Carla Meza of Yuba City topped a record field of 580 adults and 111 children to win the three-day Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Annual Catfish Derby, which concluded Sunday.
Meza reeled in a 23.82-pound channel catfish around 5 p.m. on Friday, the first day of the tournament, and went on to win the $4,000 first-place prize. She was fishing near Clear Lake State Park and used mackerel for bait.
Triton Marlowe of Clearlake Oaks won the kids division with a 16.36-pounder and received a Nintendo Wii Play Station 2.
Meza, a Yuba County administrative assistant, and her fiancé, Tom Jacobs, also of Yuba City, entered the derby in hopes of winning enough money to get married. Jacobs, who works in construction and has seen his employment opportunities shrink because the bad economy, said the couple has been trying to save enough money to take a honeymoon trip to Fort Bragg. A few weeks ago they were headed for the Mendocino County Coast when their car broke down, so they had to postpone the wedding. They also had to move out of their home recently.
Meza and Jacobs said they figured it couldn’t hurt to enter the catfish derby and that if they won enough money they would go to Fort Bragg and get married. They camped out at the State Park during the three-day tournament. Jacobs said they fished out of a 12-foot aluminum boat with a 8 hp outboard motor. Little did they realize Meza would win the derby and the $4,000.