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Catfish Fathers: They Got It All Started
May 2015
Jim 'Doc' Yowell of Chillicothe, Mo., with a 70-pound blue cat caught on the Missouri River. Jim released the fish
in the pond on hi property in the late 90's and has caught it several times since. He said the last time he
caught it weighed 85 pounds.
I was once asked by a fellow fisherman after doing well in a catfish tournament. What are three things that you do
while trying to catch catfish? I didn’t know this particular fisherman well but I knew that when he wasn’t fishing
for catfish he was an attorney. He was well educated and very well spoken. So I made an attempt to sound
magnanimous. I answered: Well, I try to get the best bait, find the best spot and catch the biggest fish.
We all chuckled and exchanged tactics.
I didn’t tell him about a favorite bait or favorite spot because those are so subjective and can change with the
body of water you’re on, the time of day or the time of year. One thing I did tell him is that I’ve learned tournament
fishing is that when fishing gets tough don’t get discouraged, stay at it. Good chance it’s tough for everyone.
I’ve had days of fishing when all the fish we caught were caught within 30 minutes and done quite well with our
catch. The rest of the day was spent trying to establish a pattern, finding the fish, and what they’re biting on. Plenty
of tournaments have been won in just a few minutes of good fishing.
Catfishing is fast growing sport. I have seen tremendous growth in the last twenty years. Twenty years ago
catfish tournaments weren’t much more than a few guys getting together at the local boat ramp and throwing a few bucks
in a hat. Now there are many catfish tournament across the country with big sponsors and big payouts. Some payouts
in the tens of thousands of dollars. Both Cabelas and Bass Pro put on a catfish trail with tournaments all over
the country.
Catfishing really got put on the fast track the late 1990’s by a handful of catfish enthusiast like Jim ‘Doc’
Yowell who helped form the United States Catfish Anglers Tournament Series (USCATS). Jim was a doctor at the time
that has since retired that could always find time to wrestle with some big blues cats on the Missouri River.
Jim along with Virgil Agee, John Jamison and others formed the
first catfish pro trail.
USCATS’s first tournament was held on the Missouri and Osage Rivers near Jefferson City, Mo. The tournament
was in early spring and an unusual snow storm came through the night before the tournament and the tournament
was nearly canceled. With nearly a foot snow on the ground in an area of the country that hardly sees snow in the
winter let alone spring, they went on with the tournament.
The first tournament didn’t attract a large turnout or attract teams from long distances except for one.
Darrell Carter of Elk Point, S.D., learned about USCATS in the Infisherman magazine and knew this was for him.
Darrell, a well-accomplished catfisherman who wanted to see catfishing go to a higher place, could see that
USCATS was a step in that direction. Jim and the other founders of USCATS were happy to attract a team all the way
from South Dakota but may not have been convinced of this guy’s ability to catch catfish. They may not have
been convinced when Darrell won their first tournament but they sure were the next
year when he won the first USCATS Pro Trail Circuit.
Jim ‘Doc’ Yowell could see that catfishing had tremendous potential and USCATS acted as a vehicle to carry
this potential for a time. Jim went on to start a very successful annual catfish tournament on the
Missouri River near Waverly, MO that is still held today.
When I see the next generation catfishermen I like what I see. There are catfish clubs out there like
Montana Cats that will help push catfishing to the next level. Montana is not state that is well known for catfish
but Montana Cats is determined to change that.
Montana Cats got its start by the Flaten brothers in Glasgow, Mont. The Milk River meandered right through
their little town and they never got tired of pulling channel cats out of it. In a state dominated by walleye
and trout fisherman, they wondered why not catfish? So in 2000 Brenner, at age 17 the third from the oldest of the
Flaten brothers, started their first catfish tournament on the Milk River and called it the Catfish Classic. They
built on their first tournament of 12 teams and had 50 teams within 5 years. Now the Catfish Classic is an annual
event with an 80 team limit that fills several months ahead of time. Along the way Montana Cats was formed,holding
tournaments in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming with very impressive turnouts. Clubs like Montana Cats add a
level of professionalism that will help push catfishing to the level enjoyed by walleye and bass fishing.
The sport of catfishing has experienced twists and turns and is still trying to find its way. They say
failure is an orphan and success has many fathers. Catfishing will be a success and
I mentioned just a few of its fathers.
~ Pat Carter

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