Low waters can be a challenge for championship catfish

Alton — Low water conditions can present challenges for anglers who compete Saturday in the fourth annual Alton Catfish Classic.

Nearly 100 boats will compete for the $20,000 grand prize and $1,500 prize for the largest catfish overall. This year’s tournament is looking forward to being one of the biggest weigh-in operations to date, said Todd Adamets of Simmons Hanley-Conroy, one of the tournament’s major sponsors.

“The river conditions were low this summer, but the fishermen were catching the big fish,” Adamets said. “The lower water pushes the fish towards the middle, and the fishermen are already finding the fish piled up.”

Anglers continue to pre-fish in the river this week, but all participating boats must be out of the water by 4pm on Friday 8 September with no fishing or bait fishing allowed after that time until the tournament begins on Saturday.

“Most teams come a week early before pre-fishing and find the best fishing spots on the river,” Adamitis said. “Hunting for the $20,000 grand prize is serious business.”

Four hotels in Alton are hosting teams this year. A leaders dinner and championship meeting are scheduled for 5pm on Friday at the FLOCK Food Truck Park in Alton. More than 250 fishermen and their families are expected to attend the event.

It is currently expected that Friday and Saturday will be rain-free with maximum temperatures reaching around 80.

Last year’s top prize went to Chris Stout of Jackson, Tennessee, and Hunter Jones of East Prairie, Missouri, who delivered three 147.46-pound fish to win $17,000. Jones also got a 65.02-pound cat to claim the $1,500 prize for the largest fish.

In total, last year’s field of 105 boats landed 106 fish weighing 2,162.87 pounds. All the fish were returned alive to the river. Anglers from Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Kansas and Texas competed in the tournament, staying at four hotels in Alton.

This year, fishermen will pay $500 per boat to participate in the tournament. Up to three fishermen can be on the boat.

Tournament check-in starts at 4am on Saturday with fishing allowed from 6:30am-3:30pm. All boats must be at the weight line at Liberty Bell Alton Grandstand by 5 p.m

The Trailer Borders for Hunting Tournament are:

• On the Mississippi River: between Foley Boat Marina (Missouri) and St. Louis and between Foley Boat Marina and Water Street in Chester, Illinois

• On the Illinois River: Port Grafton

• On the Missouri River: St. Charles (Missouri) and Klondike Park in Augusta (Missouri).

Anglers are limited to three catches of blue catfish, channel catfish, or flathead catfish. All fish must be alive to be weighed. No dead fish will be weighed and no spoiled fish will be accepted. No stringer, snare or rip bags allowed.

All fish must be caught with rod and reel only. A maximum of six rods may be used per boat unless state laws are more restrictive. There is no limit to the number of rails a boat can carry.

Tournament anglers are expected to maintain a minimum distance of 50 yards between each other while anchored and 50 feet while drifting. Consumption of alcohol and drugs is prohibited during tournament activities. Unsportsmanlike behavior is grounds for exclusion.

In the Saturday weighing process, all fish must be put into the weighing bags; No throwing or mishandling of fish will be allowed. The winners are subject to lie detector tests and any team where a member fails or refuses to take the test will be disqualified.

“Once again, Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to be a proud sponsor of the Alton Catfish Classic,” said Adamitis. “We know what an amazing event this is and what a huge economic impact it has on our community; having over 250 fishermen from all over the United States coming to Alton is huge and a huge boost to our local economy.

The tournament also introduced awards for the best veteran and youth division.

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