|Ralph Willey and Mark Lawson with the KING KAT from April 26|
The freshwater fishing has been challenging this spring due to high water levels, but a couple of anglers who chase catfish found success in Georgetown County. The Cabela’s King Kat Tourney sent anglers into rivers like the Waccamaw, Sampit, Black and Santee to catch and release catfish. These Colleton County anglers took home the big catfish prize with a 32.36-pounder and took second place overall including a nice payday and plaque.
Ralph Willey of Walterboro and Mark Lawson of Round O have fished numerous catfish tourneys over the past few years in the Cooper River and the Santee Cooper Lakes. This time they were in the N. Santee River on April 25 and 26 in Lawson’s 24-foot Bentley pontoon boat rigged with a 90-horsepower Mercury and fourteen driftmaster rod holders.
The King Kat rules only allow six rods out at any one time, and all catfish must be weighed alive and then returned to the water. Their first day on the water was forgettable since they lost their electronics due to a blown fuse. With the river water levels high and up into the bank, having a working fishfinder to locate the structure where the catfish hang out was a must. They did manage to catch a few small catfish to weigh in but left the water early that day to make repairs.
Returning to the river the next morning at 6:30 a.m. they were able to zero in on a likely spot and elected to fish in about 18-feet of water. “We like to soak cut up river herring in a menhaden milk made by VooDoo offshore,” said Willey. “We were about 10-feet away from the bank when I dropped down a chunk of fish on a 6-ought Eagle Claw circle hook. I use an Ugly Stik rod and my Abu Garcia reel is spooled up with green 30-pound test Stren.”
The team had caught two small fish early but the bite at 8:30 a.m. was the big one. The river current was running hard and Willey grabbed the rod and fought the fish for 15-minutes. Using a landing net they placed the catfish in a 100-gallon tank on the boat that is powered by a small aerator. They wondered if the big catfish would be ok in their tank, and it soon began to float sideways and show signs of stress.
They called the King Kat weigh station at 10:30 a.m. and said to get ready for them to come weigh the fish. Their quick action ensured that the catfish was weighed and released in good shape, and they also ended up taking the Big Cat cash prize of $470. “We lost another catfish that was the same size or bigger when he was fighting hard under the boat,” said Lawson. “Yep, if we had landed that fish I think we would have won the tourney, but that’s fishing.”
Finishing in first place was Brian Tanner of Hemingway and Bryon Lavoie of Andrews with a two-day total of 108.68-pounds of catfish, good for the $4000 first place payout. Each team is allowed to weigh in five catfish per day and the winning team weighed in a total of ten flathead catfish, with the largest being 17.18-pounds, caught in the Waccamaw River.
Willey and Lawson weighed in a two-day total of 82.84-pounds of catfish and took home the $2000 second place prize, plus the Big Cat braggin’ rights. Third place went to James Matherly of Pamlico and Dennis Matherly of Florence for weighing 80.62-pounds of catfish good for $1000, fishing in the Pee Dee River. Besides cash and prizes anglers were qualifying for the King Kat Championships coming October 3 and 4 on Lake Wateree in Camden.
To view past blog entries about the King Kat Competition click here.