02/27/09 — Anglers fish Neuse for prize catfish

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Anglers fish Neuse for prize catfish

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 27, 2009 1:46 PM

They're ugly, they'll eat almost anything and they are a hassle all the way into the boat.

But for fishermen on the E-Z Bait and Tackle Eastern Carolina Catfish tournament trail, there is nothing like pulling a giant catfish from the Neuse River.

The thrill of the catch combined with the friendly competition that the tournament trail offers, makes for some tense moments on the water. The uncertainty of searching for the perfect spot to cast as well as poor visibility and cold temperatures all add to the challenge.

Gary Holmes captured first-place honors at the trail's most recent event in Seven Springs. Holmes scored 71.8 points on the afternoon.

Brad Capps finished second with a total of 61.8 and Dan Belcher captured third place with 47.6 points. Capps reeled in the largest fish of the day, a 46.5-pound lunker that netted him a "big fish" cash bonus.

Total weight is the key to tournament success, but additional prizes are awarded for the biggest single catch as well as the "trash" fish. Championship points are tallied after each weigh-in. Every angler starts with five points for fishing at each location. Then the competitors earn one point for every pound of fish caught.

The tournament trail, now in its second season, features one event per month at a predetermined location. Rules allow for anglers to weigh-in three fish in the catch-and-release format.

All fish must be kept alive in order to count.

The eight tournament trail dates that span January-September culminate with a series championship at E-Z Bait on Oct.. 17. The series champion wins free entry into one of next season's trail events as well as 10 percent of the season's total entry fees. A sizable payday considering each event carries a $100 entry fee per team.

With the shad run beginning to pick up in the Neuse, the catfish activity should be even better when the series' March event rolls around. The next tournament trail date is a night fishing affair scheduled for March 21-22 at E-Z Bait Shop. The tournament begins at 3 p.m.