Big Fish record for King Kat Trail busted on Wheeler
Decatur, Alabama and Wheeler Lake are on most catfish anglers wish list. The number of personal best catfish coming from the Tennessee River lake continues to grow. Now, this destination claims the distinction of producing the biggest catfish ever to weigh in at a Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail event.
The March 17, 2018 Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail event attracted more than 120 anglers from 15 states to the Wheeler Lake, Decatur, Alabama area.
Competitors were vying for $15,000 in cash and prizes, and an opportunity to qualify for the $110,000 Classic Championship to be held September 14 & 15, 2018 on the Ohio River at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Anglers were challenged by early morning rain, lightning, and winds that ranged from 10 to 20 miles per hour. They were fishing a slowing current as the river was falling from earlier rains.
Big Fish honors went to the team of Justin Cook from West Franklin, MO, Tyler Moses from Florence, AL, and Keaton Eads. The 89.96-pound beast is the new record for the King Kat Trail, surpassing the previous record of 86.9 pounds.
Moses and Cook had some good help on board to help them land the big fish. Thirteen-year-old Keaton Eads was the third man on the team and had practiced up in prefishing by catching a 69.5-pound Wheeler blue. Just one more personal best from Wheeler. Keaton is the son of a friend of Justin Cook.
“Keaton was extremely excited about his personal best,” said Moses. “He’s fished with Justin before so he had seen some big fish, just not quite that big. He was a big help in landing our big fish too.”
“Honestly, we experienced pretty slow fishing,” reported Moses. “It was slow prefishing Friday and in the tournament Saturday. That said, we found some nice fish in an area and worked them over thoroughly with fresh skipjack.”
Moses said that the near 90-pound fish put up an excellent fight. It swam by the boat going upstream at least 3 times.
“We had a few basketball sized bubbles come up while he was beside the boat, said Moses. “We knew he was going to be big, although not necessarily that big.
“While it was an awesome fish to see and to get to weigh, I think we were both somewhat disappointed that we didn’t put anything with it,” concluded Moses. “The fish we needed were there, we just didn’t put that second big one, that we desperately needed, in the boat. All in all it was a good day with a great fish and some fun memories with friends.”
Results for the Top Teams
Mike Mitchell (Southern Cats Guide Service) of Grant, Alabama and Rick Sexton of Helenwood, Tennessee claimed first place and bragging rights for the Wheeler Lake event. They weighed a 5-fish bag of 145.1 pounds and earned $4,900.
Mitchell and Sexton fished on the rope in the river section of Wheeler close to Decatur. Mitchell stated that the fish were scattered. They experienced periodic bites all day long.
“We were anchored up fishing underwater log jams and rock piles,” reported Mitchell. “Most of our fish came from the 20-foot depth range. The 67-pounder, however, was very shallow around 8 feet deep.”
“Most fish were caught later in the day,” continued Mitchell. “The fish were scattered and we rarely caught over one fish per spot. I believe the water fluctuation in both temperature and current speed had the fish moving. The river dropped about a foot on tournament day.”
The team used standard Carolina rigs with 8/0 Team Catfish circle hooks and a big chunk of fresh skipjack from K and K Bait Company. Foley spoons in chartreuse and white are hot for catching skipjack right now. They used Big Cat Fever rods and 40-pound Slime Line to pull fish from heavy cover.
The second-place honors went to the Moore Brothers Fishing Team of Zed Moore, Mt. Caramel, Illinois, and Josh and Les Moore, of Vincent, Indiana. The father sons team weighed 131.04 pounds to earn $2,500.
Team Moore fished upriver towards Wheeler dam. They targeted fish in 40 feet of water on the main river ledge. Team Moore caught 5 fish dragging skipjack down the channel. Josh stated that all 5 fish had come off skipjack heads.
“The fish were really scattered,” reported Zed Moore. “There was not much of an option but to keep the baits in the water as much as we could. It was a very slow day. We felt like our best chance at catching the scattered fish was to drag baits. We were using skipjack from Big Kat Bait Company.”
“Bites were hard to come by,” continued Zed. “We covered a lot of water to catch what we did. Dad caught the first fish of the day, a 62 pounder. It was also his new personal best! We caught our 5th fish with only 15 minutes left in the day.”
“We are so thankful that the state of Alabama protects their trophy catfish,” concluded Zed. “There were some really great fish caught this week. Wheeler Lake is a great fishery.”
David Shipman of Corinth, Mississippi and Brett Nash of Rienzi, Mississippi took third place. The Mississippi team weighed in 123.28 pounds and earned $1,800.
Shipman stated that they used 7.5-foot B’n’M poles to land 9 fish for the day. They targeted structure around the nuclear plant. They caught their fish while anchored, using skipjack for bait.
Another B’n’M team, Ryan Lawrence of Portland, Tennessee and Mark Blauvelt of New Lebanon, Ohio, claimed the fourth-place spot. They weighed 119.18 pounds and earned $1,100.
The team fished the middle of the lake, downstream from Decatur. They targeted creek channels coming onto flats in 20 feet of water. They baited with skipjack to land 10 fish for the event.
They also experienced what often happens in Wheeler tournaments. In their quest for a 5 fish limit that included 3 unders, Lawrence indicated that they had to throw back a 32 and 38 pounder.
Fresh off their win on Santee Cooper the previous week, Trevor Nederhoff of Calera, Alabama and Josh Brown of Rainbow City, Alabama, took fifth place on Wheeler. They weighed 111.3 pounds of Tennessee River blues to earn $750.
Nederhoff and Brown fished downriver from Decatur near the paper mill. They were dragging baits across creek channels on flats in 20 – 25 feet of water. They caught 9 fish on the day using skipjack for bait.
The Remaining Top Teams
6th Place $600 Roger and Mary Gerloff – 109.28 lbs.
7th Place $500 Wesley Mann and Kevin Breed love – 106.78 lbs.
8th Place $350 Brian and Brad Burnett – 106.28 lbs.
9th Place $300 Justin Cook and Tyler Moses 106.12 lbs (Included Big Fish)
King Kat officials send a special thank you to the staff at the Decatur-Morgan County Tourism for hosting the event and making everything run so smoothly. They also recognized and thanked all the hotels who offered special rates for the anglers. An extra housing bonus of $1,000 was offered by the tourism office.
“Decatur, Alabama never disappoints,” said tournament director Jeremy Coe. “The people here are so hospitable! We always look forward to coming back, as well as, do the anglers. We look forward to returning next year for another great event.”
Events and payouts like this one on Wheeler Lake could not take place without National Sponsors. Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail sponsors include, Cabela’s, Adventure Products EGO Nets, RigRap, B ‘n’ M Poles, Minn Kota, Mercury Marine, Mustad Hooks, Driftmaster Rodholders, Gamma Line, Humminbird Electronics, World Fishing Network – WFN, Rippin’ Lips, Cat River Anchors, Sunsect Sunscreen & Insect Repellent, Humminbird Lakemaster Maps, Digital EFX Wraps, Tentology, Gill Rainwear, Catfish Now, Whisker Wear, The Original Clearboard, Extreme Bait Systems and Katfish Clothing.