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Landing the big ones: River fishing catching on for some

Landing the big ones: River fishing catching on for some

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 12:00 pm

River fishing is something that is somewhat overlooked in these parts by most, but there are a few who take advantage of these treasured waters.
Our area is blessed to have rivers, several of them as a matter of fact, that allow some public access.
There are two locals who have taken the river fishing seriously and one has taken it to the next level, tournament catfishing. Both said it’s tons of fun but safety plays a little more important role while out on the rivers due to the large amounts of current.
Talking about one of the rivers, the Mississippi River is the largest in the United States. Why spend tons of money going to the Gulf Coast deep sea fishing when you can land your fish of a lifetime less than 20 miles from here, fishing the Mississippi River.  
That is what Gary Haynes of Obion County does — fishes for the big boys (catfish) on the mighty Mississippi River.
Gary, who is well known in these parts and in the catfish tournament family, has been fishing the waters of the Mississippi River for at least 15 years and professionally guided on these waters full-time for at least eight years.
He now fishes for pleasure with his family and friends as well as throws in a tournament to fish every now and then.
With the conditions just right and the catfish biting that good, many anglers from all over the country spent the better part of last month on the Mississippi River practicing for last Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest fishing tournament that was held out of the Mud Island area in Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi.
Haynes of Obion County and his partner David Coughlin of Jackson were among those getting ready to test their skills in the tournament.
They are among at least 40 two-man teams that fished in this event.
Chris Stoudt and Dennis McLemore of Jackson decided at the last minute to fish the event last Thursday afternoon, and it proved to be a good one as they landed five catfish Saturday that weighed 174.60 pounds to take the $2,000 first-place prize. I think Gary even taught one of these guys all they knew about the Mississippi River.
But Haynes and Coughlin efforts didn’t go unnoticed as they finished second place overall with 169.40 pounds despite having boat troubles throughout the day.
Anglers were allowed to fish anywhere on the Mississippi River and its tributaries as long as they were in the weigh-in line at Mud Island River Park by 4 p.m. The scales were open for anyone who wanted to weigh fish early — and the winners took advantage of that rule, weighing all of their fish by 10:30 a.m. It looked like the eventual winners of the tournament would have the big catfish of the tournament wrapped up with their 79.50-pound kicker on Saturday until Coughlin and Haynes came to the scales with an 86.45-pound monster catfish that eclipsed the mark by almost 7 pounds.
They claimed big-fish honors with their giant and had a overall weight of 169.40 pounds (5 fish) .
This was more than 5 pounds off the mark set by Stoudt and McLemore. Speaking of the fishing rules, Tennessee state laws only allow for one catfish per angler 34 inches or longer, which meant they had to cull through a number of catfish to get the rest of their limit of 5 as close to the 34 inch line as they could.
Haynes said to me in a phone interview earlier this week, “We did not start the morning off the way we had planned and had hoped we would have been fishing long before we ever wet a hook.”
Gas for their motor was a problem and could have caused big problems but last minute efforts to purchase extra small gas containers to add to their small 18 gallon tank in their boat to make their long trip to and from the takeoff ramp.
“We probably lost at least three hours of fishing time,” he said.
Once they got to their fishing hole, it didn’t take long to catch their catch and head back to the ramp. They had to allow at least a hour and 45 minutes for the trip back.
Haynes went on to say they fished 45 to 70 feet deep in one general area. He also added that they used Humminbirds Side Image Technology to locate their huge school of catfish, noting they ran their electronics continuously all day. They used the method of Drifting and walking their bait to claim their catch.
Third place 126.85 pounds and fourth Place was 113.25 pounds. More than 40 teams took part in the event, and 12 states were represented.  
Haynes and Coughlin now turn their attention to the Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest that will be held next month in Clarksville on the Cumberland River.
On Aug. 18-19, Final Flight Outfitters will be hosting a duck calling contest. You will have five chances to qualify for the U.S. Open Regional, Grand American Regional, Tennessee and Kentucky State Tournament duck calling contest. Saturday the Junior and Intermediate Duck Calling Contest will be at 9 a.m., the Kentucky State Duck Calling contest at 10 a.m., the Bayou de Chien Regional at 11 AM and the U.S. Open Duck Regional at 1 p.m. Then on Sunday, the Tennessee State Duck Calling Contest at 10 a.m. and the Grand American Duck Regional Contest at 11 a.m.
Reelfoot Lake Water Condition: Reelfoot Lake, as well as many other lakes, remains very low and dropping as we speak. Reelfoot Lake is at least 16 to 17 inches below the normal level. Many stumps are starting to show all over the lake which means slow navigation is advised to all. Some ramps are not usable at this time and will become more of a problem if we do not get some rainfall soon.
Kentucky Lake is dropping slowly as expected and this is a normal process by the TVA folks. The lake is heading down toward the winter pool level of 354.0 feet above sea level which will take most of the fall to get there.
 If you are looking for a day to introduce someone into the outdoors, then Aug. 25 will be yours and their day. Any Tennessee resident will be allowed to hunt that day licenses and permit free for one day while in the state of Tennessee.
For more information, visit the TWRA website at
Til next weeks column,
Catch ya on the water folks.

Published in The Messenger 8.10.12

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