The 2020 Catmasters at Texoma – How They Fished
Holmes, Holmes, and Cline take $40,000 win at Texoma
The largest payout in tournament catfishing history was made at the Catmasters Texoma Catfish Tournament presented by SeaArk Boats and B’n’M Poles on January 25, 2020. The event was held on Lake Texoma at Durant, OK where 216 teams competed for the coveted first place payout of $40,000 for the two-day event. More than $100,000 was distributed among the anglers.
Given a lake that big and that many competitors, it was not unexpected to get conflicting prefishing reports as was the case. Some prefishing teams reported tough fishing while others said the bite was good. Some anglers were catching them deep and others catching them shallow. Many reported that it was difficult to pattern the fish and set a strategy.
In the words of tournament Co-Director, Bryan St. Ama, “Focusing on the tournament’s overall fishing, despite Lake Texoma’s abundance and caliber of catfish, and the fact that its January timeline fell in line with its historic bite, in one word, the fishing was TOUGH!”
Anglers were allowed to weigh three fish—2 over 30 inches and 1 under 30 inches. Prize money was awarded for 16 places, first day Big Fish, second day Big Fish, overall big fish. As mentioned above, first place paid $40,000. Second paid $14,000 and third paid $10,000. The payouts graduated downward, finishing with 11th through 16th taking home $1,200 each. Awards were also given for Youth Angler and Veteran Angler.
Numerous door prizes were also given from fishing rods to ice chests. The biggest drawing of the day was for a SeaArk boat with a 15 HP Suzuki engine.
Catfish conservation has always been at the forefront of CatMaster tournaments. In that regard, the weigh-in was equipped with three quick-release tank trailers and a custom-built 1000-gallon nursery tank inside the convention center to accommodate the fish. By the end of the tournament, anglers had brought approximately 3,300 pounds of catfish to the scales. One hundred percent of them were released alive.
The weather was 35 degrees on Friday morning as anglers began the tournament. The sun was shining with a light north wind. Temperatures climbed to about 55 degrees for a high. Saturday featured a southern breeze with a cold 34 degrees to start off the morning. Temperatures climbed to a comfortable 65 degrees in the afternoon.
Day one angler reports sound very much like the prefishing reports. Some anglers caught fish while others zeroed. Some fish were caught deep, some shallow. It remained difficult to find a pattern and set a strategy. Most anglers that did well on day one returned to their day one spot. Others developed new strategies to tackle the second day.
At the end of day one the Oklahoma team of Chris and Kyli Baldwin had put the heaviest stringer in the boat. They managed to bring 89.44 pounds of Texoma blue cats to the scales. Following along in second place was the team of Donnie Briley and John Halford from Texas. They weighed a stringer of 73.46 on day one. Rounding out the top three was Kennith Holmes, Drake Holmes & Timothy Cline, also from Texas. Their day one bag weighed 68.05 pounds.
The final day weigh-in saw more fish caught on what was a much better bite than day one. Many anglers that zeroed on day one caught fish on day two. Some of that was due to strategy changes but most reported it was “just a better bite.”
The day ended with the day-one third-place team of Kennith Booger Holmes, Drake Holmes & Timothy Cline moving up to claim the top spot. On day two they added 90.28 pounds to their 68.05 pounds on day one for a total of 158.33 pounds and earned the check for $40,000.
Kennith Holmes is on the waters of Texoma often as owner/operator of Boog’s Guide Service. He us usually chasing striped bass but he also has a love for catching trophy catfish. He had been watching lake conditions as an indicator of what his tournament strategy might be.
“We had been having quite a bit of rain in the days/weeks preceding the tournament,” reported Holmes. “With all that rain came a small rise in the lake level which resulted in the opening of the floodgates. Normally with the lake on the rise the fish go on a feed but by the time the tournament started the lake was dropping 4-6 inches a day.”
Given the falling water level in Texoma, the consensus was that the big catfish would be moving into deeper water. That was the beginning of the team’s game plan.
“With the forecasted rain for the 2 days preceding the tournament we decided to go get our bait before the rain hit,” continued Holmes. “That was a smart decision in my opinion with what I heard from everyone on catching bait. So, with bait in the box, we decided to forego prefishing in the rain.”
Since Holmes and his partner Cline were both guides on the lake they decided to bet on their knowledge of the lake and hope for the best. They went ahead and made their plan without the benefit of prefishing.
“At the start of day one there was another boat in view,” Holmes said. “It was idling around as we were laying down our anchors. We were fishing an old sunken roadbed in about 35 feet of water. We got baited up and let em’ fly at 7:00 am. About 7:30 we watched the other boat go for the net so we knew they were up on us since we had not had a bite. Then, about 7:45 we had three rods go down almost simultaneously. Two of those fish were landed with the largest one being about 30 pounds.”
