Running trotlines: 17 teams compete in annual Memorial Day Weekend Tournament

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

By Cliff Furr

The Daily Leader

VIDALIA — Brookhaven native Anthony Prather couldn’t believe his eyes when he pulled in to park his truck under on the Vidalia side of the Mississippi River Bridge around noon on Sunday.

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The parking area was packed with trucks and boats as a huge crowd of over 200 spectators had come to see the weigh-in of some monster catfish.

Prather has been organizing the annual Memorial Day weekend trot-line tournament for five years now as it begins Friday at daybreak and has teams setting out a maximum of 250 hooks in each boat from five miles north of Port Gibson to five miles south of Deer Park, Louisiana on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

This year, 17 teams competed in the tournament and first place went to the team of Kevin Smith, his father Donald Smith and son Austin Smith. The Smith family boat caught a 59.7-pound blue cat that was the biggest fish landed on the weekend.

Second place goes to the boat with the highest combined weight for three fish and that prize went to John Hutcherson of Brookhaven.

Hutcherson won first prize last year with a fish that weighted over 54-pounds. This year, in a boat with his sons John Dawson and Ladd, Hutcherson hauled in three fish that combined for a total of 132.4-pounds.

The $150 entrance fee is pooled up and the winning boat gets 75 percent of the pot with the second-placed team earning the rest.

Prather said the water was good to the teams this year, but it was a hot weekend of working lines for all involved.

“It was a great turnout and we’ve got some guys that come back year after year and have some teams that really know about what it takes to catch big fish on this river,” said Prather. “I couldn’t believe that so many folks came out to see the weigh-in on Sunday.”

As the tournament has grown, Prather plans to keep the field right around a 20-team limit. There is plenty of water to fish, but the experienced fishermen know where their honey-holes are, and you can find lines strung from branches all across the best spots.

“Pond perch and goldfish seemed to be what they were biting best on this weekend,” said Prather. “It’s crazy to see how every year the fish that are winning this thing keep getting bigger and bigger.”

Prather plans to keep the tradition going for a sixth consecutive year in 2023 and hopes to add some improvements, especially for the Sunday weigh in.

“I’m planning on having us a sound system next year and a trailer that we can use as a stage for the weigh in,” said Prather. “In the past, not as many people would show up for it, some of them would be too worn out from fishing all weekend. I’d like for next year to add some more prizes for more than just first and second place and to have a bigger event around the weigh-in on Sunday.”