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Father / Son Duo Accept the Challenge

Father / Son Duo Accept the Challenge

May 11, 2024 by

5/11/24 / Huntley, MT- The 18th Annual Yellowstone Challenge kicked off the 2024 Montana Cats tourney circuit off this past weekend in grand fashion.  The Friday night festivities were highlighted with a social/Calcutta at the first-time tourney headquarters Longbranch Bar & Casino in Ballantine.  Paula and staff played gracious hosts & their outdoor venue provided a perfect backdrop for the Montana Catfish Association annual kick-off event.

Beautiful weather throughout the weekend provided a welcome respite from the notoriously poor conditions this weekend historically dials up.  The near perfect weather conditions, however, didn’t necessarily mean ideal catching conditions.  Reports of tight-lipped kitties in the weeks leading up to event were common.  Regional rains and unstable weather in the weeks leading up to the tourney, caused rising and dirty water, which in turn lead to unpredictable catch rates.  Flows were at near historic lows the week prior to tourney day (around 5K CFS) & increasing to over 7K CFS on Calcutta night.  On tourney day, the river took a slight dip in flows, causing slighting dropping water conditions.  Dropping water levels have a tendency to lead to inconsistent fish patterns.   These tests proved to be nothing more than a bump on the road for the regions most elite Channel Cat anglers. 

The 18th Annual Yellowstone Challenge boasted over a dozen past circuit champions in the field, highlighted by last years Co-Angler(s) of the year Jason Flaten (Elko, NV) and Eric Braunberger (Miles City, MT).  In totality, catch rates proved to be outstanding for the whole tourney filed, as a record 56 out of the 60 teams weighed fish.  28 teams weighed in over a 20lb stringer, for an impressive 4 lb average.  The catch rates and average size of Channel Catfish have consistently increased over the history of the tourney, which is a testament to increasing angler skill levels AND the tremendous health of the fishery. 

Starting out the top 5 was returning tourney champs Jason & Brenner Flaten (Glasgow, MT) with 30.47 lbs.  Boat issues plagued the brother duo throughout tourney day, forcing them to maneuver the river carefully but that didn’t hinder them on the way to another outstanding performance.  Brodie McDonald (Laurel, MT) & Charles Ferguson (Reedpoint, MT) were next in line tipping the scales at 30.94 lbs.  Ferguson is the ONLY angler to fish ALL 18 Yellowstone Challenge events.  Asked why he keeps coming back he exclaimed, “to beat the Flaten(s)”.  “Don’t get wrong, I respect the heck out of them but there’s nothing else I’d rather do than beat them”.  Mission accomplished. 

George Stuckers (Sidney, MT) & Kyle Knight (Ballantine, MT) continued their hot streak, making this their consecutive TOP 3 finish, coming in with 31.6 lbs.  This duo also claimed the BIG FISH award with an 8.35 lb piggie, just edging out Jeremy Johnson (Worden, MT) & Doug Enderson (Billings, MT) 8.27 pounder.  “We didn’t catch a single fish yesterday pre-fishing”, Stuckers declared.  “We tried out some new water, kept moving and fished hard.  Glad it worked out”.   Michael Erdmann (Billings, MT) & Kenneth Gairrett (Billings, MT) continue marching up the standings, as this is Erdmann’s 5th consecutive TOP 10 finish.   Their 31.63 lb basket was good enough for runner-up honors this year, their highest finish yet.

Veteran tourney anglers Steve Harris Jr. (Sidney, MT) & Steve Harris Sr. (Sidney, MT) would prove too much for the star-studded field.  Their 5-fish basket of 32.47 lbs was good enough to claim the top prize by nearly a full pound.  Their tourney, however, wasn’t without stress.  “We released a fish that should have been a part of our basket.  We had a culling ball mishap.  I had a knot break on what (should have been) the biggest fish in our basket.”  Bad luck or not, the father/son duo had enough to claim their FIRST championship as a team.    This is Steve Jr’s 3rd Career Catfish tournament title and his 2nd on the Montana Cats Circuit.

The Yellowstone Challenge and Montana Cats would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make this tournament possible: Longbranch Bar & Casino, Briggs Distributing, B’n’M Poles, Enduro Products, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, RS Jet Boat Anchors, Shelly George w/ Thrivent Financial and Easy Clips Culling System.

The Montana Catfish Association is a NON-PROFIT organization that runs this tournament and others around the state to help promote Channel Catfish in Montana and local communities. All of our tournaments are OVER 100% payback. That means 100% CASH payback from entries and thousands of dollars in additional prizes. We’re in it for the fishermen, local communities and Channel Catfish. If you check out the tournament rosters, you’ll notice a distinct “family” feel to it. We love the friendly competition and comradery these events provide. Lifelong friendships have and will continue to develop as a result. Thank you SO much to everyone that participates in our events to make us one of THE most successful Catfish circuits in the NATION!

If you haven’t checked us out online, please take the opportunity to do so @ montanacats.com. Stay connected to us on social media outlets Facebook, twitter and our message board. Also, please sign up for our email list to stay better informed on ALL the happenings with Montana Cats year-round.

Two of our Montana Cats events; the Missouri River Catfish Clash in Williston, ND and Monster Cat Roundup in Sidney still have openings. Take this opportunity to sign up now before it’s too late.  Remember, we are offering a $1,000 CASH PRIZE for Montana Cats Angler of the Year for the 24’ season. Hope to see everyone in Glasgow for the second leg of the Montana Catfish Association tour at the Milk River Catfish Classic on June 1st.

18th Annual Yellowstone Challenge COMPLETE RESULTS

Posted in: Yellowstone Challenge