Big fish was the name of the game at Helena-West Helena, AR.
Louisville, KY – Catfish anglers from 12 states traveled to the Mississippi River at Helena-West Helena, AR for a King Kat Tournament Trail event presented by Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s. Twenty-four teams gathered to test their catfishing skills against other anglers and Mother Nature. The top 13 teams weighed more than 100 pounds!
Tournament day was filled with reports of anglers throwing back fish over the slot limit. It is a good problem to have. Tournament rules allowed anglers to keep only two fish over 34 inches per boat, so culling was the name of the game for the top teams.
Competitors were vying for $6,650.00 in cash and prizes, and an opportunity to qualify for the $120,000 Classic Championship to be held November 1 and 2, 2019, on the Tennessee River (Wheeler Lake) at Decatur, Alabama.
The water was falling hard during the week but the bite was off the charts for many anglers on tournament day. Air temperatures in the 90’s was combined with overcast skies and light winds. As is often the case on the Big Muddy, skipjack for bait and the techniques of bumping was the combination that worked best.
Results for the Top Catfish Teams
The top spot went to Sam Brooks from West Lafayette, IN and John Raines from Spring Valley, IL. Their winning weight of 151.94 pounds included the Big Kat of the tournament at 68.94 pounds. The team earned a check for $3,000 and added another $500 for the Driftmaster Rod Holders Bonus.
Deep water was key as the team fished upriver near Tunica. They reported a tough prefishing experience, but the bite turned on when tournament day rolled around.
“Two days of prefishing yielded nothing,” reported Raines. “We only caught 3 fish and the biggest was probably 15 pounds if we were lucky.”
“We were fishing about 20 minutes upriver,” continued Raines. We were drifting in 45 feet of water bouncing into 90 feet of water behind a sand bar. We caught 4 fish over the slot and had to release them.”
Brooks and Raines said they anchored, drifted, and bumped, at different times during the day. They returned three 45 pounders and a 25 pounder to the river as they culled through the big fish they caught.
“The fish were in deep water in major boils,” reported Brooks. “We used whole fresh skipjack. They didn’t like the old ones at all, it had to be fresh. We fished upriver from the ramp and we were busy, busy, busy, all day long. We will remember that day for a while, and we’ll be going back for sure.”
Larry Spillers from Ennis, TX and Larry Muse from Corinth, MS claimed the runner up spot with 145.64 pounds to earn a check for $1,500.00. The team fished downriver from Helena doing nothing but bumping all day long and not far from the weigh-in site. Their Warrior Cat bumping rods were rigged with Larry Muse Signature Series Bumping Rigs.
“We fished close so our fish would be in good shape,” reported Muse. We fished a place I found last year. It was a 300-foot-long ridge in the middle of the river. The water was about 55 feet deep on one side and 46 on the other.”
That ridge produced 12 fish on the day including their two overs at 57 and 50 pounds. Spillers and Muse threw back 7 big fish that were over the 34-inch slot limit. They weighed 48, 45, 45, 42, 40, 38, and 25 pounds. Skipjack heads seemed to be the favored bait for the big cats.
“It was the sweetest bumping current I’ve ever found this far up the Mississippi,” concluded Muse. “It was an awesome day on the Mississippi River.”
Zed Moore from Mt. Carmel, IL and his brother Josh Moore from Vincennes, IN finished in the third slot with 142.46 pounds to earn a check for $1,000.00.
The Moore Brothers Catfishing team found their fish upriver north of Tunica. They were targeting 35-100 feet of water using skipjack for bait. Zed stated that the fish were everywhere. They landed 12 fish on the day.
“The Monster Rod Holders Team focused on structure,” said Zed. “It was a great day of fishing. The fish hit the baits hard today. We bounced and walked baits the whole day, catching fish in a wide range of depths. We are grateful to fish such a great fishery; the top 13 teams were all over 100 pounds!
The final team in the money was Roy Harkness from Ripley, TN and John Godwin from Calhoun, LA. The B’n’M Poles team brought 128 pounds to the scales and earned a check for $350.00 for the fourth-place finish.
Harkness and Godwin needed some fish under the slot. Their top 5 was over 200 pounds but they could only keep two over 34 inches. In the end, they only had 4 fish and the unders were a 1.5 pounder and a 16 pounder.
“We had a great day in the ProCat 240,” offered Harkness. “We caught both big fish on the first drift. Of the fish we caught, 5 five were over 40 pounds. We fished hard to the last minute catching an under with 20 minutes left.”
Harkness praised the new B’n’M Bumping Rods and his Daiichi hooks, stating that they are a successful combination on the Big River or anywhere else.
“We had a great day on the water with a lot of laughs,” concluded Harkness. “That new B’n’M Bumping Rod is perfect. It’s the best rod I’ve bumped with and I am really excited about it. A couple of 15 pounders and we would have had a shot!”
The Remaining Top Ten
5th Place – Carl Morris Jr. and Rob Parsons – 127.04
6th Place – Tom Petrowski and Henry Neafus – 125.72
7th Place – George Young Jr., Austin Peirce, Bill Dance – 123.88
8th Place – David Shipman and Brett Nash – 115.68
9th Place – Jerry, Hannah Ishcomer – 111.14
10 Place – Jeff Dodd and Don Sweat – 107.68
Tournament director, Jeremy Coe gave a special thank you to the City of Helena, Phillips County Chamber of Commerce, and Isle of Capri Hotel & Casino for making this event a success. He also thanked Mayor Kevin Smith & State representative Chris Ritchey for being at all the weekend’s events.
"This weekend was an outstanding demonstration of the possibilities on the Mississippi River! The Helena-West Helena, AR section showed out. Not only did it produce some big fish, but 13 teams weighed in over 100 pounds, with a slot limit! If you have never been to this section of the Mississippi river you need to add it to your bucket list,” said Coe.
“Come visit the area and see our great friends at Helena,” concluded Coe. “Stay tuned, there may be some big plans in the future at this trophy catfish destination.”
Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail sponsors include: Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s, Excel Boats, Mercury Marine, Mustad Hooks, Humminbird, Minn Kota, B’n’M Poles, Gamma Line, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Ego Nets, Xtreme Bait Systems, Clear Boards, EFX Graphics, Catfish Now, Fin n’ Frames, WavePro, and Crown Trophy
For more information on the championship and other King Kat activities visit their website at www.kingkatusa.com. Anglers can also follow the trail on the King Kat Facebook Page.