Noting its 19th consecutive year of catching Ohio River catfish — with bragging rights for the largest “cat” and total yield of the day, not to mention a $1,000 first place prize — the tournament is a major fundraiser for CARE, with proceeds going to provide a Christmas for needy children and families in the Bend Area.
This year’s tournament, held Saturday at the Mason Levee, drew 114 teams. While Elvis Zerkle of CARE noted the number of participants has been larger in the past, those who went into the water made up for it in the sheer amount of catfish brought in for weighing.
“This is the most weight we’ve ever had,” he said. “We had 114 teams, but if we ever get good weather for five days before the tournament, it’ll blow it out of the water.”
And indeed, the biggest catfish of the day taken from the river weighed 55.68 pounds and was caught by the team of Steve Searl and Anthony Schneider of Columbus, Ohio, members of the Ohio Hills Catfish Club.
After “Jaws,” as he was affectionally called, was weighed and certified, Searl and Schneider returned their prize catch to the river.
The catfish’s weight also helped Searl and Schneider on to winning third place in the weight of their overall catch, which came to 81.26 pounds.
The second-biggest catfish brought to the scales was snagged by the team of Jamie Luikart and Paul Luikart, weighing 40.70 pounds. Aaron Parkins and Donald Starcher’s 33.32-pound catfish was third, and Larry Lange and Stephanie Lange displayed a catfish weighing 31.34 pounds to finish fourth in the “big cat” division.
In addition to Searl and Schneider, the team of Tom Long and Mike Wahl placed first in overall catch weight with 97.38 pounds, while Larry Lange and Stephanie Lange were second with 91 pounds.
Aaron Parkins and Donald Starcher were fourth with 70.62 pounds; Criss Sexton and Phyllis Sexton were fifth, 69.98 pounds; Andy Fetty and Brian Fetty, sixth, 68.82 pounds; Jamie Fox and Janet Fox, seventh, 58.78 pounds; J.C. Albright and Randy Albright, eighth, 55.94 pounds; Jeff McLane and Jack Harrison, ninth, 55.92 pounds; and Todd Anderson and Keith Sayre, 10th, 53.54 pounds.
Complete results of the tournament can be found at www.bendarea care.com. Organizers said the tournament drew teams from as far away as Morgantown and Springfield, Ohio.
Major sponsors of the Bend Area Care Catfish Tournament are Budweiser, American Electric Power, AEP River Transportation, Bob’s Market and Greenhouses, Hangin’ Rock Sports Center, Holzer Clinic, Stewart-Johnson Post of the American Legion in Mason, Bend Area Chiropractic Center, Gatling Coal, Kayser, Layne and Clark PLLC, and VFW Post 9926 in Mason.