10th Annual Yellowstone Challenge CHAMPIONS Randy Franco & Nick Fortier
5/14/16-Huntley, MT— Montana Catfish anglers were brimming with anticipation as the second weekend of May was rapidly approaching. The 10th Annual Yellowstone Challenge, kicking off the Montana Cats tour annually, was just the event to quench that thirst. The weekend started off with an action packed night at Pryor Creek Bar on Friday night, highlighted by the evenings Calcutta/social and ended on Saturday night with crowning a rapidly rising catfish duo that is sure to continue making waves in the future.
Teams worked feverishly for weeks leading up to the event to “pattern” the numerous giant hogs in the Yellowstone, however, mother nature once again threw the competitors for an all too familiar loop. The week leading up to the event saw rapidly changing river conditions. The untamed Yellowstone went from a manageable 10,000 CFS, to a raging 18,000 CFS in just over three days’ mid-tournament week and then returning back down to 11,000 CFS level on tourney day. Falling water conditions and frigid water temps put a tight lip on many Yellowstone beauties. The challenging conditions didn’t hold down all teams though, as tourney vets and rising stars emerged on top of the pack.
Travis Nebeker with a 22.7 lb. Missouri River Channel Cat caught and released in July of 2015
4/16/16 – Another winter is in the books up here in Big Sky Country! The end of winter, comes the beginning of spring. The beginning of spring, comes the lure of the most dominant predator within our waters. The Channel Catfish.
Some hard core anglers have been wetting lines in open water since the end of January, but for many the upcoming weeks will signify the beginning of another memorable season. Don’t wait too long to get out there and explore those secret honey holes or toss a line into those secluded bodies of water. Some of the largest Channel Cats ever recorded in Montana history have been landed between mid-March and early May. Remember all it takes for Catfish to wake up from their annual winter slumber is a couple of consecutive warm weather days.
What is your favorite river in Montana? Whether it is the Yellowstone, the Missouri, the Musselshell, the Milk, or anywhere in between; chances are the cats are now beginning to prowl. You can expect the annual spring run-off to begin shortly and we should see a rise in the water levels and a change in water clarity that only a Catfisherman can love and appreciate.
With spring fever also comes the tournament season. Catfish tourney anglers in this part of the country associate May with the annual Yellowstone Challenge in Huntley. As is customary, the Challenge will take place on the 2nd Saturday in May just outside the Billings Metropolitan Area on the beautiful Yellowstone River. The tournament field is made up of 2-man teams and is limited to the first 60 BOATS entered and requires a $100 entry fee. The social and Calcutta is your first chance to talk fishing and see the rest of the Montana Cats crew. It will be held on Friday night May 12th at the Pryor Creek Bar at 6:00 p.m. At the time of this article 45 teams had paid and entered, leaving only 15 spots remaining. Get in before it’s too late!
1st place team Steve Lowrey and James Decker
8/15/15- Williston, ND – This year’s Missouri River Catfish Clash started off with a bang; filling the 60 team field for the first time in tournament history. With extremely hot and windy conditions fishermen were forced with a serious challenge as they were released Saturday August 15th at 9:00 am from the Lewis and Clark boat launch just outside of Williston, ND. Catching fish wasn’t a problem for most teams; however, catching the “BIG” ones seemed to be the challenge. Catching their five fish limit early and slowly upgrading throughout the day, was Steve Lowrey and James Decker from Sidney, MT. They won their first ever tournament title weighing in an impressive 34.98 lb. basket. This Sidney duo are veteran Montana Catfish Tournament anglers. All of their five fish came off of cut bait.
Coming in a close second place Robert Wise and Bobby Wise from Billings, MT. They weighed in a basket of 34.38 lbs. Third place team was Brady and Brandon Mueller, out of Sidney, with a weight of 32.85 lbs. Over half of the teams were able bring fish into weigh-ins. Taking home the big fish honors was Bill Harris Jr. catching a 13.31 lb. pig. It was the second biggest fish in tournament history.
