It’s just a one-shot deal, they say, but a couple of local catfish enthusiasts have put together a “virtual” fishing tournament to replace Cats Incredible, which organizers canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Red River Cattitude” catfish tournament, as it’s called, will be held Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, the same dates as Cats Incredible originally was scheduled, said Brad Durick of Grand Forks, N.D., who is organizing the tournament with Ruth Ann Schleif of East Grand Forks, Minn.

Fishing hours will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with tournament boundaries from the Minnesota Highway 317 bridge north of Oslo, Minn., upstream to the Red River bridge near Frog Point east of Buxton, N.D.

This won’t be your typical catfish tournament with a weigh-in site and a large gathering. Instead, Red River Cattitude will be run “in the clouds” using an app called Fish Donkey that has been gaining popularity among virtual tournaments in the U.S. and Canada.

The app handles every aspect of the tournament, Durick says, including rules and entry fees. Using the app, organizers set the dates and times of the competition, which will be catch-photo-release only based on length and girth of the fish.

Anglers upload photos on the app documenting the measurements of the fish they enter; organizers then get an alert that a fish has been entered. A video showing the fish being released also must be submitted.

“All of that goes right through Fish Donkey,” Durick said. “You get the app, it says ‘Join Tournament,’ you enter your credit card and away you go. We set the start and end times on the app, and when it ends, they can’t enter any more fish.”

Brad Durick
Brad Durick

Teams can enter their top five fish each day.

Durick, a Red River catfish guide and board member of the Red River Valley Catfish League, said he talked with Paul Hansen, president of the East Grand Forks Association of Firefighters Local 3423, and received the group’s blessing to host the alternative tournament.

The firefighters union has organized Cats Incredible since 2013 but last week said it was canceling this year’s event because of the ongoing health and safety risks resulting from COVID-19.

Cats Incredible traditionally includes other events, such as street dances, car shows, a beer garden and food vendors as part of the weekend activities. Cattitude won’t have any of that; the only sign of anything going on will be boats on the river that can be spread out for upwards of 80 miles.

“I told him – this is something I want you to print – this is a one-time thing,” Durick said. “This will not be happening on that weekend next year.”

Schleif, who was Cats Incredible tournament director for seven or eight years and a longtime member of the organizing committee until the firefighters took over the tournament in 2013, said she was “devastated” when she heard this year’s event was being canceled, although she understood and supported the reason.

The tournament she’s organizing with Durick will allow longtime Cats Incredible anglers from Iowa and Nebraska to still make the trip, Schleif says. And from what she’s hearing, most of them are coming.

“Truly, that is what makes this special for me – the friendships I've made over the years and the absolutely special place in my heart these people hold,” Schleif said. “All because of our love for Red River channel catfish.”

The tournament is open to 100 teams, and the entry fee is $150 per two-person team, with payouts for the top five and a first-place prize of $2,500 based on 50-team field. Payouts would increase proportionately if more teams enter, Durick said.

Initially, they had explored having an on-the-water weigh-in for the tournament, Durick said, but that wasn't allowed under the terms of their permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Since Cattitude technically is a Minnesota event, in-person weigh-ins and gatherings of more than 10 people aren’t allowed this summer for fishing tournaments under the state's COVID-19 guidelines.

On the upside, because teams aren’t bringing fish to a scale, anglers can upgrade their catches if they catch a fish bigger than one they’ve already entered, Durick said. That isn’t allowed during tournaments based on weights in Minnesota or North Dakota.

“You can upgrade all you want because the fish are not being brought in,” Durick said. “Ruth Ann and I will basically just sit on the porch all day with the computer as (fish) come in. We just have to hit ‘Verify.’”

Red River Cattitude’s virtual format will accommodate the social distancing guidelines recommended to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus, while still allowing anglers to get out on the river for some fishing and camaraderie, Schleif said.

“We all need some normalcy in the craziness of our world today, and I look forward to working with Brad to do my little part in keeping catfish tournament fishing a part of our summer,” Schleif said. “I really don't know what I would have done if the last weekend in July had rolled around and there weren't fishermen on the Red trying their best to bring in those beautiful catfish.

“I live for that weekend every summer.”

For more information, contact Durick at 701-739-5808 or email braddurick@gmail.com.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at 701-780-1148, 800-477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken



Red River Cattitude

July 25-26, 2020 Red River

Tournament Rules

All rules are to provide a fair and equal playing field for all competitors and are based on a (2) person team. (4) lines per team. Tournament will be based on the Top 5 catfish submitted.

  1. Registration and Rules Meeting will be pre-recorded the week of the tournament and distributed through social media.

  2. Tournament boundaries are: ND Hwy 17/MN Hwy 317 to the Highway 21/7 (Buxton/Climax) Bridge.

  3. Teams must compete from a boat. Fishing within 50 yards of a competitor’s boat, which was first anchored, is prohibited.

  4. All fish submitted must be caught by rod and reel with a single hook only (NO TREBLE HOOKS). A maximum of 4 rods per boat may be used.

  5. Teams must comply with state fishing and boating regulations, including the use of PFDs and kill switches. Fishing and boating licenses are the responsibility of team members.

  6. Fishing hours for the tournament are: 7:00 AM until 4:00 PM each day.

  7. Any LEGAL commercial or natural bait will be allowed.

  8. This will be a top 5 fish tournament. Fish must be measured and photographed on bump board for length and girth. A video release must also be submitted. UPGRADING IS LEGAL IN THIS CATCH-PHOTO-RELEASE FORMAT.

  9. In case of a tie the payout for the two spots will be added and divided evenly.

  10. Fish will be verified in the Fish Donkey APP by tournament officials.

  11. Unsportsmanlike conduct may be grounds for disqualification if circumstances require. Decision of Tournament Directors will be final.

  12. Entry Fee- $150 per team.

  13. This is an 75% payout tournament. (Based on a field of 50 boats) 1st- $2,500 (.444), 2nd- $1,000 (.178), 3rd- $750 (.133), 4th- $500 (.089), 5th- $300 (.053), Last Place Fish Weighed- $150 (.027), Big Fish $500 (.089). (Over 50 boats the payouts will increase accordingly.)

In case of extreme water/weather conditions organizers reserve the right to cancel this event and entry fees will be returned

2020 Social Distance Rules Addendum

These rules are to be used for 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Until further notice they supersede the above launch and weigh in rules.

  1. Rules meeting will be pre-recorded and distributed online

  2. All competitors will be instructed to stay with their vehicles during launch and leave immediately after they are launched.

  3. This is a virtual event. Fish will be submitted online

  4. Anglers will be instructed to load and leave immediately after the event

  5. No spectators will be allowed

  6. Awards will be announced on social media

  7. Checks will be mailed

Release

Upon completion of the tournament, Contestants also agree that any mention of names or use of photographic likenesses may be used by the Red River Valley Catfish Club and/or the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau and their sponsors for promotional purposes. All decisions regarding compliance with these rules and the interpretation of these rules will be made by the tournament director and the Red River Valley Catfish Club which reserves the right to make additional reasonable rules for the conduct of their tournaments if circumstances require.