Dec 2016 News/Columns Whisker Whackers

Catfish Conference – A Walk Down Memory Lane

catfish, Trophy club

catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish, channel catfish, Ron Presley


My Facebook Memory this morning was a link to an article I wrote last year when I learned of the Catfish Conference. It was published on my page. Since Examiner went out of business, and thousands of articles were lost to the public, including this one, I decided to re-post it. Take a look and think back over the last year as we look forward to Catfish Conference 2017.

Catfish Conference 2016, a catfish community get-together

It’s all about catfish. As the sport of recreational catfishing catches on with more and more anglers, it seems only natural that there should be a Catfish Conference. From the Mighty Mississippi to the small public lakes around the nation, catfish anglers are searching for more information on the sport. Catfish tournaments go a long way toward educating an eager public, but an event like this will be another important cog in the wheel to grow the sport further.

Catfish Conference, catfish, blue catfish, channel catfish, Tournaments, fishing show, seminars, Kentucky, vendors, booths, instruction, flathead catfish
Catfish Conference 2017 is scheduled for Louisville in February.

The idea comes from catfish aficionado Steve Douglas. Douglas has been chasing the whiskered critters for many years. Known to many as “The Catfish Dude,” Douglas regularly shares his knowledge of catfishing through his videos aimed at teaching others about catfishing.

Catfish Conference, catfish, blue catfish, channel catfish, Tournaments, fishing show, seminars, Kentucky, vendors, booths, instruction, flathead catfish
Steve Douglas with a really nice blue cat.

Jeff Jones Marine and Monster Rod Holders will host the first ever Catfish Conference. Douglas is owner of Monster Rod Holders, a popular rod holder manufacturer. Jim Hopper is General Manager at Jeff Jones Marine.

On-again, off-again discussions had been going on for a couple years about having a dedicated catfish event. The discussions always evolved around the idea of stimulating the sport of catfishing and helping to grow the catfishing community in a positive way.

Recently Hopper made the call that started things rolling towards the first ever catfish conference. “I called Steve Douglas a few weeks ago, to ask him if there was any kind of yearly conference or trade show for the catfish community. He said that most of the time they were always at tournaments and there wasn’t much time for anything other than fishing.”

“Jim Hopper is the catfish guy over there at Jeff Jones Marine,” said Douglas. “He has talked to me over the last couple of years about doing one of these. He called me about a month ago, out of the blue, and asked me what I thought about it. I just said lets do it and that is how it got started. It happened just that quickly.”

That call culminated with a decision to go forward with the idea. “We pretty much decided on that same phone call to have something prior to the 2016 fishing season,” explained Hopper. “I had attended several boat shows over the past several years and noticed that everything revolves around bass fishing and there is nothing offered for the tournament or casual catfisherman.”

“We wanted to educate and introduce catfishing products and services to catfishing enthusiast of all skill levels,” said Douglas. “This platform will also give anglers a networking opportunity for gaining potential sponsorship’s. It is for anyone interested in the sport and will include everything catfishing.”

Douglas wants everyone to know the event is for the whole catfish industry. “It’s for everybody,” said Douglas. “If you are a novice angler come on out and we will show you the ropes and get you started. If you are a seasoned angler come on out and see the new products that are offered to you. If you are a tournament organizer come on out and promote your trail. If it has anything to do with catfishing it is going to be represented at the conference.”

“I’ve been a boat dealer for about six years now,” continued Hopper. “I’ve seen a steadily growing interest in tournament catfishing. There are several boat manufacturers building boats exclusively for tournament catfishing. We handle four of the six manufacturers that make these boats, so we are able to display two thirds of all the catfish models. The other two manufacturers have been invited to this event and one has already confirmed that they will attend.”

Early interest in the conference includes concerns from across the catfish community. Bluewater LED, KeepAlive bait systems, Whisker Wear Apparel, Cabelas King Kat and B’n’M Poles are examples of the types of companies coming.  “There will be several outboard motor manufactures here as well,” continued Hopper. “Our goal is to bring the catfish community together once a year without any tournament pressure.”

Douglas and Hopper agree that they want an event that delivers the opportunity for the catfish community to see the products available to them. Products that will help them catch more and bigger catfish. “It appears that the closer we get to this event the more we will be offering,” related Hopper.

