Schmeltz, Marshall and Buffo Win Catfish Tournament at Rising Sun, IN
Catfish anglers are challenged by rising river.
The Ohio Valley River Cats 13th annual Catfish Tournament was held in Rising Sun on September 8-9, 2018. The two-day tournament challenged anglers with high and rising water, floating debris, and rain, rain, rain.
Despite the challenging weather, 141 teams competed in the popular tournament, according to tournament director Frank McIntosh. Frank has also announced his retirement as tournament director. Stepping up to fill his shoes is Stephen Paul Hannan.
The first tournament day produced 2771.6 pounds of Ohio River catfish and the second day produced 1225.2 for a total weight of 3,996.8 pounds. The Big Fish of the tournament weighed 50.4 pounds.
The team of Jeff Schmeltz, Johnatha Marshall and Allyson Buffo claimed the top spot. They caught 88 pounds on day one that included a 49.4-pound flathead that was Allyson’s personal best. The fishing was tougher for them on day two. They added 33.4 pounds for a two-day total of 121.4 pounds.
“We didn’t do any prefishing this year,” reported Schmeltz. “We started off anchoring in a muscle bed full of timber because we normally can catch a limit in the first hour in that particular spot. We ended up having six fish in the boat by 9:15 on the first morning, including Allyson’s 49.4-pound flathead.”
“We actually thought her pole was hung up so I picked it up to help break the 80-pound leader,” continued Schmeltz. “As soon as I pulled back to break it free it popped and the next thing I knew the fish was taking line. I handed the pole back to her. Every time she gained line he wanted to take it back. It was quite the sight to see when she realized what was on the end of her line.”
“My first attempt to net the fish failed and he took off taking line again. She was about to have a panic attack because she was so excited. I got the fish the 2nd time. It’s been her dream to catch a big flathead and to do it during her favorite tournament made it that much more memorable for her.”
After sitting in that spot and getting their limit the team decided to bounce around a couple spots by anchoring. They sifted through some smaller fish and decided to start drift fishing. After one long drift, they caught a couple blues that allowed them to cull up. The wind and rain picked up and they returned to anchor fishing where they caught some small fish. Then one last drift added their second biggest fish and ended the day with their 88 pounds. They had caught 16 catfish in water depts that ranged from 30 to 55 feet.
The second day produced a river that was trashed from the heavy rains and runoff. They started fishing the main river but changed their strategy.
“We went into a backed-up creek,” said Schmeltz. “We anchored up in 4- to 8-foot water near a marina. We ended up catching 15 catfish that got us 33.4 pounds on our second day. That was enough to hold our first-place spot. We lost big fish by one pound even.”
“We can’t wait for next year’s event,” concluded Schmeltz. “We want to thank David Ashby with Bottom Dwellers Tackle for all his support over the last eight years. We couldn’t do it without all the great tackle he has to offer.”
The runner-up spot went to Shawn Tolson and Gary Strange. They caught 13.4 pounds on day one and 101.8 on day two for 115.2 pounds and second place for the tournament.
“We didn’t prefish anywhere north of Rising Sun,” reported Tolson. “We fish a lot south of Rising Sun on Saturday. It was not our best day. We drift fished and spot-locked to only weigh 13.8 pounds. We didn’t have much luck until around 3 o’clock when we got on some fish and caught two right away. Then the battery went dead on the trolling motor and we had a real hard time anchoring back on that spot. We did not catch anymore that day.
“We were not really excited about Sunday morning with all the rain and the river rising and all the debris,” continued Tolson. “But we signed up for it so we were gonna’ finish it.”
Sunday morning the team spent a lot of time trying to find an inside curve of the river where they could get out of the current. It seemed that everywhere they went there was a boat already there. Everyone else was trying the same thing. They finally found a spot just below East Bend Power Plant.
“We spent most of our time there at the plant with no luck,” said Tolson. “We were talking about going back in the creek when my brother called. I told him what we were thinking and he agreed that we should go to that spot.
“By the time we got there it was 12:30,” offered Tolson. “We got the poles in the water and within a few minutes, we had our first fish. We had no more than put him in the livewell and we had another one on. We fished there untill 1:30 and caught 101 pounds of fish. We did not know how we would end up, but thought we had a good chance of getting in the top five.”
With a good weight of fish, the team left early to go to the scales. They were concerned with river conditions and did not want to be late getting back. It was a good thing they did because on the way back the boat started acting up. Now they were really concerned that they might not make it back in time. They just kept limping along and made it back.
“What a relief,” concluded Tolson. “If you would have told me Sunday morning that I was gonna’ end up second in this tourney I would have told ya’ you’re crazy. We were very lucky.”
Marty Kraus and Ginger Chapman took the third spot and claimed braggin’ rights with the Big Fish of the tournament. They weighed 105.4 pounds that include the Big Fish at 50.4 pounds.
Rounding out the top five were Holding and Peterson in fourth with 103.8 pounds. Collins and Kindle were fifth with 102.8 pounds.
Frank McIntosh has been the force behind the Rising Sun tournament for many years. His recent announcement that he would be retiring brought the following response from the incoming director Stephen Paul Hannan.
“Frank has run a very successful tournament for 13 years,” said Hannan. “He took an idea and grew it into something huge. It has been used as an example and building block for other organizations to realize that a big catfish tournament can and will work.”
“I don’t look to change too many things with this event,” continued Hannan. “The changes I do make will be relatively small. The only things I think that will be a noticeable change is that I do plan on reaching out to some outside sponsors to help with the event. That is something we have kept from doing for the most part over the years. And, I would like to start a Facebook page to make information for this tournament more easily accessible.”