The bite slowed down for the team with only a few nibblers on their threadfin, gizzard shad, and buffalo fish that they used for cut bait. At about 9:30 they got another good bite. It turned out to be another 30-pound fish. Given their good luck, they decided to move on and find some different fish so as not to ruin their good bite on day one and maybe leave some for the next day.
“We made a move to deeper water,” reported Holmes. “We were able to cull up our smallest fish but never could catch another large fish. We decided the day was over and we would go weigh with our limit of two fish over 30 inches and one under 30 inches.”
At the weigh-in, the team was surprised to find that they were in 3rd place with 68.05 pounds. Thinking about the other boat that had fished with them early in the day they started making plans for day two. The first part of their plan was to get out early.
“The other boat had moved to our first spot when we left,” recalled Holmes. “So, we made sure to put in and be there as soon as time would allow. As it worked out, they showed up a few minutes later than we did. We got our start at 7:00 am and played the waiting game.”
The team sat there for almost three hours without getting a bite. With that experience, they decided that their plan wasn’t going to work.
“We moved out to deeper water on a ledge,” continued Holmes. “We picked up a couple of small fish so we knew we were back in the game. We just continued to move from ledge to ledge until around 1:00 pm when we caught our first big fish of the day around 39 pounds.”
At this point, they felt they had a shot at the win. They had the 39-pound fish, a 27-inch under and another 32-inch over. Then, about 1:15 they had a really big takedown that resulted in a missed fish and hurt feelings.
“We thought we really needed that fish,” proclaimed Holmes. “Then around 2:00 pm, another big bite came. This time when the Meat Hunter rod loaded up it stayed hooked up. We ended up boating a 41.93-pounder for our big fish of the day.”
“At that point, we knew we had a shot at the win for sure and decided to call it a day,” continued Holmes. “We didn’t want to take a chance of being late to the weigh-in. As we watched fish being weighed, we knew our chances were getting better and when it was all said and done our 158.33-pound two-day stringer was enough for first place.”
Not only did their day two bag move then into the top spot, in included the Day Two Big Fish that added $3,980 to their winnings for a total payout of $43,980. It also gave fourteen-year-old Drake Holmes the Top Youth Award. It was noted that Drake also holds the Texas Youth Record on Texoma with a 41.12-pound blue cat.
“I would like to thank my sponsors,” concluded Holmes. “Team Catfish / Fle-Fly, Meat Hunter Rods, Izorline International, Reaxtion Lures, RsR lures and Xcite baits.”
After leading day one, the team of Chris and Kyli Baldwin finished the tournament in second place. The husband/wife team weighed a two-day total weight of 132.15 pounds to claim the runner-up spot.
“We prefished for a week leading up to the tournament,” reported Chris. “We ended up having bad weather but found a few fish. We crossed off 50 percent of the lake and only had one thing left. I say we fished shallow but if you ask a Texas fisherman, they would say we were really deep. We anchored up on a big flat and were on a highway that the fish were swimming. They came in waves. Sometimes we had to wait three hours for the next wave of fish!”
On day one Chris and Kyli went to what seemed to them the best area of where the fish had been found swimming by. Talking among themselves and at Kyli’s urging, they decided to anchor down and wait.
“That’s what we did,” Chris said. “We had two 41-pounders in the boat in the first hour. Then, an 18-pounder came in the second hour. At about 9:00 a.m. I was getting impatient and asked Kyli if we should move. She said NO we wait! So, we waited and had a 35-pounder around 9:10.”
Then they waited another 2 hours and 30 minutes without a nibble. Chris was ready to go on the hunt but Kyli still said no! She still wanted to wait.
“I was pulling my hair out,” recalled Chris. “Then a rod slammed over with the line ripping off of it. After a 5-minute fight, we got it in the net and it was a fat 50-pounder. We culled the 18 out of the live well.”
They finally did make a move around 2:00 p.m. but their day was really over. They caught a few more 4-pounders before heading to the weigh-in.
“We didn’t think we had enough for first,” revealed Chris. “But we were confident that we wouldn’t be far behind. Kyli saved the day and she also caught every fish on day one.”
Day two would not go as well for Team Baldwin. They started on their day one ledge hoping for a similar bite. The day one wind had been out of the north but had switched to the south overnight.
“We knew the wind change could move the fish,” offered Chris. “We caught two eight-pound fish in the first 30 minutes. We waited five hours catching a small fish here and there before a 25-pound blue finally buried the rod.”
