Time to fish and cut bait

Whether the catfish cooperate remains to be seen, but everything else is clicking like clockwork for the 23rd annual Cats Incredible catfish tournament.

Cats Incredible
Whether the catfish cooperate remains to be seen, but everything else is clicking like clockwork for the 23rd annual Cats Incredible catfish tournament. (Herald photo illustration)

Whether the catfish cooperate remains to be seen, but everything else is clicking like clockwork for the 23rd annual Cats Incredible catfish tournament.

The weekend event kicks off this afternoon, with a media fishing derby featuring competitors from the Herald, WDAZ and Clear Channel beginning at 1 p.m. Tournament headquarters at LaFave Park below Cabela's in East Grand Forks open at 5 p.m., and there'll be food vendors, a beer garden and merchandise for sale until 8 p.m.

There's no admission charge.

The catfish portion of the tournament gets under way at 7 a.m. Saturday, with tournament participants departing from the boat ramp at LaFave Park and the Whopper John Little boat ramp north of Riverside Dam in Grand Forks. Tournament hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and the awards ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Sunday.

This year's tournament features 151 teams -- one more than usual because of an error during the March lottery drawing -- competing for $21,900 in prizes. First place is worth $4,000.


How's fishing?

The scuttlebutt among many anglers going into the tournament is that the catfish action in recent days hasn't quite been up to snuff. Lee Reed, Sioux City, Iowa, a Cats Incredible regular for the past decade, said he and his partner, Dick Hinrichsen, Akron, Iowa, have been struggling to find fish since arriving in town Sunday.

"Slow. Very slow," is how Reed described the fishing Thursday morning.

"You get some decent fish here and there, but there's no real hot bait for sure," Reed said. "There's no normal pattern for catching them."

Of course, that's what you'd expect anyone to say going into a fishing tournament.

Given that scenario, it's going to be tough for any of the 151 teams to top defending champions Troy and Zach Srnsky. The father-son duo from Warren, Minn., set a Cats Incredible record last year by weighing in a two-day limit of 10 catfish for 91.5 pounds to land bragging rights and the top prize of $4,000.

"I think it will be a fairly low number -- probably upper 60s or lower 70s" that will win the tournament this year, "just from what we've seen," Reed said.

Karry Kyllo, East Grand Forks, serving in his first year as chairman of the Cats Incredible tournament committee, said he thinks it will be an average year for tournament weights.


"The guys I've talked to are expecting a normal year, I guess," Kyllo said Thursday. "I talked to some guys today, and one of the guys claimed he had caught a 20-pounder."

An avid catfish angler, Kyllo said he and his wife, Pam, were out Sunday and did well.

"I'm sure it will take 80 pounds-plus to win it," Kyllo said. "There's always somebody that figures it out, and there's a lot of good anglers in the tournament, so they're going to have to catch some fish to win, no doubt."

Other events

As in recent years, there's more to Cats Incredible than just the fishing. The Altru/YMCA half-marathon 5K walk and run is set for 8 a.m. Saturday, and the 11th annual Beans on the Bank Chili Cook-off begins at noon. This year's cook-off features 18 teams vying for chili glory, and $5 will cover all the samples you can eat.

There'll also be a Silver Dollar Sand Mine for Kids at 2 p.m. Saturday, live music from Little Donnie and the Groove Tones from 6 to 8 p.m. and East Grand Forks Police Officers' raffle drawing at 7 p.m.

Sunday, gates to tournament headquarters open at noon, and there'll be inflatable games for kids, strolling magic and balloon sculpting from 1 to 4 p.m., ArtWise wacky fish projects for kids from 1 to 5 p.m. and live music from 2 to 4 p.m. by Mark Ryan and Friends.

The tournament wraps up with at 6 p.m. with the awards ceremony.


Not to miss

This year's Cats Incredible tournament features teams from Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New York and Arizona. Regardless of the fishing, anglers such as Reed, the Iowa contestant, say Cats Incredible is an event they wouldn't miss.

"It's just a great place, great people," Reed said, "a chance to get out of Iowa."

As a newcomer to the organizational end of the tournament, Kyllo said it's the efforts of personnel at The Chamber and volunteers that make Cats Incredible so successful. He said about 150 volunteers will be donating their time at some point during the weekend to keep the show running smoothly.

Kyllo said it's going to be different watching from the sidelines this year instead of fishing the tournament. But with the heavy lifting now complete, it's time to enjoy the weekend.

The weather forecast is even looking pretty decent, with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms and a high of 85 degrees Saturday and a 40 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms and a high of 83 Sunday.

"I was nervous, but now I'm really looking forward to it," Kyllo said. "Everything is just going so smoothly. I found out there wasn't any reason to be nervous."

As fishing festivals go, Cats Incredible definitely is a keeper.


"It's almost like a reunion," Kyllo said. "People get together for one weekend who really only see each other that one weekend a year, and it's a lot of fun."

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
What To Read Next
Get Local