MRM Win Goes to Team Dewitt
Back-to-back win posted at Mississippi River Monsters in Memphis.
The 2023 Mississippi River Monsters tournament out of Memphis, TN saw plenty of Big Muddy trophy catfish come to the scales. Spectators at the September 16, 2023 event witnessed 4624.34 pounds of catfish brought to the weigh-in stage at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. It required a weight greater than 100 pounds in 3 fish to make the top 10.
Leading up to the event a falling Mississippi River created an additional challenge for organizers as area boat ramps became unusable. Tournament Director, George Young, Jr., stayed focused and with help from the city, the major ramp at Mud Island was repaired in time for the event to proceed as planned.
Ninety-seven boats, manned by 249 anglers, came from 18 states to tackle the Mississippi River on a beautiful Saturday morning in Memphis. Fifty-six of those boats brought 163 fish to the scales that weighed more than 4,600 pounds.
Temperatures rose into the 80s by weigh-in time as anglers competed against the best of the best in tournament catfishing. The tournament paid 10 places and Big Fish.
As part of the Division 1 American Catfishing Association Tournament Alliance, each ACA Member Angler had their names entered to win a SeaArk Boat at the end of the year and each team had a chance to win a drawing for a Tracker boat following the weigh-in.
Anglers reported a good early bite that continued throughout the day for many. As usual, the Mississippi River did not disappoint. Boats began coming to the scales early with their limit of 3 weigh-in fish.
When the competition was over the winners joined the Masingale Brothers, Jason and Daryl, as the only teams to win the MRM twice. Jason and Daryl won the event in the inaugural year of 2016 and came back and won again in 2017. The winning team took the Hot Seats early and waited and watched for 3 hours to see if some other team would knock them out.
First Place and Big Fish
The top spot went to Team Dewitt. The well-known tournament team is made up of Les Thompson, Les Thompson, Jr. (Nooner Hall), and Trenton Thompson. It was their second time to fish the MRM and their second time to win it. They weighed 129.65 pounds last year and beat that with their 2023 bag weighing 151.50 pounds. The big fish in their 2023 bag weighed 81.65 pounds to earn Big Fish honors. Team Dewitt earned the first place check of $15,000 and added $1,500 for Big Fish of the tournament.
Team Dewitt created a game plan during a limited amount of pre-fishing. They also had to deal with a little adversity when an equipment failure reared its head.
“We didn’t pre-fish much but we felt confident in our gameplan,” stated Nooner. “We only pre-fished maybe 3 hours total. We got to fish a total of 30 minutes on Tuesday before having to go in due to trolling motor issues. During that 30 minutes, I caught my personal best 83.22-pound blue and also another fish that weighed 53 pounds.”
The team returned to the launch to obtain and install a new trolling motor. They got back on the water for some more prefishing on Thursday. They caught a couple of nice fish and marked some good fish. Their experience was sufficient to set their strategy for gameday.
“We noticed there wasn’t going to be much change in the river,” noted Nooner. “We were thinking the fish would be on the same pattern come Saturday. We caught all of our fish bumping. We didn’t catch a lot of fish but we got the right bites.”
Team Dewitt was targeting water in the 40 to 60-foot range that was characterized by slow current. They used medium to large-size baits on 12/0 circle hooks. They reported the bite as slow but consistent throughout the day. They caught 7 fish total with only one being an under.
“The best part about all of this is being able to do it with my dad and my brother,” exclaimed Nooner. “It’s also cool to be only the 2nd team to win it back-to-back next to Daryl and Jason Massingale. The pressure is on already as we look forward to next year trying for a three-peat!”
“Thanks to George Young Jr. and the entire MRM crew for doing a great job as always,” added Nooner. “We would also like to thank all of our sponsors for what they do for us. They are Dewitt Company, PTI Transportation, T Force World Wide, Tangle With Catfish, Monster Rod Holders, Maclin Farms, MulTbar, Drury Hotels, Spread Em Planer Boards, Grizzly Jigs, and Big River Cats.”
“Also happy anniversary to my wife,” concluded Nooner. “Baby we did it!! Back to back!!”
The runner-up spot went to David Shipman and Phil King. They brought 147.06 pounds to the scales to earn the second-place check of $6,500.
Like other anglers, the team’s game plan was set while pre-fishing. However, experience on tournament day and a willingness to be flexible resulted in something better and they took full advantage of it.