As of this writing nearly 30 venders have signed up for booths. They include Aumacraft Boats, Lowe Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Suzuki Outboards, Monster Rod Holders, Catfish Tech, BassNMore/Catfish Bunker, Catfish Weekly, Capt. Scott Manning/ Tennessee River Monsters Guide Service, Bluewater LED, Keepalive Bait Systems, Humminbird, Minn Kota, YETI, Cabelas King Kat, National Catfish Trail, Tangling with Catfish Rods, River City Catfishing Guide Service/ Ohio River, Fatboy Custom Rods, Bottom Dweller Tackle, B’n’M Poles, Whisker Wear Apparel, Cat Fever Rods, Alabama Catfish Trail, SWOCC Trail, Mississippi River Monsters, JKV Catfish Trail, Monsters on the Ohio and the Extreme Catfish Trail. This list is likely to grow quite a bit.

Early interest has made things a bit daunting for the organizers and even pushed some thoughts to next year. “We are having this conference at our dealership because it’s a free facility,” explained Hopper. “Based on the response we could very well have to move it to a small convention center next year. I’m actually a little concerned about exactly how many people could show up. If this deal goes off like it appears it’s going to, we would have to appoint some type of committee to setup next years conference.”

B’n’M Poles is representative of the many vendors to he on hand. “Our primary reason for joining this conference is to help promote and grow the sport of catfishing,” declared Jason McDuffie from B’n’M.  “We have had a lot of success in helping grow crappie fishing over the last 15 to 20 years and want to bring that same experience to the catfish market. A secondary reason is to promote our brand. There are a lot of great catfish rods out there and we are trying to carve out our niche in the market. That being said, when you tie that to the primary reason, all companies associated with catfishing will grow if we all work to promote the sport.”

From established tournament trails like The Alabama Catfish Trail to start-up tournaments like Mississippi River Monsters, organizers will be on hand to share their thoughts and reasoning about making the sport grow.

George Young, with support from Bill Dance, is organizing the first Mississippi River Monsters Tournament for September of 2016. As an indication of the popularity of catfishing, there are already more than 100 boats entered and it’s months away.

“I’ve had the opportunity to compete in both local and national catfish tournaments with some of the best cat anglers in the world,” commented Young. “I have also fished with some of them and had the pleasure of receiving good advice from them. The advice I got helped me finish high in some major and local tournament events. Just like rubbing shoulders with the best at tournaments helped me, the same thing is going to happen for attendees at the Catfish Conference. I am proud to be a part of it.”

There will be plenty of catfish information flowing from discussions at the booths and in the isles, but a highlight of the event will be seminars by well-known anglers. The seminars will give amateur and advanced anglers the opportunity to listen, ask questions and learn from the best cat men in the business.

One speaker already on the docket is frequent tournament competitor Larry Muse. Muse is Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest Anger of the Year for the past three years. He also won the 2015 Monsters on the Ohio Tournament. Muse wants to duplicate the theme of the conference. “I simply want to share information from my experience with fellow anglers in a way that will help the sport grow,” said Muse. Attendees can expect to pick up some good tips and techniques for catching more and bigger fish.

Monsters on the Ohio Tournament Director and pro angler Aaron Wheatley will also be on hand to share with the participants. Considered the premier catfish tournament in the nation, Monsters on the Ohio already has more than 50 boats signed up for 2016. This year there were 182 boats and there are plans to cap it at 200 for 2016. It is one more indication of the growing popularity of the sport.

Wheatley will be talking about river fishing in Kentucky waters and answering questions about tournaments. “We will do some Q & A on tournaments,” said Wheatley. “Anything from starting a tournament to fishing in one.”

Attendees can also plan on Douglas “The Catfish Dude” roaming the event and talking catfish with anyone that wants to listen. “I will be on hand to discuss tips and tactics, one on one,” said Douglas. “I want everyone to come. I want the tournament guys to come and share their expertise. They are the backbone of the industry right now. I want the non-tournament anglers to come. New interested anglers are what we are looking for, anglers that can grow the sport.”

The size and numbers of catfish being caught across the country is bringing new attention to the sport. It is bringing new anglers with an appetite for learning more about how to catch them.

It’s great to see all this coming together,” said Chuck Davidson, co-host of Catfish Weekly. “Bass fishing did not get to where it is by everybody just setting around.”

“We have all watched catfishing as a sport grow over the last few years,” proclaimed Lyle Stokes, co-host of Catfish Weekly. “I don’t think we have touched the tip of the iceberg yet, as long as everybody tries to get along and make it grow. I think this conference is the beginning of some great things to come in catfishing.”

The conference will be held on February 27, 2016 at Jeff Jones Marine located at 176 Frankfort Street, Versailles, Kentucky.

Keep up with new information by visiting the Catfish Conference Facebook Page. Douglas can be emailed at or phoned at 502-510-0275. Hopper can be emailed at or phoned at 859-873-3116.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You may also like