The Icebowl Catfish Tournament 2020 – How They Fished
One catfish per team determines the winner at the Icebowl.
The Icebowl catfish tournament is an annual January event at Kerr Lake (Buggs Island). Icebowl was created as a challenge event between catfish anglers from North Carolina and Virginia. The state accumulating the most total pounds earns bragging rights for the next year.
Since its conception, the Icebowl has grown to include any angler who wants to fish but the battle between Virginia and North Carolina continues as an integral part of the tourney. Even though the top spots on the leader board went to Virginia anglers in 2020, NC took home the VA vs NC Trophy in a close contest. NC teams had a combined weight of 924.83 pounds to top the 903.21 pounds posted by VA teams. So, 2020 Bragging Rights go to North Carolina
The most recent event was held on Saturday, January 25th. The tournament has grown over the years to include more states and more anglers. This year more than 200 catfish teams registered to fish the Icebowl. They all had to leave from and return to the Occoneechee State Park boat ramp, Clarksville, VA. Tournament rules allow one fish to be weighed per boat to determine the winner.
This year’s event turned out to be tough fishing. Dale Russel Lowe Jr. was fishing the event with his son and gave some insight into the day.
“The temperature was in the upper 40s when we launched at 4 am,” reported Lowe. “We could put our lines in the water at 7 am. It was foggy and damp because it rained all night. It ended up being cold until the sun came out and then turned into a nice day.”
“The rain from the night before was starting to push trash in the upper end of the lake,” continued Lowe. “That usually turns them on but it didn’t yesterday.”
Like many other anglers, Lowe reported that it was an early bite. “We caught our first fish of the day at 7:15. It was a 26.64-pound blue that got us 13th out of 216 boats. That’ll tell you how bad the big fish bite was to find.”
Some may recall that back in the 2017 Icebowl Lowe caught his 141-pound blue cat. To win the event that year.
At the end of the day, it was Louis Rowland and Keith Waters that claimed the day. The VA team brought in a 57.54-pounder to take the top spot. They were not available for further comment. Congrats to them on the win.
The runner-up spot went to another VA team, Robert and Angela Bamburg and Mark Huffman with 54.02 pounds. Robert says he has catfished all his life but is new to tournament catfishing. They completed the win without the benefit of prefishing, but considers Buggs Island his home waters.
“I didn’t get to prefish.” revealed Robert. “My boat was at Graham Marine getting a new motor. I did, however, fish Buggs several times in December. I consider Buggs Island my home lake because I usually fish it more often than anywhere else.”
We arrived for the check-in at 4:00 am, got to our spot, and waited for a couple of hours before lines-in at 7:00 am. My rod was rigged with 30-pound Slimeline and a 5-ounce slip sinker. The 10/0 circle hook was baited with shad.”
“My first fish came at 7:02 am on cut shad,” recalled Robert. “At 7:14 am the second rod went down. We got the fish in the boat about 10 minutes later. This fish was caught on a large shad head from Hopewell VA. It was a long fish which I thought would go about 60 pounds.”
The team felt like the fish was too long to be comfortable in their live well and made the decision to quit fishing and go back to the weigh-in. The tournament staff was surprised at the early fish but pitched in to get water in the holding tanks to keep the fish alive.
“We had to babysit the fish for the next 7 hours,” reported Robert. “Only one fish was bigger that day. It weighed 57.54 pounds. They release him early because he was extremely stressed. I had no problem with releasing the fish early and still counting it. My fish weighed 54.02 pounds after staying in the tank for 7 hours.”
“My fishing partners were my wife Angela and a good friend, Mark Huffman,” concluded Robert. “Placing second in the 2020 Icebowl is a moment I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Third place went to Kevin Moore and Ray Wise. The Virginia team relied on a tried and true axiom in catfishing. You might guess it’s related to bait.
“This year’s Icebowl was all a morning bite,” reported Moore. “We caught 20-plus fish in the first three hours. After that, there was little to no action.”
“The key to our success was a simple factor,” continued Moore. “Find the bait find the fish. We didn’t have any secret spots. We just found schools of shad and got our hooks in the water. If there were no bites within 45 minutes we moved to another spot.”
“Everything we caught was in about 30-40 feet of water,” concluded Moore. “We used the Mad Catter hooks from Hookers Terminal Tackle. When every bite is a chance to break records, we don’t play around. We only use the best hooks.”
The Remaining Top Ten
4th – Jeff King/Matt Hammill 39.50
5th – Adam Morris / Michael Conner 38.33
6th – Wes Jordan/Paul Terrel 36.06
7th – Sterling Carden/Chasity Wagstaff 34.49
8th – Wayne Austin / Bradley Burnett 33.07
9th – Allen Long /Isaac McCulloh 30.62
10th – Sam Springs/Brent Rogers 30.09