“I pre-fished Friday in several places,” reported Shipman. “I had it in my mind that the low river would have the fish in or close to deep water so I looked in water that ranged from 60 to 80 feet deep. I found some fish and caught a 40-pound blue so that was the gameplan for when Phil joined me for tournament day.”
The team began tournament morning in deep water north of Memphis. Phil caught a 30 and then a 32-pound fish quickly before the bite seemed to stop leading David to suggest a move.
“I had caught some fish a few years before on some wood not far from our first spot,” recalled David. “Something just told me to go check it out. The water is not very deep there under normal conditions, but we had nothing to lose.”
David and Phil made the move and their first waypoint indicated that it was only 22 feet deep but they gave it a try. Even though there was no deep water within 5 miles they started bumping the 22-foot water.
“We got a big bite within 5 minutes,” David said. “We missed that fish but we just kept going and every few minutes we would get a bite. The water never got over 30 feet deep but there’s some sticks and wood scattered all around that area.”
They were admittedly surprised at catching those fish in that shallow water. The area produced 8 fish before quitting time, including a 69-plus and a 62-plus.
“We didn’t use big baits but not small baits either,” revealed David. “We were using skipjack about 6 inches long. Phil used a double hook rig with a 5/0 hook on top and 7/0 on the bottom. I used a single 10/0 hook. A 3-foot sinker drop and a 2-foot hook leader seemed to work best.”
David reported that it was “really easy fishing.” The current was very slow, only requiring 3 and 4-ounce weights as they drifted at about .3 mph. Normally he would be using 6 to 8-ounce sinkers and drifting downriver at 1 mph.
“Needless to say I learned a lot this weekend,” David said. “The Mississippi River has proven time and time again that you can catch fish all over it. I still believe you have to have a lot of luck for everything to work out.”
“Thanks to BnM Fishing, Driftmaster Rod Holders, and Daiichi hooks,” concluded David. “And special thanks to George Young and all the staff at MRM for another great tournament.”
Remaining Top 10
3rd Place – Kevin Parks, John Jamison, and Capt Ben Goebel – 118.21 – $3,000
4th Place – Charles Blair, Alex Nagy, and Liz Nagy – 117.10 – $2,000
5th Place – Carson Pierce, Cye Duley, and Austin Pierce – 116.89 – $1,750
6th Place – Nathan Eilers, Scott Linton, and Cassie Tanner – 115.55 – $1,500
7th Place – Roy Harkness, Don Sweat, and Ryan Casey – 110.32 – $1,250
8th Place – Donnell Lee Cannon and Ivan Dewayne Allen, Jr. – 108.46 – $1,000
9th Place – Cedric Poynor, Wayne Reed, and Nathan Casey – 105.13 – $1,000
10th Place – Tom Petrowski and Jack Petrowski– 104.07 – $1,000
Mississippi River Monsters also held the Monster Week Big Fish competition on Wednesday and Thursday. The Wednesday winners were Noah and Jerry Ishcomer. They weighed in a 70-pound blue to earn the $500 check from B’n’M Fishing.
The Thursday Big Fish competition was sponsored by Monster Rod Holders and won by Eddie Anderson and Justin Tomlinson with a nice 63.93-pound blue. They earned a check from Monster Rod Holders for $500. This was their second time to win the Big Fish competition at Monster Week.
This is the eighth year that Mississippi River Monsters have raffled off a Tracker Boat. Each boat in the competition receives an entry to win. In this year’s drawing, the boat, valued at more than $30,000, went to Charlie Blair, Alex Nagy, and Liz Nagy.
In a demonstration of the catfish community’s generosity, an auction was held on Thursday night at the MRM Bash to benefit young Marley Wilbanks. Marley’s mom and tournament angler, Natalie Wilbanks, was on hand to receive $15,000 that was raised at the Big Bash Auction to help with Marley’s medical expenses. The MRM organization sent out a special THANK YOU to all the anglers, individuals, and sponsors who supported this amazing event. #catfishclass!
Chris Ramsey, Jessie Adams, and Bryan Wayman joined local radio host Michael Steele on the MRM stage to make the weigh-in go smoothly for the anglers and to entertain the spectators. A huge crew of volunteers was on hand to contribute to the effort and help make the Mississippi River Monsters event one of the most anticipated tournaments in the county. Originator and tournament director, George Young Jr. can be proud of another awesome event.