Southeast Big Money Showdown Win Goes to Trey and Gerald Smith
by Ron Presley
Photo credit: Southeastern Catfish Club
The 2023 Southeast Big Money Showdown allowed 2 fish per day in the two-day event. It required nearly 170 pounds in 4 fish to win it.
The Southeastern Catfish Club traveled to Lake Wylie, SC for the Southeast Big Money Showdown. The November 17-18th, 2023 event attracted 80 teams competing for a first-place prize of $8,200. Jamie Williams and Clay Henderson organized a tournament that paid the top 20 finishing teams. It also featured a major raffle, giveaways, and plenty of bonus money.
“It was two absolutely beautiful days on Lake Wylie outside of Charlotte NC,” reported weighmaster Mark Coburn. “Day one featured 70-degree weather with absolutely no wind. Many teams weighed 2-fish limits on day one.”
At the end of day one Team Toolman (Gray Brookshire and Andrew Moore) held the lead with about 86 pounds. They were followed closely by Southern Legacy (Trey Smith and Gerald Smith). The day one bite was good with many teams weighing limits in the 40 to 60 pound range.
“Day two was another warm day but included some wind that most anglers liked,” continued Coburn. “Day two saw bigger fish come to the scales and some very big moves in the standings.”
The top spot at the Showdown went to Team Southern Legacy (Trey Smith and Gerald Smith). The father/son team weighed 82.80 pounds on day one to control 2nd place going into day two. They were consistent on day two bringing 82 pounds to the scales. Their weight moved them up the leaderboard to first place with a total weight of 165.80 pounds.
The team is no stranger to Lake Wylie. Having fished it a lot may have helped them repeat and win the Showdown for the second straight year.
“This past month I have been out there more than ever,” revealed Trey. “I have been trying to figure out where they would be.”
Prefishing and prior knowledge helped team Smith set their strategy for the 2023 event. Trey relied on his electronics and trusted what they were telling him.
“We have never fished the area where we won the tournament in this year,” Trey said. “It was hard not going to fish areas where we’ve caught big fish before. But after checking all the areas I picked out the best-looking area and fished it hard.”
The first morning Trey and Gerald started off fishing a mussel bed.
“We put more than 15 fish in the boat in the first 2 hours,” recalled Trey. “There was nothing over 20 pounds so it was time to go hunt for two big bites.”
The team made a run down the lake to a location where they had marked some nice fish a couple of days before the tournament. It was the right move. They hooked and landed a 37-pound blue and about 45 minutes later boated a 43-pound blue.
“I knew there was a good possibility we could come back on day two and catch two more nice fish in the same area,” noted Trey. “So we left and saved the area for day two.”
Trey and Gerald found a much slower bite on day two.
“The bite was much slower on day two,” confirmed Trey. “We had to troll faster to get a reaction bite out of the fish. We ended up catching a 45-pound blue and a 37-pound blue on day two.”
The team was dragging the whole time using Team Keatts Planer Boards and using gizzard shad and perch for bait. It was the perch that produced their big fish. A small front came through Friday night but did not affect them. Both of their biggest fish came from the flats beside river channels.
“I would like to thank all of our sponsors and supporters and especially the big man upstairs,” concluded Trey.
Sponsors: MAD KATZ, Take Down Draggin’ Weights, Snagum & Bagum, X-Treme Bait Tanks, Peacocks of SC, Team Keatts Fishing, Fish Bite Rod Holders, LLC.
The runner-up spot went to Mac Moneta and Bill “Flathead” Sutton. Known as Team Cat Baby, they are considered one of the most consistent teams in catfishing. They had a first-day weight of 45.55 which placed them in 12th place after day one. They stepped it up on day two and nearly doubled their day one weight with 89.70 pounds giving them a two-day total weight of 135 pounds and a move up the leaderboard to second place.
Team Cat Baby based their tournament fishing on past years’ experience at Wylie. With that as a basis, they did some scanning and looking at the Humminbird to set their strategy for which areas of the lake to fish.
