Monsters on the Ohio 2018
by Ron Presley
Friends, Fun, and Conservation at Monsters on the Ohio
Monsters on the Ohio recently completed its ninth successful year of providing tournament competition for catfish anglers. The Owensboro, KY tournament attracted 167 boats and some of the best catfish anglers in the country. The anglers come for the competition and the prizes, but also for the friendships made over the years.
James “Bink” Fox has fished all nine of the tournaments. Even when he was battling cancer he fished the MOTO. This year he fished with his wife Janet Fox.
“Bink has fished all nine tournaments,” said Janet. “Even when he felt bad he had to be there. We love seeing all the fishermen that we only see once a year.”
“Aaron and his team go out of their way to make your stay enjoyable,” confirmed Bink. The fishing is tough but challenging. But you get to catch up with some great people.”
Mother Nature provide an added challenge to the 2018 event. High water in the time before the tournament left Aaron Wheatly and his crew with a shoreline full of debris where they would normally park about 110 trailers and tow vehicles.
Normally the boats would be towed straight through in front of the scales and continue into that parking lot. This year they had to make a U-turn at the scales and return to the top except for a few boats that could park below. It all worked out fine.
Plenty of organized volunteer help made things run smoothly. From the captains meeting to the launch to the awards ceremony, staff members joined together to present a professionally ran tournament.
A little bad luck, circumstance, and obstacles, challenged the father/son team of Dale and Matt Kerns, at the 2018 Monsters on the Ohio (MOTO). The Illinois team started off in the morning’s patchy fog with their eyes set on the scheduled lock time so they could pass through the lock as part of their pre-planned strategy to fish another pool.
“We arrived at the lock with a barge halfway in,” reported Dale. “After setting there an hour it was our turn to lock through. Us and 30 other boats. This was an unscheduled delay in our plan for the day. We were traveling 60 miles, so every minute counted.”
With the delay in mind and the added stress of time against them, Dale and Matt were cutting all the bends and islands as close as they could to save as much time as they could.
“The high water had formed a sandbar near the last island,” revealed Dale. “We found out we can’t run in one foot of water. My son got out and luckily pushed us off the sand bar.”
Hoping all their bad luck was behind them they began their first drift at 10:30 a.m. They were suspending four baits and rollin’ two. Dale described the rollin’ techniques as letting the weight roll the bait downriver. It is similar to back bouncing without the bounce. They were drifting at about .3 MPH. They hooked up on the first bait down.
“We drifted approximately 1/2 mile,” said Dale. “We caught 10 more fish on that first drift with nothing over 35 inches.”
Now it is 11:45 a.m. and they pull up and make a 15-minute run upriver where they planned to fish on the rope.
“We anchored up on some structure in deeper water,” revealed Dale. “We put whole baitfish on four rods. Within the next hour we boated two over and two under fish.”
With their limit in the boat Team Kerns began the long ride back to lock for passage back to the weigh-in pool.
“We arrived at the lock at 2:20 p.m. offered Dale. “Our luck had turned around and the doors were opening to go through.”
“We always make long runs in the monster tourney,” concluded Dale. “Mainly it is because of boat count. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but it makes it interesting. Not only do you have to catch fish in a short time, but have to get them to weigh in healthy.”
Dale and Matt claimed the top prize at MOTO with a five-fish weight of 129.31 pounds.
Second place and “Queen of Monsters on the Ohio”
The runner-up spot went to Willie and Stacie Smith from Ohio. They weighed a five-fish limit of 108.6 pounds that included their biggest fish at 46.7 pounds. The weight also gave Stacie the “Queen of the Monsters on the Ohio” title.
“We caught all of our fish off of skipjack,” reported Stacie. “Not one bite on shad or bluegills. Even though we caught our normal shad to use as our main source we also had purchased frozen Big Cat Bait Company skipjack from Bass-N-More and the Catfish Bunker. We fished above the 231 bridge in 18-24 foot of water where we caught 4 of our 5 fish. We caught these four fish before 10 a.m.”
After a long drought the team anchored and drifted in numerous locations before settling in on a barge praying for one more fish to make their limit of five. They finally caught their final little fish in two feet of water. It came on skipjack at 2:35 p.m.
“This was a far from a normal day,” joked Stacie. “Willie actually did what he had planned. On a normal fishing day my wonderful partner, Willie, has a plan and makes on an average ten pit stops along the way, just to make sure he doesn’t miss anything. And he thinks I am indecisive.”
