Long time catfish tournament director, Ken Freeman dies

Ken Freeman was well known around catfish circles. He made his mark both as an angler and as a tournament director. His first catfish success came when he was 10 years old. He and his dad fished the World Championship of Catfishing (WCC) on Pickwick Lake and won it. When he turned 20 years old he fished it with James Snuffy Smith and won it again.

After spending a few years in the bass world he returned to what he loved most. He had some success in U.S. Cats events and several other tournaments. Around 2001 he met with David Draper and some tourism folks to form a tournament out of the Botel on Pickwick Lake.

That tournament, held at the Botel, was the same location where the WCC was held. By that time he had bought the Botel. It was also where all the National Catfish Derbies have been held. Phil King won that tournament.

When his son was born with spina bifida hydrocephalus he gave up fishing to spend more time with, and care for his son at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. The next three months were spent in Memphis.

A couple years later Freeman decided to return to the catfish world. He met with Bill Dance, Denny Halgrin, and a couple other interested people. They met with the director of marketing for Bass Pro Shops. The Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest (BCQ) began as a result of that meeting.

Fast forward a few more years and we reach the time period where yours truly became interested in catfishing. I had worked closely with T.J. Stallings in the crappie world. One day I saw a Facebook post where T.J was fishing a media day event before a BQC tournament with Larry Muse on the Mississippi River. What is referred to as the “Wow Factor” of big catfish grabbed me immediately. I told T.J. I would sure like to do that.

Anyone that knew T.J. also knew you didn’t ask him for something if you didn’t really want it. A few weeks later I found myself on Wilson Lake with Larry Muse. Larry was the first cat man I ever knew. From that experience, I learned about the BCQ and tournament fishing. By that time Larry had won his first BCQ AOY.

That fishing trip led me to inquire more about BCQ and that inquiry led to an invitation from Ken Freeman. He was the first person to invite me to cover a catfish tournament. He put me up and fed me and ask for nothing in return except to promote the sport of catfishing.

Today I learned of his passing and it brought back these memories and relationships that I hold dear. I have since met so many wonderful members of the catfish community and Ken Freeman played a big part of that. I thank you, Ken Freeman, for the helping to introduce me to this wonderful sport.

Rest in Peace, Ken Freeman. Prayers and thoughts for your family and friends.

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