Big fish were abundant at the catfish tournament at Decatur, AL
Catfish anglers from 14 states traveled to Wheeler Lake for a King Kat Tournament Trail event presented by Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s. Forty teams gathered at Decatur, AL to test their catfishing skills against other anglers and Mother Nature.
Anglers fishing the March 14, 2020 event were vying for $10,025 in cash and prizes, and an opportunity to qualify for the $120,000 Classic Championship to be held October 30 – 31, 2020 on Milford Lake in Milford, KS.
Anglers were greeted with light rain and cloudy conditions on tournament day. The winds were out of the north at about 10mph. Early morning temperatures in the low 50’s increased to the low 70’s by weigh-in as the cloudy skies turn to warm sunshine.
As usual, Wheeler did not disappoint. Numerous big fish came to the scales. It took more than 140 pounds to win total weight and more than 60 pounds to win Big Kat.
Results for the Top Teams
The top spot at Wheeler went to Willie Smith, Nick Anderson, and Johnny Higginbottom. The Ohio team took the first-place win with a total weight of 140.4 pounds and earned a check for $4,000.
The team ran their Lund from the launch site at Ingalls Harbor to the bottom end of Wheeler where they fished in water ranging from 9 up to 24 feet deep.
“We drifted in the morning,” reported Smith. “We were pulling cut skipjack, half on planer boards and half dragging. The first fish came about 7 in the morning in 24 feet of water. We continued to drift up toward the bank and caught 8 more, including a 52-pounder, in around 17 feet of water. Most of these fish hit on the planer boards.”
They caught their last fish drifting around 8:30 but continued to drag for 2 more hours with no more fish. That dry spell persuaded them to move and go to the anchor.
“Our next hole was across from the Elk River,” concluded Smith. “We set up on a rock pile that we marked the day before in shallow water. We caught our last 3 fish there. Two flatheads and a 33-inch blue. These fish came in water ranging from 9 to 18 feet deep.”
The runner-up spot went to Paul Cypher Jr. and William Stewart with 135.1 pounds. They overcame boat issues and a slow bite to end the day earning $2,000 for second place.
“We got down here a day early and stocked up on skips and shad,” reported Cypher. “Then we got skunked prefishing. We were a little disgruntled. So, we reached out to a couple of friends for some tips.”
With some friendly advice from friends, they headed out on tournament morning only to have some boat issues. It turned out to be something they could fix. They got underway again and headed to their first spot.
“We pulled in a nice under slot flattie right away,” Cypher said. “The bite slowed down and we went to check out one of the new areas we were given. On the way down we scanned an area and spotted a couple of the best marks we had seen. So, we set up to drag baits and put two nice 30-plus pound fish in the boat.”
Cypher and Stewart were using side-scan on a Humminbird Solix. They were still marking fish so they kept resetting their path and dragging the area again. They were fishing in 20 to 30 feet of water and running at about .5 mph using the autopilot and cruise control on their Minn Kota Ulterra.
“The next couple drags we were able to cull both the 30’s and replace them with bigger fish. We just weren’t able to catch our unders. We couldn’t even cull a 1.5-pound channel,” joked Cypher.
Their other equipment included Anvil rods with the new Shimano Tekota A Reels spooled with Slime Line and PowerPro. They added Tackling Kats 9/0 circle hooks and Dirty South and B-Kat dragging weights. They also used Shark floats and B-Kat planner boards. Just to be on the safe side they had suspending rods and dragging rods on board in case they had to change fishing methods.
“Preparation and preplanning are a necessity,” concluded Cypher. “And at the end of the day, trust your electronics!”
Third Place and Big Kat
Third place and Big Kat went to Chris Fuller from Parsons, TN and Terry and Lisa Haraway from, Anderson, AL. They weighed in 134.6 pounds that included the Big Kat at 64.9 pounds. It also included Lisa’s personal best blue at 59 pounds. They earned $1,500 for third place and added $800 for Big Kat.
The team fished downriver from the launch site. They did some anchoring and some dragging out of their Driftmaster Rod Holders. They were targeting water that was 30 to 40 feet deep. Chris caught the Big Kat of the tournament and Lisa boated her PB on anchor.
Lisa had jokingly told her partners that she was going to catch a big one. So big that she would have to call the news channel. And that’s always a possibility at Wheeler Lake.
“We anchored in a spot and I got my lines rigged up,” reported Lisa. “I had my favorite B’n’M rod and my favorite tackle. Then I used BIG BAIT. I used BIG CHUNKS of fresh skipjack. Go big or go home was our motto of the day.”
Lisa’s big chunk of skipjack had not been in the water 15 minutes when her pole had a huge take down.
“I never saw my B’n’M pole bend like that. I wish I could have got a photo of the pole bending. I told the guys to get the net—I knew it was a good one! It was 59 pounds. Not big enough to call the news yet,” joked Lisa. “Maybe one day.”
The Remaining Top Ten
4th Place – Ron and Terri Goucher – 130.90
4th Place – Wayne Reed and Randall Kirkland – 130.90
6th Place – Terohn Henrich and Jared Coker – 119.00
7th Place – Aaron Churchwell and Daniel Mata – 115.02
8th Place – David Shipman and Brett Nash – 111.30
9th Place – Bruce Paulle and Stephen Shughart – 109.90
10 Place – Brian and Caleb Like – 101.30