Congratulations to the rest of the field that battled the upper 90’s temperatures and 30 mph wind. The Clash also marked an end to the 2015 Montana Cats Tournament Circuit. Taking home this year’s Angler of the Year award was Bobby and Robert Wise. The father-son duo could not be a better representation for what this award stands for. Bobby and Robert fished all four events in 2015. Taking a top ten finish in the Challenge, winning their 2nd Monster Cat Roundup title in three years, and closing out the season with the runner-up finish in the Clash. They were able to put up a score of 68 points throughout all four tournaments. They received a $500 check from B&M rods and beautiful plaques from All Awards out of Lewistown, MT to signify their achievements. At this time, Montana Cats would like to say thank you to all of our sponsors and volunteers that helped us run this year’s tournament. We hope to see everyone on August 20th, 2016. Please enjoy the complete final results below and pictures from this year’s event.
1st place team Bobby Wise and Robert Wise
7/18/2015- Sidney, MT – Every year the Monster Cat Roundup gets better and better. Steve and Ashley Harris brought this Montana Cats event back to the “Oil Patch” of Montana for the 7th consecutive year. The 60-team field filled months in advance of the 2015 date and there was anticipation in the air for weeks. Anglers from all over Montana and North Dakota littered this year’s powerful field. The pre-fishing leading up to the main event had everyone anticipating a difficult day on the water. That is exactly what happened; except someone forgot to tell the “Wise Guys”! Many of the 60 teams experienced difficulty with putting numbers of catfish into the boat.
The weights were still on par with previous Monster Cat Roundup’s (top nine teams all over 20 lbs.), but a lot of the top teams expressed an inability to get a limit of five cats. Bobby and Robert Wise, both of Billings, had no such problems, however. The seasoned Montana Cats anglers finished with a five fish limit that tipped the digital scales at an even 36 lbs! Which proved more than enough for the father-son duo to capture their second Monster Cat Roundup in the past three years. Bobby Wise aided the winning effort when he boated a 10.20 lb. Yellowstone Kitty. It is the 7th largest in tournament history.
Brenner Flaten, of Glasgow MT, and Chad Dawson, of Dickinson ND finished in a distant 2nd place with a five fish limit of 24.17 lbs. It is the 4th top 3 finish in the Roundup for Flaten, and the 4th top 5 finish for Dawson. Michael Shumway and Timber Kolodejchuk, both of Forsyth MT, continued their impressive season on the Montana Cats Circuit with a 3rd place finish at 23.33 lbs. Rounding out the top five were two local teams from Sidney, Chris Peterson and Mark O’Toole in 4th and tourney legends Chad and Kyle Mueller in 5th. Both of those teams hovered just around 23 lbs.
1st Place team Ryan and Tyler George
6/6/15- Glasgow, MT– For the 16th year in a row, North East Montana was treated to a great show! The Milk River Catfish Classic took place over the weekend in Glasgow, Montana. Fishermen came from near and far to try and climb to the top of the Cat Classic Mountain and take home the famed “traveling trophy”. The Cat Classic never seems to disappoint and this year 67 teams weighed in fish! Stable water conditions gave way to many limits of five catfish throughout the tournament field. Bigger fish proved harder to come by than some of the previous years, however, the top teams proved they are still swimming in the Milk River drainage and they can be caught at any water level or in any weather conditions.
The top 10 was littered with anglers from all over the region. Featuring fisherman from Gillette WY, Sheridan WY, Dickinson ND, and several Montana communities including: Billings, Joliet, Lewistown, Sidney, Belgrade, Nashua, Glasgow, Great Falls, Vandalia, and Poplar. Wow! But don’t let all that variety fool you, as the top 5 teams still included anglers who had grown up in Glasgow and spent many of their evenings on the Milk River.
Glasgow native, Tyler George, now of Sheridan, WY, fished in the very first Milk River Catfish Classic in May of 2000. 16 years later he finally stands above the rest! Tyler, teaming with his younger brother Ryan, now of Joliet, MT. used fresh Cut Goldeye and multiple locations from shore to put together a memorable five fish basket. The duo brought the monster crowd at the Famous Midnight Weigh-Ins to a fever pitch when they placed 38.95 lbs. on the scales! The 2nd largest basket in Cat Classic history and an outstanding night of fishing by any measure. Tyler, who had six prior Top 10 finishes, including a 2nd and a 3rd place showing at the Cat Classic coming into the weekend called it “a dream come true”. “It’s been a long time coming. With a lot of hard work. I can’t explain how excited I am right now…I’m speechless”.