Catfish anglers from fifteen states traveled to Milford Lake at Milford, KS for the King Kat Tournament Trail Classic presented by Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s. Sixty-two teams gathered to test their catfishing skills against other anglers and Mother Nature.
Anglers had fished throughout the year to qualify for the championship event. The Classic featured a guaranteed first-place payout of $50,000 in cash. The remainder of the top 20 finishing teams and the Big Fish team also earned a check. Additionally, $30,000 more was distributed in the points race. In the end, $121,240 was distributed at the Classic in Milford, KS.
Given the 2020 Pandemic, all parts of the championship event were conducted following social distancing and COVID requirements. The weigh-in was conducted at Acorn’s Resort where everyone was required to wear a mask when they couldn’t.
Milford Lake has a slot limit of 25 to 40 inches and a minimum length of 15 inches. That means anglers could not weigh in a blue catfish in the slot and each angler can keep only one over 40 inches. The 5 fish weigh-in had to conform to those requirements.
A female soldier from Ft. Riley sang the National Anthem to get the day started right. Then several other soldiers signaled the start of fishing with a blast from “Old Thunder,” a replica 1855 model 3-inch ordinance cannon. Once the cannon fired at 7:00 am the anglers could fish until 3:00 pm and had to be in the weigh-in line by 4:00 pm.
Anglers were greeted with 40-degree temperatures on day one. Sunny skies pushed the temps to the mid-sixties by weigh-in time and the winds remained low. The water temperature was in the 44-46-degree range.
At the end of day one, Eric and Jordan Horton had the day one lead with 99.56 pounds. They were also leading the Big Kat competition at 48.98 pounds.
Day two began completely different, with winds up to 19 mph at launch time. At the end of a blustery day, 62 teams had competed for the $121,240 in cash and prizes. The 2020 Classic Champs earned $51,240 of the total.
Results for the Top Catfish Teams
The top spot in the 2020 King Kat Classic went to Kansas Anglers Eric and Jordan Horton. The team from Derby, KS brought a two-day total weight of 169.38 pounds to the scales to earn first place and a check for $50,000. Their Big Kat from day one held up as Big Kat of the tournament at 48.98 pounds for an additional $1,240.
Wearing a shirt that said, “Horton Hears a Blue,” Team Horton targeted 50-feet deep water to pull off the win. Eric took on the duties of “netman” and Jordan reeled them in.
“We started out dragging baits around mid-lake on Friday,” reported Eric. “By 11:00 am we didn’t have a keeper fish in the boat. We made a move to deeper water, around 50 feet, and started fishing flats.”
“We fished our first spot on day one and didn’t catch anything we could weigh in,” added Jordan. “At 11:00 am we made a move to a completely different part of the lake. Within 30 minutes we caught the 48-pound big cat. By noon we had both our overs. On day one we caught four overs in total.”
“Day one the weather was really nice and the water was calm,” reported Eric. “Day two the wind was howling and the water was very rough. It was everything we could do to slow down the boat.”
The fish were biting really well for Team Horton. At one point, they were fishing 5 rods and didn’t have one in the water due to catching so many fish. They were using large cut shad for bait.
“Our big fish weighed 51 pounds on our scale,” recalled Eric. “On the way to weigh-in, the fish threw up an entire bird in the livewell. The vomit ruined the water and caused the fish to start turning sideways. I had to grab a tournament director and skip in line to get the fish weighed in. As soon as the fish were put in freshwater, they swam off strong.”
Day two started off very windy making Milford Lake a challenge to fish. At the end of the day, Team Horton added 69.82 pounds to their day one lead and held on to first-place honors.
The runner-up spot went to Jeff Outz and Kenneth Sudderth from Canon, GA. The Georgia team brought 114.74 pounds to the scales in two days of fishing to earn a check for $6,000.
Outz and Sudderth were in 16th place after day one with 25.06 pounds. They brought 89.68 pounds to the scales to stage an astonishing comeback on day two. The team claimed an early day two lead and set on the stage in the “Hot Seats” until the day one leaders weighed.
The team fought the high Kansas winds and drifted all day long. They reported drift fishing the north end of the lake using white bass and gizzard shad for bait. Even as horrible as the wind was, it worked out in their favor.
The third-place honors went to another Kansas team. Clint McCarter from Harveyville and Jay Smith from Concordia weighed a two-day total of 95.58 pounds to claim the third-place finish and earn a check for $4,500.
McCarter and Smith were in second place after day one with 78.40 pounds. They added 17.18 pounds on day two and held on to a top-three finish.
They said the weather was uncomfortable but didn’t affect the fishing. They were targeting their fish using white bass for bait. They also chose drifting as their method of fishing to target the Milford Lake catfish.
The team fished water in the 30- foot range and reported most of the fish coming in the afternoon. They caught around 35 fish during the two-day tournament.
The Remaining Top Five
4th Place – Mike Davis and Jesse Neufeld – 94.84
5th Place – Tyson and Brent Burnett and 94.24
Jr. Angler of the Year
Jordan Rose traveled from Coeburn, VA to compete with his dad, David in the King Kat Classic. Along with his dad, he has competed in 6 King Kat Tournaments this year. Jordan is very competitive, yet compassionate about his fellow anglers. David has said numerous times that he just drives the boat and Jordan does the fishing.
Sportsman Team of the Year
Wanda and Ron Barner from Wheatland, MO. have faithfully fished the Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail since 2005 and they plan to fish more in the future.
“We had a great time in the tournament,” Wanda said. “It was tough for us but we caught fish. Someone always finds them.”
Wanda said they have already booked their cabin for the 2021 Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail’s Classic in Natchitoches, LA.
Tournament director, Tim Fortner thanked Michelle Stimatze and the Geary County CVB along with Acorn’s Resort for the hospitality and sponsorship of the tournament. He also thanked the staff and volunteers for their hard work.
“Cabela’s King Kat USA would like to thank Shane Wyatt from Central Missouri Catfish for assisting in the Classic by weighing the fish,” added Fortner. “We would also like to thank Jeremy Beachem from All American Catfish for measuring the fish. Finally, we want to thank the Westlake High School Football program for providing players to carry fish.”
“Linda Vann-Owens is the coordinator for the Westlake Football program,” Fortner said. “She also took excellent pictures for the Classic. We appreciate her willingness to assist in various tasks when the need arose.”
“Cabela’s King Kat USA is also thankful for their great sponsors” concluded Fortner. “Without Cabela’s Bass Pro and all our other sponsors, it would be difficult to continue to serve the catfish anglers.”
Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail sponsors include Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s, Excel Boats, Mercury Marine, Mustad Hooks, Humminbird, Minn Kota, B’n’M Poles, Gamma Line, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Ego Nets, EFX Graphics, Catfish Now, Fin n’ Frames, WavePro, Kiobassa Sausage, and Crown Trophy Wave Pro.