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Catfish tournament set for Ohio River, tributaries

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 9:20 p.m.

Benjamin Sladick remembers the stories his grandfather used to tell.

A mill worker, he used to talk about the giant catfish swimming in Pittsburgh's then-murky rivers. They were big enough to have scared scuba divers, he said.

Tall tales, you say?

Sladick is hoping to prove otherwise. He's organizing a catfish tournament, the Field & Stream Catfish Classic, in Monaca on Aug. 2 in hopes of seeing some monsters caught.

The tournament — the first of what he hopes will become an annual event — is being sponsored by his employer, Field & Stream in Cranberry, and a host of other local bait and tackle shops and gear manufacturers.

Sladick is expecting a good turnout.

“It used to be you could go to any spot along the rivers without worrying about competition. Now on a lot of nights, if you don't get there early, you have to fight to get a spot,” said Sladick, known to his friends as the “Beaver County Cat Daddy” because of his own obsession.

That's a credit to the size and distribution of the fish, said Tim Reddinger of Reddi Bait and Tackle in Bridgewater, another tournament sponsor. Anglers will compete as two-man teams. They will be able to weigh in a combined five catfish of any species.

It will take five, and probably five flatheads, to come out on top, Reddinger predicted.

“Knowing my guys around here, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes 100 pounds to win, a 20-pound-per-fish average,” Reddinger said.

What's amazing is how many such catfish exist locally, he said. The Ohio River holds countless areas where anglers who know what they're doing can realistically expect to pick up catfish weighing 25 pounds and more.

“I could take you from spot to spot to spot to spot. It just goes and goes,” Reddinger said. “We're just really fortunate to have as much good fishing as we do.”

The tournament will offer, among other things, a prize for the heaviest single catfish caught. Slavick is expecting that fish to be big. His personal-best flathead stretched 45-plus inches and weighed an estimated 40 pounds. He won't be surprised if someone tops that.

No matter what, though, he's sure everyone who develops a passion for catfish will be glad they did.

“Being out on that calm water on a warm night finding big fish, there's nothing better,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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