For most people, it goes without saying that turning your passion into a successful business is reaching the pinnacle of the American dream – it's just that passion rarely takes the form of a catfish. However, Member Kent Hollands, a native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, has seen his love of fishing for big channel cats on the Red River of the North evolve into a fulfilling, fun and expanding business.
Hollands is a Coast-Guard-certified guide who owns and operates Trophy Cat Adventures. And for Hollands, the proof is in the pudding. "Out of a dozen or so trips last year ," he says, "I only had one person who didn't catch a catfish that was their personal best." And a brief perusal of his website confirms Hollands' assertion – big cats seem to endlessly find their way into his boat for a photo-op before being turned back into the water to swim another day.
Hollands has spent his whole life fishing the Red, as he grew up about eight miles from the river. And now, home sweet home is a mere mile away, making it possible for him to be on the water within minutes of arriving home after working at his "day job" as a lab technician for the North Dakota Geological Survey.
According to Hollands, his catfishing approach is far from extraordinary in that he sticks to the "classic haunts," as he calls them. "I concentrate my efforts on the current edges along the back side of runs, holes and snags, and that can be in one to 30 feet of water but always on the bottom," he says. "Typically, that's where the bigger fish hang out, patiently waiting for the current to sweep something their way. But the trick to the whole thing is getting on the fish right away when it hits, because it's going to do everything in its power to get back into the timber or any other type of structure it calls home. You've got to get on it quick or you'll increase the chances of losing it."
Of course, Hollands varies his tactics according to the time of year and water conditions, always carrying white sucker or goldeye in the boat for different cutbait options. "In late summer when you drive down the road at night and see frogs hopping across the road in front of you is a great time to go after catfish," Hollands admits. "At that time, I'll switch to frogs for bait and fish shallow – right up to the grass on the bank – because that's where some big cats lurk waiting for the frogs to hit the water."
Although he qualifies his tactics as "typical," Hollands is excited to try a new strategy for catfish next year. Hollands discovered while fishing faster water in the river that more aggressive catfish would hit whole 6- to 8-inch suckers on a No. 8 hook on the retrieve. "After the first one hit, I had to try it again," he says. "And sure enough, bam, another rod would go down. I can't wait to explore that tactic a little more next summer."
But perhaps the most engaging aspect of Hollands' catfishing prowess is how humble he is, always quick to credit his clients and family. In fact, after winning the Cats Incredible Red River fishing tournament in 2000, Hollands decided to defend his title in the following years by fishing with his son as his partner. "I've created my own worst nightmare," Hollands laughs. "My son does everything I do, so there are times when I get home and he's already got the boat loaded and set to go."
And although he's landed a number of channel cats over 30 pounds, Hollands still gleans the most satisfaction from witnessing a client land a trophy. "There's nothing like seeing someone smile while they hold up a big fish after a hard-fought battle," he says. "I simply enjoy meeting and establishing relationships with people from all walks of life, and I can't wait to see who I'll meet next."