Fish of the tournament and all indications were that they would have a good day.
“The day started out quickly,” explained Cindy. “We caught our biggest fish 15 minutes after we got our lines in the water. In the strong current, it took forever to get the big blue to the boat. The 57.94-pound fish tried to run towards the bank three times and each time I could feel that it was trying to break the line in some sort of brush.”
“Of course, it was pouring rain the whole time,” continued Cindy. “We ran downriver several miles in heavy fog. It was 3 hours later, after numerous setups, before we put the next fish in the boat. It was a good under at 16.8 pounds on our scale.”
With high winds predicted for midday, Cindy and Bill did not want to go any further downstream. They started working their way back upriver while scanning their old waypoints.
“Finally, about 2:00 pm we got that third good bite,” recalled Cindy. “ Surprisingly he didn’t slam the rod but nibbled at it. Bill showed more patience than I would have and reeled at the right time for the hooked up!”
It was another good fish that was hard to move in the heavy current. The fish kept coming to the top and Cindy could see the leader was wrapped around the fish. They quickly reeled up the other 5 rods, came off anchor, and drifted to the fish.
“Once we got close it unwrapped itself and the fight was back on,” joked Cindy. “But the net woman did a good job getting another 50-pounder in the boat on the first pass.”
The wind was really starting to gust by this time but at least the fog had cleared and the rain had stopped. With several miles to travel, Cindy and Bill decided to start back to the weigh-in.
“We knew we had a decent weight,” concluded Cindy. “But were very surprised at the total weight of 125.48. We had not weighed the two big fish and obviously underestimated their weight. We thought both would be in the upper 40s. We are thankful for the 4 decent bites we got and being able to land the 3 winning fish!”
Cindy and Bill thanked their sponsors for their “…continued support of their fishing adventures.” They include Dry Creek Marine, KatMama Industries, B-Kat Boards, Caveman Clips, and Dales Tackle.
Second Place and Top Veteran
The runner-up spot went to Ron Goucher and Ray Nix. No strangers to Tennessee River fishing, they teamed up to bring 97.15 pounds to the scales and earn the second-place spot. The team also received the Top Veteran Award from NACT.
The third spot went to Tim and Chad West, and Morgan Young. The three-member team posted a total weight of 95.54 pounds to earn third-place honors.
Chris Fuller and Doc Lange brought 85.22 pounds to the scales to claim the fourth-place hardware on a challenging day for the anglers.
The Youth Angler Award went to Jessa Latham. She was fishing with her mom and dad, Jessie and Becky Latham.
“We may not have won,” said Becky Latham in a Facebook post following the tournament. “But Jessa sure did! It made it all worth it!! So proud of you baby girl! Thank you North Alabama Catfish Trail!! She’s over the moon.”
The NACT is a family-friendly tournament trail aimed at fishing for old-fashioned fun. Tournament director Lisa Gail Haraway has assembled a great group of sponsors, volunteers, and anglers to accomplish her goals for 2024.
“I am excited for our 2024 year,” noted Haraway following the tournament. “I was pleased with our turnout for the season opener, even with the nasty weather we had on the days prior and day of the tournament. We had really good weights brought to the scale and everyone had a great time and were glad to see each other.”
“We also launched the new Premier League as part of our trail,” concluded Haraway. Our new point system creates a more challenging and fun activity for the anglers. going for the anglers. I have some competitive anglers this year, and they are ready to give their all this season.”
Their next tournament will be on Wheeler Lake. The February 17, 2024 event will launch out of the 1st Creek Boat Ramp at Wheeler State Park.