“As always, we had such a wonderful weekend at Monsters on the Ohio,” continued Stacie. “MOTO is one of the best run tournaments around and ran by one of the best tournament directors. We enjoy the social environment where both professional and amateur anglers are welcomed by all. The work that Aaron and his crew put into the structure of this tournament makes it one of the most organized in the nation and makes a safe and fun environment for all that attend whether an angler or spectator.”
“This is one of our favorite tournaments of the year,” concluded Stacie. “Willie has participated since 2010 and this is my 4th year. I am honored to be a part of something so great and thrilled to be the Queen of the Monsters on Ohio this year. Can’t wait to see everyone next year!”
Third Place and Big Fish
The third-place spot went to Rob Douglas and James Lirot. They weighed a 92.2-pound bag that included the Big Fish of the tournament at 68.6 pounds.
“We started off in a lot of fog,” reported Douglas. “We had to work our way down to Myers Pool and lock through. We lost more than an hour trying to get through because of barge traffic but they did a great job getting it over as quickly as they could and allowing us to go through. These guys seem to work with us more than they have to.”
There was a lot of commercial activity on the river according to Douglas. They found an area that was around 21 foot deep. In another 500 yards the bottom dropped off another 10 feet. The water temp was around 68 degrees with a pretty good flow.
“We drifted using our Big Cat Fever rods,” offered Douglas. “We were rigged with Whisker Seeker Triple Threat Hooks, Demon Dragons and Slime Line.”
“Our bait of preference was skipjack,” continued Douglas. “They came from Bass-N-More and Big Cat Bait. But we kept missing bites so we went to smaller chunks. The 68.6 was caught around 11:30. He hit like a ton of bricks. It took around 10 minutes to work him to the boat. Jimmy caught the big fish and it’s his personal best.”
“We caught our limit from the same area and never tried anywhere else,” said Douglas. “We were pretty lucky on our big fish and getting third place against some of the greatest anglers around. It was the best run tournament as usual. It was a good day.”
“Yes, that was my personal best,” said a happy Lirot. “We got lucky. It was a fight to get the pole out of the rod holder so we knew it was a good one. The tip of the pole was in the water. We caught a couple little ones before that and had no problem. But when that one hit it was just instant chaos. It did feel great! I am still very happy about that fish, now three days later.”
4th Place – Stephen Funcher & Henry Price – 78.2 pounds
5th Place – Casey Tutorow & Andrew Han – 73.5 pounds
Highest Placing Youth – Boat #2 – Riley Felten
2018 Monster on the Ohio SeaArk Boat Winner
Boat #118 Brent McFadden & Grant Hagan
“I thought it went well as usual,” commented Aaron Wheatley, MOTO Tournament Director, as he summed up the 2018 event. “I was a little worried back in July when boat numbers were down from previous years. But the final count of 167 boats proved that there is more to a catfish tournament than catching fish.”
“We had to do it a little differently this year,” offered Wheatley. “But we are pretty good with what we do and recognize where things need to be adjusted. It made it tougher not having those 110 parking spaces down below, but it worked out. We have one of the best facilities around right here at English Park for holding big tournaments. It took a few more volunteers but it was manageable. We had 43 volunteers this year. I had people helping I didn’t even know. You can never have too much help.”
Wheatley also recognized the presence of Bill Dance at the tournament. Dance teamed up with George Young Jr. and Ben Goebel to fish the MOTO. The team finished ninth and Dance drew a large crowd at the weigh-in where he signed autographs and promoted the sport.
“Bill Dance being here was good for Owensboro,” Wheatley said. “We had a lot of locals come out to see him. Also, he did a radio show where he mentioned that he had never seen boats put in faster or fish weighed faster that at Monsters. The line went fast and we got the fish back to the water as fast as possible. Out goal, and every tournaments goal, should be to have those fish swim off healthy.”
“We have a lot of anglers who are appreciative of what Monsters stands for,” continue Wheatley. “There is more to a catfish tournament than catching fish. People love this tournament. We are touching so many adults and children. I think we are making a difference in peoples in lives. If you are successful in changing just one person for the better, you are doing good. I can think of several examples where lives have changed because of MOTO.”
Anglers agree with Wheatley. One after another they commented on how much they enjoy coming to MOTO. They all love to fish, but they also get great pleasure from the comradery at the captains meeting, the weigh-in, and the conversations in the hotel parking lot!
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