“On day one of the tournament we determined that the flatheads were biting better,” explained Sutton. “So we targeted them in structure with live baits and got plenty of bites. We had 45.5 pounds in 2 fish.”
On day two the team stuck with their plan and continued targeting flatheads with live baits in the structure. They landed one 30-pounder before moving to other structure piles.
“We were picking up a few small fish along the way,” continued Sutton. “On the last one that we set up on I decided to position the boat where only one side was fishing it and the other side was on the channel ledge.”
“With a 10 rod limit I put all mine on the ledge,” explained Sutton. “Mac was in wood. He had hooked 3 fish and broke off. As he was tying on new rigs I looked over and one of my rods was ripping drag. After a long fight, we boated a big blue that weighed in at 57 pounds and change.”
The team continues to push for an upgrade. With only an hour or so left to fish they moved to a different close by ledge.
“We had two big bites with 5 minutes left and both got off the hook,” recalled Sutton. “So we packed up the boat and went to the scales. We were in 12th place on day one and 46 was the big fish so we thought we had a good chance. My style is to weigh in last. We missed big fish by only a pound, but with 88 pounds on the day it was enough for the second-place win.”
“We want to thank Matt Knight with Madkatz for making the best rods and gear on the planet,” concluded Sutton. “Thanks also to Hookers Terminal Tackle for the incredible hooks, B-Kat for their awesome planer boards, Fish Bite Rod Holders, and the American Catfishing Association (ACA) for what they do for the catfish community.”
Team Hookin’ Ain’t Easy (Brandon McClain, Tanner McClain, and Chad Aldridge were sitting near the bottom of the leaderboard after one day of competition. On day two they boated a 58.35-pound flathead to earn Big Fish of the tourney. The Big Fish helped them weigh a total weight of 87.35 pounds on day two. They moved up 70 places on the leaderboard with a final 4-fish weight of 108.85 pounds and added the 5th place money too.
Youth Big Fish
This year’s Youth Big Fish Belt went to Maddie Foster. Maddie was fishing with Bradley Williams and her mom, Robin Lineberry. The family had experienced a tough day on day one, but never gave up, partly because of Maddie’s insistence that they believe in themselves and not be negative.
The whole story started the week before when Maddie received some awards at school. When she was asked what she wanted as a reward for receiving the awards she responded, ““I wanna go fish that tournament.”
Bradley and Robin had talked themselves out of the tournament but this changed everything. After the tough day one they just kept plugging and by the end of the day Maddie had caught her personal best 47-pound blue cat to take the youth big fish and earn the Championship Belt.
Her big fish helped the team move up from 48th place on day one to earn the 4th place spot.
“Maddy has become a huge part of our team and works her little tail off out there.” Offered Robin in a Facebook post. “Waking up at 3:30-4 am to do this with us. This mama and “her” Brad are so proud that she worked so hard and pulled off the Youth angler for the tournament. She received a very nice belt, a plaque, some cash, a new Hellcat rod from Catch The Fever, and most of all won those bragging rights!!! You couldn’t wipe that smile off her face for nothing!!”
You can view a complete rundown of all the anglers with weights for each day on the Southeast Big Money Website by clicking here.
All but 4 of the 80 boats came to the scales and weighed fish at the Shootout. As two-day tournaments continue to demonstrate, it ain’t over until it’s over. Many teams were able to move up the leaderboard on the second day of competition.
“Jamie Williams and Clay Henderson run an incredibly well-liked Tournament,” concluded Coburn. “They provide a tremendous payout that excites the anglers year after year. Next year with a possible move to Lake Wateree where the tournament originally began, we expect to see over 100 boats.”
“A huge shout out to Mr. Kaleb Page at Catch the Fever,” continued Coburn. “He deserves it for the work he personally puts into this tournament. It is his hard work and love of the tournament that allows the Top 32 teams to take home either product or cash. This tournament is a joy to me as the Weighmaster. The reception I receive at the Showdown is inspirational.”