Catfish, family, and personal bests
by Ron Presley
Team work and learning together
Madison Atkins is a relative newcomer to catfishing, but you sure wouldn’t know it by looking at her accomplishments. Her mom, Jennifer Blackwell and her stepdad, Paul Blackwell are very proud of what she has accomplished in such a short period of time.
“I started catfishing in 2016,” recalls Madison. “I got started by prefishing for tournaments with my stepdad Paul. Then I fished my first tournament with him on Lake Greenwood.” It was at the Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest.”
“There is lots of hard work to do the night before a tournament,” said Madison. “We started by checking the boat over. Batteries, bait, rods, line, hooks, and weather all had to be checked in just a few hours. My favorite part about tournament fishing is not knowing who will win and having the extra strength to put in more effort. We won third place in the tournament.”
Eleven-year-old Madison quickly recognized what catfish anglers worldwide revel at. “Catfish are the biggest fish in fresh water and it’s very fun and exciting to see the rod bow over with a huge fish. Also, you get to relax and have fun while doing it. Fishing is fun as you sit and wait for the fish to bite. I get to cut bait, reel in fish, help put the sinkers on, net fish and a lot more.”
Madison’s experience and success grew from those early days and she developed a real love for the sport. “Some of my favorite things about catfishing is not knowing what size fish you’re going to catch” offered Madison. “Also, not knowing if your even gonna’ catch a fish. I love knowing that the fish is still on the hook when we get the net out.”
Now, with less than one year on the catfish trail Madison claims a personal best blue of 59 pounds and a best flathead of 38 pounds.
“I remember when I caught the 59-pound blue,” reported Madison. “Paul, my stepsister, Trin, and myself all broke our personal best that night.”
“The most memorable part of catching the 38-pound flathead was that it was our first tournament win. We also caught a 45-pound flathead that night. In my opinion catching flatheads is more fun because they are harder to catch and land. Flatheads like to hug the bottom and they are harder to get to the top of the water. They also have a stronger pull.”
Madison also developed a love of the challenge that most catfish anglers have. “I think it’s really fun trying to beat my personal best,” said Madison. “One day my goal is to beat my stepdad Paul’s personal best, but that will be hard at 83 pounds. All together I love catfishing!”
Madison’s catfishing experiences have also taught her lessons for life. “I think you learn to have patience,” said Madison. “And catfishing teaches you that it is important, even if you don’t win to keep trying. Catfishing teaches you to be humble too.”
“Paul and I are a team,” concluded Madison. “I don’t want to let him down and he doesn’t want to let me down. We talk about the plan together and come up with what we think is best. I’m learning how to help him find fish and learning what to look for. We are learning together.”