LIMESTONE CO., ALABAMA (KSNT) – A pair of Kansans claimed first place in an Alabama catfish tournament after they landed a massive catfish.

The victory at the 2022 SeaArk Owners Invitational Tournament in Alabama went to Craig Norris of Meriden and Tyson Burnett of Council Grove. Their winning fish was an 86.42-pound blue catfish out of Wheeler Lake. The catfish was a new personal best for Norris who spoke with 27 News about his fantastic catch.

“It’s a dream come true to be honest,” Norris said.

Norris said he and Burnett spent three days leading up to the catch-and-release tournament’s start on April 30 by scouting out the waters of Wheeler Lake and catching a dozen or so fish. Norris said they began catching larger catfish coming in at 40 inches and knew they had found a good spot for the day of the tournament.

Norris holds up the tournament-winning catfish. (Photo Courtesy/Craig Norris)

The pair began the tournament by catching a 25-pound blue catfish around 8 a.m. Their second bite came in about an hour later. Norris said it felt like his Big Cat Fever Rod had become snagged, but “after giving it a pop or two” he realized he had a fish on the line.

“My first response was saying this thing is a tank. I was thinking 50 maybe 60 pounds. Once it got near the boat and it surfaced is when I realized this was much bigger than I expected,” Norris said.

The wild but short battle that followed ended with the team landing the enormous catfish which would end up being the largest catch during the tournament.

“We set it on the floor and were just speechless,” Norris said.

The catfish was not only the largest of the tournament, it was also a new personal best for Norris. His previous record was for another blue catfish he caught in 2021 on the Missouri River near Atchison that weighed-in at 85.7 pounds. While Norris’ catch in Alabama wasn’t measured during the tournament, he said it had to have been between 58 and 60 inches in length.

Norris and Burnett brought in a total of 135.29 pounds of fish with their five catches. Those fish netted them $11,500 in winnings from the tournament: $8,500 for getting first place and $3,000 for catching the largest fish.

Norris and Burnett claim a check for $8,500 after the tournament ends. (Photo Courtesy/Craig Norris)

Norris said he and Burnett targeted underwater ledges out near the middle of the channel. He used skipjacks for bait and planer boards supplied by Kevin Park who is also based in Kansas.