“We switched it up at 1:00 p.m.,” concluded Chris. “We decided to pull a drift but never got another bite the rest of the day. We went to the weigh-in worried about what might come. In the end, we had a big enough stringer on day one to land us in second place and earn $14,000 dollars.“
Chris and Kyli have done well in Catmaster Tournaments. They took home the first-place prize at the Possum Kingdom Catmasters 2018, followed that up a year later with third place in 2019, and now in 2020, have taken the second spot at the inaugural Catfmasters on Texoma.
Third place went to James Prince, Chong Prince and Johnny Weaver with 93.76 pounds. They caught 7 fish throughout the day-one fishing but struggled to catch 3 on day two. In search of a game plan, James had studied his Navionics app for days before traveling to Texoma.
“When we got there, we found a few fish while prefishing,” James Prince said. “We made a plan and stayed with that plan throughout both days of the tournament, even though the bite was really slow.”
“Both days of the tournament were windy and chilly,” reported Prince. “But they were both good days. The first day the wind blew out of the west and the second day it blew out of the south and southeast. I like south and west winds!”
“On day one, we caught 7 fish throughout the day,” continued Prince. “It was all day long, from the first hour all the way to the last hour. We had to cull two fish that were slightly over the 30-inch limit, because we already had two larger fish in the livewell.”
On day two the Texas team did not catch a fish until nearly noon. The remainder of the day produced only two more, but that gave them their three weigh-in fish.
“We were dragging cut shad,” informed Prince. “It made it rough fishing in windy conditions. We had four drift socks out to keep the speed of the SeaArk ProCat 240 down to .5 mph.”
“We lost one large sock after we pulled it out to get some lines untangled. I started to put the sock back in the water and I guess it had gone swimming on its own because it was nowhere to be found! We were in about 50 feet or so of water so I didn’t think it would be a good idea to go swimming in that cold water to look for it. I didn’t have that much passion!”
The CatMasters Team put on a really good tournament,” concluded Prince. “They do everything they can to run a professionally organized tournament. They are definitely a group to watch in the future of catfishing tournaments.”
Day One Big Fish and Overall Big Fish
Day one Big Fish and overall big fish went to Team 109, Jason Phelps and Dustin Edwards from Oklahoma with a 62.97-pound Texoma blue cat.
SeaArk Boat Giveaway
The Catmasters event was well attended by spectators and interested visitors, partly because spectators were given a raffle ticket making them eligible to win a 16-foot Sea Ark boat and trailer equipped with a 15-horsepower Suzuki engine. The lucky winner was Mr. Tyler Kyler.
Veteran Big Fish Award
Leslie and Troy VanDerau of Heroes Outdoor Therapy (HOT) were on hand to award the Veterans Big Fish Award The 2020 award went to Jay Yeager and David Gross from Kansas. The Veteran Big Fish weighed 39.85 pounds. They were awarded $500, three fishing rods from SlimeCat Rods, and a $200 gift certificate from Tackle Bandit. There were 40 veteran anglers registered to fish Catmasters at Texoma.
The Remaining Teams in the Money
4 Chris Howard, Hunter Howard & Jennifer Howard 86.66lbs
5 Daniel Armstrong & Mickey Petree 83.36lbs
6 David Shipman, Jeremy Munger & Duane Buckridge 79.92lbs
7 Hunter Jones, Chris Stout & Terry Shands 78.08lbs
8 Joe Bell & David Burts 75.21lbs
9 Lorne Smith, Keaton Alexander & Brad Vance 75.03lbs
10 Donnie Briley & John Halford 73 46lbs
11 Jay Yeager & David Goss 72.82lbs
12 Lonnie & Dawn Fountain 72.06lbs
13 Jason Spud Barton & Danielle Smith 68.98lbs
14 Cody Forshee & Billy Elrod 67.82lbs
15 Lance Lutke & Dominic Pellegrino 67.15lbs
16 Justin Neece, Mark Thompson & John Jamison 66.57lbs
The Catmasters are highly focused on providing fun for everyone attending their tournaments, not just the anglers. The Texoma event featured a Boat Show and Expo and an indoor weigh-in stage at the Choctaw Event Center. The venue made for a family-friendly atmosphere where visitors could visit the vendor booths, snack at food booths or just network with other catfish enthusiasts.
“It’s been a couple of days since the Lake Texoma tournament has ended,” said Bryan St. Ama, one of the organizers. “However, as directors, we have come to realize our work never really comes to an end.”
“We recognize that with any first-time event there will be some growing pains and lessons learned, but we strongly feel Lake Texoma CatMaster tournament was an overall success.”
“As we reflect on our 1st Lake Texoma Tournament, we can’t help but feel pride and honor to be a part of a praiseworthy community of anglers and sponsors. Your support, encouragement, and accolades are nothing short of motivational to continue the CatMasters tournament series,” concluded St. Ama.