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Paris, Tennessee

Saturday, April  30,  2005

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Michael McClain (right) accepts the grand prize trophy from Post-Intelligencer editor emeritus Bill William.

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Michael McClain sponsored so many catfish during Saturday's races that five of them had to swim against each other in one heat.

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Cookie Hope (left) and Leigh Crossett get vocal in their encouragement of Halakahiki, the surfing fish, during Saturday's Catfish Races. Halakahiki finished second overall in the races while Team Halakahiki received the best spirit award and finished first runner-up in the best catfish story competition.


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Pearly White splashes to win

By Bob York
P-I Staff Writer

In addition to his job, local dentist Michael McClain has long been known for his benevolent sponsorship during the Fish Fry Catfish Races.

His financial backing has allowed a great many Kentucky Lake spawn a chance to live the dream of competing in late April at the court square in Paris.

Now, after Saturday's event, McClain can boast of a new distinction --- his fish Pearly White captured top honors, winning McClain a $25 gift certificate from Seaton's Restaurant near Kentucky Lake.

On a day whose 50-degree temperatures might be considered bitterly cold for swimming, Pearly White won the final heat by outswimming Carvin Casey, sponsored by Joe and Shirley Casey, and Halakahiki, sponsored by Larry Niemi.

As was the case last year, McClain sponsored so many fish that a preliminary heat was devoted entirely to his wards.

Pearly White defeated fellow McClain-ites James Band, Satellite Sam, Murray and Orthodontia "Donnie" to advance.

In the semi-finals, Pearly White defeated The Atomic Flash, sponsored by John and Val Alexander; Greyhound, sponsored by Phrosa Freeland; and Snapdragon, sponsored by Jack Jones.

"First off, I'd like to thank Dr. McClain for believing in me," Pearly White said after the races.

"The first heat was the toughest, because those fish are like family. I was just taking it one heat at a time, and trying to step up.

The event was less memorable for omeN, last year's champion. Sponsored again by Eugene GuIish, omeN failed to win the first heat against other fish sponsored by local physicians.

He fell, to Sir Muddy, sponsored by Danny Kimberlin, who advanced to the semifinals where he was defeated by Carvin Casey.

Team omeN said that the loss may have been because of an aggravated fin injury, and didn't rule out a need for reconstructive surgery during the off-season.

Of the many stories to be told from the 18th annual races, one of the most interesting was that of Ha1akahiki, the' surfing catfish.

Originally from the north shore of Hawaii, this tropical competitor made the trip to Henry County to compete under the sponsorship of Cottage Grove's Larry Nienni.

Backed by the vocal support of five very vocal women in tropical headgear, Halakahiki wowed audiences while reaching the final round.

Though he fell to 'Pearly White, spectators agreed that the Hawaiian catfish brought a certain charisma to the event, and his supporters were given the Spirit Award, good for a dinner for two at El Vaquero.

Best Tall Tale went to Bubba's Choice, sponsored by Jim's Discount Pharmacy. The tale told the story of a talking dog named Bubba and also happened to mention a catfish. The sponsors were awarded a $25 certificate from Seaton's.

Best Fish Name went to Slowdown Mergeleft, sponsored by J.R. Hayes Construction, which won lunch for two from the Olive Pit.

All fish who won preliminary or semifinal heats won their sponsors a prize from a local restaurant.

Other semifinalist and and their sponsors were: MAC, Mary Ann Campbell; The 6:45, the Optimist Club; Quinn Fin III, Dale and Sue Quinn;

Future Fiddler Twin Lakes Dental; Ice Man, Crystal River Ice; and Stor-Me, Lindsey's Mini-Storage.


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Reprinted  from  the

Paris, Tennessee
May 2, 2005, Edition