RIVER MONSTERS: First-ever $50,000 catfish tournament payout awarded in Vicksburg

Published 7:22 pm Sunday, August 6, 2023

The Bill Dance Mississippi River Monsters Mega Bucs Pro Series Catfish Tournament crowned its champions Sunday evening, as part of the tournament’s first-ever two-day series.

“Vicksburg has been a secret, but we’re about to let the cat out of the bag,” said “Duck Dynasty” star John Godwin. “There has been some big catfish coming through here.”

Godwin added that in addition to catching his personal-best blue catfish in Vicksburg on Friday — a 65-pounder — he also enjoyed dining in Vicksburg’s restaurants during the city’s Catfish Crawl. While he couldn’t nail down a favorite, Godwin said his “top three” were Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, the Beechwood and Walnut Hills.

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Professional fishing legend and TV star Bill Dance was also in attendance at Saturday’s tournament. Dance praised both the quality of catfish in the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and the hospitality of the City of Vicksburg and the VCC.

Brothers Donnie and Lonnie Fountain, of Georgia, won first prize with a total of 146.50 pounds of catfish. The biggest catfish caught by the pair weighed 58.30 pounds.

While the Fountains joined in the sentiments of the other top-four teams fishing on Sunday in saying it was a harder day on the river than Saturday, Donnie said the pair’s big fish was nothing short of a miracle.

“We caught a few good fish throughout the day, but we had four minutes left and needed one more good one,” Donnie said. “I was cleaning up, but Lonnie was still fishing, and I looked at him and said, ‘Lord, if you’re going to let us get a fish, let us hook him now.’

“I turned around and Lonnie was reeling him in.”

The Fountains said they’d been “pre-fishing” in Vicksburg for more than a week, but this tournament was not their first time on the water in Vicksburg.

The pair brought home the largest payout in catfish tournament history, a total of $50,000. In another historic moment, the VCC was host to the first-ever indoor weigh-ins at a catfish tournament.

“It wasn’t about the money when we decided to fish this weekend, but this needed to be done,” Donnie said. “This $50,000 payout sets a new standard for the catfish world.”

Before the pair left the stage, they tossed out shirts and hats from sponsor Anvil Rods to children in the audience at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Second place went to the team of Jeff Dodd, Randy Dodd and Cedric Poynor, with a total weight of 140 pounds. The trio walked away with $20,000 in prize money.

In third place was Team Dropoff, Demetrius Young and Thomas Walker. The pair reeled in a total weight of 117.45 pounds with their biggest catfish weighing 41.35 pounds, culminating in a $15,000 prize.

Fourth place and $10,000 went to Team Indy, Casey Tutorow and Andrew Han. The pair had a total weight of 67.75 pounds.

The Bill Dance Mississippi River Monsters Mega Bucs Pro Series Catfish Tournament was a tremendous success for Vicksburg, said South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour.

“These people have been pre-fishing Vicksburg for months and weeks,” Monsour said. “We are welcoming y’all back for 2024.”