April 2020 Equipment

Tournament Fish Care

Jim Page is shown with the 60-pound blue that led him to refit his livewell with a new recirculating pump and aerator so he could keep fresh water in the well at all times.

Jim Page is shown with the 60-pound blue that led him to refit his livewell with a new recirculating pump and aerator so he could keep fresh water in the well at all times.

Tournament Fish Care

No one should allow a trophy catfish to be stolen from the future.  

by Ron Presley

No one understands the importance of fishing equipment more than tournament anglers. When you hear them talk about why they chose a certain rod and reel, or their electronics, or their trolling motor they are likely to answer, “dependability.”

Tournament fishing demands dependability. Time is a valuable commodity  and once lines are in the water there is no room for failure. By the same token, there is no room for losing a fish before the weigh-in.

Jim Page is one of those tournament anglers who looks for dependability in his equipment. That is why he fishes out of a 2005 polar 1900cc with a 150 Yamaha 4-stroke motor, equipped with a Lowrance fish finder and Motor Guide trolling motor.

Page chose the Polar 1900 CC because it was designed as a saltwater bay boat. It is known for being one of the toughest on rough lake waters.

“I’ve fished lakes such as Moultrie and Wheeler in high winds,” explained Page. “Even with 5- to 6-foot waves the boat will power on through with no problems. On tournament day Mother Nature isn’t always kind and you have to have a tough reliable boat to keep everyone safe and make it back to weigh-in.”

“I rigged the Polar with a Lowrance fish finder,” offered Page. “It is very user friendly and dependable. I can pull up 2D, Chart, and side imaging to fish water up to 40 feet deep. I can switch to down imaging and mark individual fish down to more than 100 feet.”

Page chose a Motor Guide trolling motor to pair with his Lowrance. This gives him the ability to set trails, spot lock, and maintain a certain speed, all with a remote control.

“Paring the trolling motor and the electronics gives me quick response dependability to make adjustments,” continued Page. “Quick adjustments are crucial when tournament fishing. Every minute you spend not fishing, someone else is!”

Page uses Big Cat Fever rods and Abu Garcia SX7700 reels, chosen for their proven dependability. Not any Abu’s though.

“The only difference between me and a lot of other Abu guys is that all mine were made in the 1990’s,” explained Page. “They don’t make them anymore so I had to search the internet and order them from all across the globe to get the 10 that I needed. Everything is stainless and they are hands down the most reliable reel made.”

“I am hard on all my equipment,” declared Page. “When traveling the country fishing tournaments, I need everything to perform like it should, every time. When money and sometimes safety is on the line, you don’t won’t to second guess your equipment! So far, all these products have held true to that and then some.”

No matter how important these tools are to Page, there is nothing more important  than a dependable livewell. And it’s not just because he doesn’t want to lose a fish in a tournament—he doesn’t want to lose it for the future! He wants those anglers that come later to have the same chance to catch trophy catfish that he has had.

Krista Samples is shown here removing a healthy flat from Page’s newly fitted livewell. He updated it so he could keep fresh oxygenated water on fish all day if needed.
Krista Samples is shown here removing a healthy flat from Page’s newly fitted livewell. He updated it so he could keep fresh oxygenated water on fish all day if needed.

“I think good fish care is a big part of catfishing, especially tournament fishing,” said Page. “It is important for a variety of reasons. Not only do they have to be alive when you weigh-in at tournaments, but you want them to be healthy and swim off after weigh-in. They deserve a chance to grow to their full potential and be caught by others in the future.”

“We have to be able to keep fish alive and healthy,” continued Page. “Sometimes the fish are in the livewell up to 10-12 hours depending on when you catch the fish and how big the tournament is. There’s no worse feeling than having a chance to place in a tournament and your fish not make it.”

Page had what he called a “close call” in the February 2020 King Kat tournament out of Black’s Camp on Santee Cooper. He had what turned out to be the Big Kat of the tournament and it got a little weak on him. It turned out OK after they put it in an oxygen rich tank at the weigh-in site to resuscitate before releasing.

“I never had this problem before,” Page said. “Especially during cooler weather and water temperatures. My Polar has a 50-gallon dry box up front that I converted to a live well. It had an aerator to push water and air through it, but  when you have over a 150 pounds of fish in it during a tournament it wasn’t enough. I had to keep adding fresh water to keep them healthy. I needed a more reliable system.”

That experience led Page to call on Wilson Marine in Newberry, SC to install a new recirculating pump and aerator in the live well. Now he can fill the live well with a switch instead of dipping buckets and keep good fresh water on the fish all day.

“These guys at Wilson Marine do all of my boat work and keep me tournament ready, concluded Page. “I encourage other tournament anglers who have a similar set up to make sure they have a way to keep fresh oxygenated water on their fish. You never know when you could have the winning bag in your live well.”

“Tournament fishing places stress on the anglers and the fish,” concluded Page. “More than anything else, I want to stress to all my catfishing friends—take care of this resource for future generations. I want them to be able to do what we do and love. Additionally, with the sport of catfishing growing as it is, we don’t need any negative publicity about conservation of fish—especially tournament fish.”

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