Fishing For The Top Prize
Hook, line and sink them.
The 15th annual Milk River Catfish Classic took place this past Saturday and saw fishermen from all over the region come to Glasgow for a great day of fishing.
The non-profit tournament saw 80 teams register to vie for the first place prize. Tournament organizer Brenner Flaten, who has run the Catfish Classic since its inception, said that this year's Classic stood out to him.
"It was an outstanding tournament, about one of the best I can remember," Flaten said. "It went real smoothly all the way around."
The longest running tournament in the Montana Catfish Association tournament circuit crowned a first-time winner this season as Chad Dawson and Cade Flaten took home the top prize.
This was Dawson's ninth year competing in the tournament. During that time, he placed in the top 10 a handful of times, with his best finish in the event until Saturday being a fourth place finish four years ago.
Dawson has fished around 25-30 tournaments throughout Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana. A native of Glasgow, Dawson said that his tactics in fishing this event remained mostly the same as in years past, but said that a small change in those tactics helped a bit.
"We used the same kind of techniques we have used before," Dawson said. "Our biggest part of the success was recasting this year. After about three to four minutes of having our line out in the river, if we weren't getting bites, we'd reel it in and cast it back out."
Unlike years prior where Dawson would be out on a boat in the river, he had to settle for fishing from the shore since he encountered problems with his boat.
"I'd rather fish this tournament from the shore than the boat," Dawson said with a chuckle.
Dawson said that the main strategy for himself and Cade were to catch five fish first. After doing that, they would run the fish up to the cooler in their pickup and then proceed back down to fish some more.
Dawson and Flaten had to come back in a half hour before weighing was supposed to begin because one of the fish they had in the cooler was having a hard time staying alive. As they sat with their fish waiting for it to be weighed, Dawson wasn't too sure if he had the winning weight.
"I wasn't sure how well we did," Dawson said. "We had about 34 pounds within the first hour of the tournament."
The first hour was all the duo needed that day as they finished in the top spot over seven pounds ahead of the second place team of Jason Maynard and Scott Swanson.
"When you can beat the whole field by seven pounds, that's a blow out," said Brenner. "They got things done this year for sure."
Brenner said that the number of fish this year was good although the size of them weren't as big as previous years.
In determining the winner, teams take the five biggest channel catfish to the weigh-ins at the end of the evening. No team can have more than five fish at any time during the event so once they pass five, one needs to be substituted for another.
While the overall competition was deemed a success by Brenner, the event itself didn't escape some controversy.
One team was disqualified from the event and banned for life for fishing outside of the boundary zone set up by tournament organizers.
"There's no need to fish outside the boundary," Brenner said. "Every team is aware of the boundaries and where they are."
Brenner said that the team had been warned previously for the same violation at a separate tournament.
In that situation, another team spotted the team in question but since there were no actual event organizers to catch them in the act, it was one team's word against another's.
"Because we didn't witness it or see it, we didn't go with a lifetime ban right away," said Brenner. "It's a big advantage [to fish outside of the boundaries]."
All-in-all, Brenner said the event was a huge success as always and that it couldn't be done without the local sponsors helping each year.
Rounding out the top three in the team event was Shawn Wersal and Jake Aune. The Jumbo Whiskers award went to Scott Swanson who brought in a catfish weight 10.08 pounds. The Big Whiskers award winner went to Kirk Capdeville who brought in a nine pound catfish.