EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- There's a new twist to this year's Cats Incredible Catfish Tournament that promises to be a big draw: Dogs.
That's right, dogs.
After a one-year absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cats Incredible is back this year, with fishing set for Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1. As always, LaFave Park in East Grand Forks is tournament headquarters.
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The festivities get underway Friday night, July 30, with a 7 p.m. rules meeting at LaFave Park, but from a spectator standpoint, three days of DockDogs competition at the tournament site might just be the highlight of this year’s Cats Incredible weekend.
Based in Medina, Ohio, DockDogs got its start in 2000 “to create a nationally recognized competitive sport based on rules and precedents in track and field competitions,” the organization’s website states.
Think of it as a track meet, of sorts, for dogs, with three sporting disciplines:
Big Air: Billed as the long jump of canine aquatics.
Extreme Vertical: The high jump of canine aquatics.
Speed retrieve: A timed sport that combines running, jumping, swimming and retrieving.
Within each discipline, dogs compete in four divisions based on their level of proficiency: Amateur, for dogs that jump up to 14 feet; Contender, for jumps from 14 to 18 feet; Semi-Pro, 18 to 22 feet; and Pro, 22-plus feet.
Competing dogs won’t be jumping into the Red River in East Grand Forks but instead will jump off docks into a huge pool the DockDogs organization hauls and sets up for its various events.
One team to watch at this year’s Cats Incredible DockDogs event is “Team Silver Roosterz,” featuring Grand Forks native and 2000 Red River High School graduate Seth Lothspeich, who has lived in Bismarck for the past 21 years. Lothspeich began competing in DockDogs events in 2018 and will be on hand with his two pointing yellow Labrador retrievers – 4-year-old Crosby and 2-year-old Mac.
Last year, Lothspeich and Crosby won DockDogs’ top honor as the No. 1 Big Air Elite team in the world, as Crosby finished the season as the No.3 overall Big Air Labrador.
“He jumps consistently 23 to 25 feet in Big Air,” Lothspeich said, adding he calls Crosby his “superstar dog.”
Mac, by comparison, is his “project dog,” Lothspeich says, and consistently jumps about 18 feet.
The upcoming DockDogs event in East Grand Forks is a “Wild Card” competition, meaning the top four finishers in each division of the three disciplines will qualify for the World Championships set for Oct. 12-17 in Dubuque, Iowa, Lothspeich says.
Because of that, the DockDogs event in East Grand Forks likely will draw competitors from across the country, Lothspeich says. Regular DockDogs competitions don’t have World Championship invitations at stake.
“Wild Card is a really big deal to a lot of people,” Lothspeich said. “I wouldn’t doubt there will be upwards of 50 teams competing and upwards of 100 dogs” on hand in East Grand Forks.
Registration for the East Grand Forks DockDogs event gets underway at 5 p.m. July 30, with Big Air Wave No. 1 commencing at 6 p.m. DockDogs events continue throughout the weekend as follows:
Saturday, July 31
10 a.m.: Onsite registration and practice.
11 a.m.: Big Air Wave No. 2.
12:30 p.m.: Big Air Wave No. 3.
2 p.m.: Big Air Wave No. 4.
4 p.m.: Extreme Vertical competition.
Sunday, Aug. 1
10 a.m.: Onsite registration and practice.
11 a.m.: Big Air Wave No. 5.
12:30 p.m.: Big Air Wave No. 6.
2 p.m.: Speed Retrieve.
4 p.m.: Big Air Finals (Pro, semi pro, contender and amateur divisions).
For more information on DockDogs, check out the organization’s website at dockdogs.com.
Back to catfish
As for the fishing, Cats Incredible is open to 125 two-person teams with a maximum payout of $5,000 for first place, based on a full tournament field; entry fee is $230 per team.
As of last week, lots of openings remained for Cats Incredible, according to Jeff Anderson of the East Grand Forks Fire Department. The fire department’s union, International Association of Firefighters Local 3423, runs the Cats Incredible event.
There’ll be food and beer trucks set up at tournament headquarters Friday evening and throughout the day Saturday and Sunday. Fishing hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with a tournament awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Other events on tap in conjunction with Cats Incredible include a YMCA 5K walk and run at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, an East Side Rides Car Show from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and an After Event Party with a live band from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Spud Jr., 302 DeMers Ave., in East Grand Forks.
More info: catsincredibletournament.com.