TOPEKA (KSNT) – A Kansas angler is launching an ambitious catfishing tournament later this year which could go down as one of the largest ever seen in the Midwest.

Craig Norris, an accomplished catfish tournament winner from Meriden, spoke with KSNT 27 News about his plans to hold the Missouri River Catfish Classic later this year in November. The tournament aims to bring in anglers from across the Midwest to participate in the contest which will span hundreds of miles on the river from Iowa all the way to Missouri.

Participating anglers will be targeting all the classic cats for the tournament: flatheads, blues and channels. Norris said the tournament will feature seven different put-in locations in four different states to give anglers plenty of room to maneuver. Each location will have its own director to help manage the event. These include:

  • Sioux City, Iowa
    • Director: Mike Gray (605-321-9620)
  • Nebraska City, Nebraska
    • Director: Denny Iburg (402-699-0038)
  • Atchison, Kansas
    • Director: William Pranker (620-704-3958)
  • Lexington, Missouri
    • Director: Dustin Johnson (620-430-5451)
  • Glasgow, Missouri
    • Director: Shane Wyatt (660-651-2408)
  • Jefferson City, Missouri
    • Director: Alex Nagy (573-723-2127)
  • St. Charles, Missouri
    • Director: Wallace Maier (217-371-4616)

Norris is hoping to fill 200 slots for the tournament. Each boat registered for the event has to put forward $230 with the ultimate prize money for 1st place increasing depending on how many teams are signed up. If 50 boats are registered,1st place will come with a $5,000 prize with the number going up to $10,000 at 100 boats and $20,000 at 200 boats.

“We’ve only got 26 entries so far,” Norris said. “I think a lot of people are just waiting to see the weather conditions. I think there will be a lot of last minute signups because that’s a big commitment in the winter time.”

In addition to the 1st place prize, Norris said there are also several other smaller prizes for people to shoot for. These include but are not limited to:

  • Highest finishing youth prize – $1,000
  • Highest finishing veteran prize – $1,000
  • Highest finishing woman prize – $1,000
  • Smallest three fish prize – $1,000
  • 2nd place big fish – $500
  • 2nd place highest finishing youth – $250

The idea for the tournament first started to become a reality around six months ago as Norris began assembling his partners to get the event off the ground. Organizing the tournament is not an easy task due to its size and complexity.

“At first it was a lot,” Norris said. “I had to take breaks from it. I had a lot of help from all the other directors who’ve been doing it for years.”

Norris said the reason for making the tournament so large is to give participants plenty of room to look for prize catfish without being crowded into one area. With multiple put-in locations, anglers will also be able to participate without having to spend a lot of money on travel and lodging costs.

“Me and my buddies have been talking about ways to increase boat capacity without having a bunch of boats in one place,” Norris said. “Basically what happens in a tournament, lets say there’s a hundred boats in one location. Its just… its overwhelming. It’s too many boats. We created this to reduce fishing pressure and reduce costs for the anglers.”

Norris said he’ll be participating in the tournament alongside his girlfriend and daughter. He hopes the event can be fun for everyone and, if its successful, look towards putting together more tournaments like this in the future.

“Everyone is going to have to do their part to make sure things go right,” Norris said. “But I think with the anglers we have with the honesty and integrity… these men live and breathe and die fishing, I think they’ll come together and make it happen.”

The Missouri River Catfish Classic kicks off on Nov. 4 at 5 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. To sign up for the tournament, click here. For more information, check out the Facebook group dedicated to the event.