By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Patience was virtue at the fifth annual Biggest Catfish Derby Challenge Saturday at Oasis State Park.
Some 177 competitors and their families lined the lake at Oasis, trying to win a cash prize and bragging rights for catching the biggest catfish. Competitors paid $5 to fish for the biggest catfish they could find in four hours. There were two categories (age 15 and under and 16 and up) competing for a $100 first prize.
Calob Durham, 15, literally made waves early in the competition when he reeled in an estimated 20-pound carp.
“He didn’t really bite that hard, but he put up a good fight,” said Durham who used shrimp to attract the big carp.
“That’s the biggest fish I ever caught,” said Durham.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a catfish so it didn’t qualify for the derby. It was by far the biggest fish caught all day.
The biggest catfish at press time belonged to one of the youngest competitors, Xavier Viscaino, 7, who caught a 3 pound 3 ounce catfish, which was big enough for him to lead the senior and junior divisions.
“We cast it out and I waited, but it started moving. I had to reel it in and they were clapping for me,” said Viscaino.
Ironically, both of Viscaino’s parents held first place for small periods of time in the senior division. Raul Viscaino and Jenalee Watson were each in first at one point during the competition. Raul’s catfish weighed 1 pound 11 ounces, while Watson’s was 2 pounds and 6 ounces.
“We know where the deep parts are, but it’s hard to get there with so many people here. We just try and aim for the deepest parts without getting tangled up with anybody,” said the elder Viscaino.
Getting tangled was a common sight at the Derby, with so many competitors. There was little free space along the bank of the lake and maneuvering to other spots made it difficult. However, everyone was in a consensus when saying the bites would start coming after dark.
“When the sun goes down, they’ll start biting,” said Billy McClendon of Clovis.
“Yeah, when it gets a little later, the big ones will start to come out,” said Chris Valdez of Portales as he helped his father-in-law Rick Waters unhook a baby catfish from his line.
The event began at 5 p.m., and ran until 9.m. At press time Viscaino led the junior division while Randy Germain had the biggest in the senior division at 3 pounds 1 ounce.
“Last year’s winner was almost seven pounds,” said Brad Cozine of the Friends of Oasis State Park. In addition to cash prizes for the top four in each division, there were door prizes given away every half hour, including fishing rods, outdoor chairs, and reels.
In all more than 250 people were present at the event, making it a family fun experience; the goal of Park Manager Jim Whary. There were even rules to keep things family friendly.
“One rule is no foul language. There are children present,” said Whary.