Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
The Roanoke Valley Optimist Club and Challenger Little League Baseball teamed up to produce the event.
Mark Taylor | The Roanoke Times
Christie Ayers won the catfish category at the Smith Mountain Lake Fishing Tournament by the Roanoke Valley Optimist Club and Challenger Little League Baseball. Her catfish, which hit a large gizzard shad bait, weighed 35.32 pounds.
Mark Taylor | The Roanoke Times
Gary Whitlock (left) and Justin Manning of Glade Hill haul three big flathead catfish to their truck after the conclusion of the annual Smith Mountain Lake Fishing Tournament held by the Roanoke Valley Optimists and Challenger Little League Baseball. Whitlock earned a fourth place in the catfish category for a fish weighing just over 32 pounds. Manning's mother, Christee Ayers, won the catfish category with a flathead that weighed 35.32 pounds.
Mark Taylor | The Roanoke Times
Crappies fin in a holding tank while awaiting to be claimed by their anglers after the Smith Mountain Lake fishing tournament.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
BURNT CHIMNEY - "This is my baby right there," Christee Ayers said before planting a smooch on a face only a mother could love.
Ugly as it may have been, all brown and slimy and covered with whiskers, that face put $1,000 in Ayers' pocket.
It belonged to a 35.32-pound flathead catfish, a fish that won the catfish division in the annual Smith Mountain Lake fishing tournament and was the largest fish of any species weighed in the popular derby, which was in its 45th year.
The tournament, now jointly produced by the Roanoke Valley Optimist Club and Challenger Little League Baseball, drew about 450 entrants.
They hit the water starting at 7:30 a.m. on Friday , and many fished hard until the scales closed at noon on Sunday.
"We're sleep deprived and we've been living on beanie weenies and nabs," said Ayers, a resident of Union Hall, who was smiling nonetheless after her fish edged a 35.22-pound flathead registered by Steve Lynch of Boones Mill.
In addition to the traditional appearance of hefty bass, catfish and crappies, a couple of other trends continued.
As usual, the muskellunge category remained blank.
And as has become common in recent years, the leaderboard featured some last-minute jostling due to an angler disqualification.
The DQ came in the crappie category, when Rodney Coleman of Rocky Mount was disqualified after a polygraph test.
Coleman had been in second place after registering a fish that weighed 1.86 pounds.
Tournament officials offered no additional comments other than to say Coleman had not passed the polygraph test.
Coleman was not available for comment.
The tournament has featured several polygraph-related disqualifications in recent years.
The event featured another polygraph connection.
At the Oakley Big Bass Tour three springs ago, Tony Padgett of Goodview was leading the event but was unable to complete a polygraph test. The disqualification cost him a $30,000 Nitro bass boat.
Sunday it was his wife and constant fishing partner Debbie's turn for an exam as she was leading the tournament's smallmouth division.
Debbie Padgett was smiling and calm as she headed into the exam room, smiling and calm exiting the room, and smiling and excited a while later after collecting her $1,000 first place check.
"It's redemption," said her husband, who said after the Oakley tournament that breaking a rule that required wearing a life jacket while his boat's gas motor was in use led to his undoing in that event.
Debbie Padgett wasn't smiling earlier in the tournament.
On Friday she was struggling as her husband boated several 3-pound smallmouths, including one that was on the leaderboard until late in the tournament.
"I was so disgusted the first day," she said.
On the second morning she saw a large smallmouth shadow one her husband was reeling in. She cast to the fish and it hit.
The fish weighed 3.86 pounds, providing for a fairly comfortable margin over Ronald Ball's 3.62-pound smallmouth.
Padgett said she was using live bait, but declined to give more details.
Not surprisingly, slow-waking surface plugs fished near the bank after dark produced some of the event's other top catches, including the winning striped bass.
James "Jake" Flournoy and partner Jeremy Bowman were working along a rocky shoreline in the lake's Blackwater arm, casting plugs parallel to the bank when the big striper hit.
"Honestly, I thought I was hung," he said.
The fish weighed 19.02 pounds.
Bowman just missed joining his buddy on the board, boating a striper than was just a half-inch short of the 37 inches required to qualify for the tournament.
Only three qualifying stripers were registered.
Largemouth winner Billy Martin of Moneta caught his winner on Friday morning while fishing near the dam.
"We didn't know it was that big," Martin said of the bass, which weighed 7.32 pounds. "When I saw it I thought it was a 4- or 5-pounder."
The fish was on a spawning bed, along with a smaller male.
When Martin threw a white ice-colored Fluke lure toward the fish he figured he would hook the male.
But the female gobbled the lure.
"She didn't put up no fight at all," he said of the fish, which he released Sunday after taking measurements so he can get a fiberglass replica mount made.
"I've fished these tournaments a lot of years and never won anything," Martin said.
Crappie winner Gary Johnson of Wirtz wasn't even fishing for crappies when his winner hit.
He was targeting catfish, soaking live bait on the bottom.
When the fish hit the medium-sized minnow Johnson knew it wasn't a big cat.
"I figured it was probably a small bass," said Johnson, whose fish weighed 1.88 pounds.
When Ayers hooked her big catfish she knew she was into something stout, but she wasn't intimidated.
"I caught a 50-pounder last year at Buggs Island Lake," said Ayers, a diehard catfisherman who was fishing with her "old man" Randy Manning. "I think I would rather fish than eat."
The fish hit a large gizzard shad at about 9 a.m.
"We do the best here on flatheads early in the morning," she said.
Ayers' former son-in-law, Gary Whitlock, also earned a check, registering the fourth place catfish, while her son, Justin Manning, just missed an award with the fifth place cat.
Youth large fish (carp)
Youth small fish (sunfish)
Weather JournalNext system: Possible ice/snow Sat.