Why They Tournament Fish
The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat
by Ron Presley
Three successful tournament anglers answer the question, “Why do you tournament catfish? Interestingly, for all three anglers, every element of the experience is part of a competitive pursuit.
For many (maybe most) tournament catfish anglers, the reason they are tournament fishing is for the competition. It is something they feel in their heart and soul. It is a passion. It is a driving force. It is about competing against the best of the best. It is about pushing their own limits, and coming out on top. They all have a desire to be the best at what they do.
The physical reward may be time on the stage holding up a plaque or trophy and a check that will help with expenses, but the drive to compete is at the root of it all.
Psychologically the notion of competition was defined in the well-known line from ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The phrase, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” expresses the notion that humans prefer winning to losing. It just feels better. But it is the journey that matters, not necessarily the reward.
I see tournament catfish anglers in a class by themselves. They are rugged individualist blazing a trail for others to follow. But, with a competitive streak that is common to all.
Larry Muse, Chis Souders, and Carl Morris Jr. are good examples of anglers driven by competition to succeed. They share a common accomplishment. They have all earned multiple Angler of the Year (AOY) awards. The AOY title is a good measure of success because it requires consistency on the tournament trail. They were all asked about how the competition of tournament fishing related to their success.
Larry Muse earned his first Big Cat Quest Angler of the Year title in 2013. Then he went on to repeat in 2014 and 2015, only to be taken out by his dad, Frank “Pops” Meador in 2016. Muse has defined his catfishing as a “calling.”
“When you are successful at something it’s natural to keep on doing it,” Muse said. “I’ve done it so long now that It’s a part of me.”
For Muse the passion is deep seated in his faith and growing up with his Granny French who taught him to fish and to have faith in his creator.
“At the end of her life she was ready to go,” recalled Muse. “She was so solid in her salvation that it had a huge influence on my Christian life. She’s waiting somewhere for me now, on a river with a big box of chicken livers.”
“It’s like God gave me this to dwell on to keep me out of trouble,” offered Muse. “It’s like a mission field. It’s my calling, I think.”
When asked what role competition plays in his tournament fishing, he replied simply, “I can’t help but be competitive. I have to work at not making it all about winning (“The thrill of victory…”).
Chris Souders is another tournament angler that is driven by competition. His accomplishments include many tournament victories and consistent performances that earned him the King Kat Tournament Trail Angler of the Year title back to back in 2016 and 2017. He credits his competitive nature for much of his success.
“To me competition drives success,” explains Souders. “In the early years of my tournament fishing I didn’t finish where I would have liked. I didn’t finish where I expected myself and partner to finish. Those finishes lead to feelings of defeat (“…the agony of defeat.”). It built a huge fire inside of me to push myself beyond what I ever thought possible.”
That driving force of competition led Souders to learn everything he could about the sport. Techniques, equipment, bait, electronics, every tool in his arsenal became a target to learn more about.
“I began pushing myself to spend endless hours on the water,” continued Souders. “I was focused on learning and fine tuning every technique there was to catching catfish.”
He advises anglers to spend lots of time thinking about new ways to do things, trying new things, failing, and learning from mistakes. It is a process that teaches the things that work better than anything else.
“Competition pushes me to spend every waking moment looking, thinking, trying, and failing,” revealed Souders. “In the end it pushes me to success. Still today, the thought of a tournament instantly fires the feelings of competition back up to a level where I start pushing again.”
Carl Morris, Jr.
It was 2012 when Carl Morris Jr. earned his first King Kat Tournament Trail AOY. He went on to prove it was not a fluke by repeating the feat three more years in a row. The period from 2012 to 2016 also included the King Kat National Championships in 2012 and 2016.
Morris is quick to give some credit to skill and some credit to luck, but most of the credit for his success he gives to the competitive drive that makes him peruse tournament catfishing. Each element of reward is part of the competition.
“I tournament fish for the competition,” declared Morris. “Part of the competition is the challenge of fishing different bodies of water and catching different types of fish. And a big part of the reward is the friendships I have made.”
“It’s all about the thrill of getting a bait in front of the fish,” explained Morris. “It’s the thrill of the fight when the fish is pulling drag. Your heart is pumping until the beast comes into the boat.”
“It’s thrilling to weigh in in front of the crowd and the other anglers,” continued Morris. “We’re fishing against the best of the best. It is a competitive high when you rise up and get lucky enough to beat the likes of the Masingale brothers or any of the other top pros.”
“Fishing takes a lot of skill but you also need a bunch of luck,” Morris said. “Every once in a while, it all comes together and we get that wooden plaque or trophy that signifies we came out on top (The thrill of victory).
“It’s the competition that most of us fish for,” concluded Morris. “If we did it for the money, we would all be broke! Lol. In the end we all want the plaque.”
While competition drives these three anglers to success, they share another trait that I find common to most tournament anglers. It is a willingness to share information with others and to do so in a positive manner. Acts of sharing and being positive will keep catfishing growing as a sport.
This notion was captured well by Joe Ludtke, another avid tournament angler, when he wrote in the February Issue of CatfishNOW, “Never be too cool to talk to the new guy or new team to help them get better. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone out with a couple of tips and then see the joy on their faces as they experience success!”
Tournament catfishing has plenty of room for improvement, but with role models like Muse, Souders, Morris, and Ludtke it will become something the entire catfish community can be proud of.