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April 4, 2014

Casting a line for catfish

Tournament set for month of April

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Cast a net over East Texas, and you'll discover numerous bass fishing tournaments held throughout the year.

Inspired by those events, one local businessman has launched a similar venture – featuring catfish.

“No one has a catfish tournament around here, it's all bass,” explained Bill Knous, owner of Uncle Bill's Bait & Catfish on Dialville Highway.

On April 1, the inaugural “Uncle Bill's Annual Catfish Tournament” was launched, with a different area lake featured fishing spots.

A $30 fee “covers the whole month,” he said, adding “you can fish as many lakes as you want, and you can weigh in as many times as you want.”

This week, the contest begins at Lake Striker in northeast Cherokee County; Lake Tyler is the location of Week 2's contest, while Week 3 is at Lake Palestine and Week 4 is at Lake Jacksonville.

Knous said he intentionally chose multiple sites for the contest to “bring people in from all over East Texas.

“For example, people from around Lake Tyler wouldn't have far to go to fish, and they'd have a whole week (to participate),” he said.

Weekly segments held during the course of the month also give contestants with non-traditional work schedules an opportunity to participate.

“There are a lot of people who don't work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, like guards at the penitentiary or oilfield workers, who work a certain amount of days, then have off,” Knous explained. “This gives them the opportunity to wet a hook.”

The rod-and-reel tournament features various prizes and trophies.

“We're giving $400 for the largest stringer and $200 for the largest fish, with other door prizes given out,” he said. “If I can get enough people to fish the tournament, on the last Saturday I'd like to have a fish fry, but that's still in the planning stages.”

Only two people have signed up for the event so far, but Knous is hoping for more as the month progresses.

“The lake they're fishing on this week is not that big, so they may be waiting (to compete the weeks the tournament is) on Lake Palestine or Lake Tyler,” he said, adding that participants can enter any time during the month.

“If they want to fish tomorrow, they just need to sign up today,” he said.

Fishing since he was three years old, Knous said he hopes the event not only instills a love of fishing in those new to the pasttime, but also helps provide newbies with a way to put food on the table.

“It's like the old saying goes: 'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.' I firmly believe that,” he said.

His biggest hope for the tournament?

“I would like to see 100 people fish all month long, with friendships built along the way and people getting along, having a good time. That would be a blessing all of its own,” he said.

Uncle Bill's Annual Catfish Tournament continues through April 30, with daily weigh-in from 5 to 6 p.m. at his bait shop located one mile south of Jacksonville's Loop 456 on Dialville Highway.

Fish must be alive when weighed in, Knous said.

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