The King Kat Tournament Trail is the most well-known competitive catfish angling event series in the U.S., with tournaments nearly all year long (with the exception of the coldest months). Tournament sites are located in different markets to help organizers promote sponsors’ products in various regions and to allow local anglers in those regions the opportunity to compete in the Super Bowl of Cat Fishing, The King Kat Classic, held in October of each year.
Sports Destination Management: You must be gearing up for the 2022 season. What’s it looking like?
Darrell Van Vactor: The catfish don’t get active until the weather is warmer, at least in the sixties; this year, our season kicks off on March 19 in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s a great place and I think it will generate a really good crowd.
SDM: How is sponsorship?
Van Vactor: Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops are our presenting sponsors, and we have an additional 20 to 22 others. We are also really lucky to be working with DMF Bait out of Michigan, who sponsors the kids’ fishing rodeos. Every tournament we run has a two-hour fishing rodeo that we offer completely free of charge to any kid who wants to try it. It’s great to be able to teach them about all the fun things they can do in the outdoors.
SDM: What is it you’re looking for in a tournament host?
Van Vactor: We like using major river systems. Our primary species are blue catfish and flathead catfish, and they like the current; they’re primarily found in running water. We’re also looking for places that have what we call ‘down and out’ motels; those are properties with doors that open to the outside. Our anglers like to park their boats right outside their rooms.
Something that is interesting is that a lot of places near fisheries know that people want plug-in chargers for their boats, so you’ll find those right in the parking lot. If someplace doesn’t have it, the angler will often have to run an extension cord under the door of the room. But overall, more and more hotels, even brands like Hilton and Holiday Inn Express, will have posts strategically placed throughout the parking lots with outlets. It allows for 40-50 boats to be charged.
SDM: How many people attend the events?
Van Vactor: For local events, we’ll draw 45 teams; those teams can have three people, although most will have two. At our Classic, we’ll see between 150 and 200 anglers.
SDM: What about spectators?
Van Vactor: Catfish events get good crowds; we can draw between 300 and 500 people. When the anglers reach into the well and pull out an 82-pound blue cat, and they’re trying to get it over to the container to weigh it, and it’s flopping around and people are screaming and yelling, there’s a lot of excitement. It’s
funny, too; even people who don’t fish will show up to see those big old catfish come in.
SDM: You mentioned the live well. Is there a strong emphasis on keeping the fish healthy?
Van Vactor: These are all catch and release events. In fact, we won’t weigh a dead fish so our anglers have become masters at taking care of them and keeping them safe. There is fresh oxygen running into the live wells and anglers will treat the water so that the fish stays as calm as possible and doesn’t hurt itself. Even at our biggest tournaments, we might only have single digit loss – and that’s really impressive. We put them back in good shape. These fish are not going to end up in Lake Crisco. SDM