Southeastern Catfish Club Benefit Tourney Win Captured by Capt. Hamilton Tetterton and Fisher Rogers
by Ron Presley
Photo credit: Southeastern Catfish Club
The real victors of this statewide tournament are the Great Falls Shrine Club.
The Southeastern Catfish Club held a recent catfish tourney to benefit the Great Falls Shrine Club. The unique format opened up the competition to the entire state. Competitors in the February 3rd, 2024 event could fish all public fresh waters in South Carolina that were accessible by a public boat ramp.
The event included a raffle with tickets being sold by club members and a free (donations accepted) chicken stew lunch for the anglers provided by the Shrine Club. A charity raffle began following the tournament with all proceeds going to the Shrine Club.
Thirty-eight teams registered for the event and 25 teams weighed in. Teams that fished lakes further away from the weigh-in site at David Lex Minors Recreation Complex in Great Falls, SC could choose to make the trip or not depending on their weight. Teams that fished Santee Cooper for example might not drive to the weigh-in if they didn’t think they had enough weight to place. Anglers were competing for the heaviest 2-fish bag.
The weatherman delivered with great weather as the weigh-in took place at 3:30 pm in Great Falls. Teams had to be in the weigh-in line by 3:30 at the Great Falls Shrine Club. Family and friends were encouraged to attend.
First Place and 2nd Big Fish
Team Cat Clinic consisted of Capt. Hamilton Tetterton, and Fisher Rodgers. Hamilton, the veterinarian/captain, led the foursome to the top bag of 79.72 pounds in 2 fish and earned the first-place check of $1,640. Their bag included the 2nd Big Fish of the tournament at 44.65 pounds to earn another $200.
Tournament partner Fisher Rodgers is a 20-year-old college student. He is studying to be a veterinarian under Hamilton’s guidance. Capt. Hamilton is the owner/operator of The Mill Village Veterinarian in Camden, SC. This helps explain the team name Cat Clinic.
Team Cat Clinic fished the Wateree River out of Patriot’s Landing below the 601 Bridge.
“Fisher and I went north as most boats did,” reported Capt. Hamilton. “There were around 7 boats in Wateree. With the elevated water levels and with the aid of StealthCraft jet boats we and the second-place team of Zachary Taylor and Timmothy Langley were able to traverse the shoals and make it up to the lower dam of Lake Wateree.”
As the day progressed the team worked their way south. The first fish of the day was a 36-pounder caught by Fisher at daybreak in swift current. The team had rigged with heavy sinkers (12 oz) and the added weight and current made the fish feel like a monster.
“After that, we then went through a lot of 15- to 20-pound cats but never kept one as our number 2 fish because we were determined to get a minimum of 60 pounds in 2 fish to go to Great Falls, added Hamilton.”
A little friendly competition and smack talk was part of Team Cat Clinic’s day. Team Flathead Luke, Zachary Taylor, Timmothy Langley, and Luke Langley (better known as Flathead Luke) were fishing in the same area with donated bait. Fisher and Hamilton’s wife Stephanie had spent Thursday afternoon dipping shad below the Wateree Dam and they had shared the bait with their competing friends. Then, while fishing Team Cat Clinic observed their friends surpass their current weight using the provided bait.
“We witnessed Zack, Timothy, and Luke boat a 30-pounder and another about 25 pounds,” recalled Capt. Hamilton. “We continued to progress south hoping to arrive at one of our historically most productive locations at the time of the lunar peak. Upon arrival, we immediately boated a second 36-pounder and were beginning to feel confident.”
Then their confidence sunk. They got word that Flathead Luke (Timothy’s 9-year-old son) boated a 49-pound blue. Team Cat Clinic moved and hooked up again.
“We moved again to hit a secondary location during that peak and I hooked into our big fish,” Capt. Hamilton said. “It stayed low in the water and pasted the boat swimming upriver in current which is always a good sign.”
As Fisher was netting the big blue he was hollering, “She is huge and she is tagged.”
“My mind immediately went to a 68-pounder I caught and tagged just south of our current location 4 months prior. I was hoping it was her because I knew she would ensure a win if it was the same fish.”
It was not the fish he hoped for, Team Cat Clinic’s fish weighed 43 pounds on the water with their boat scales. This is where the smack started. Taylor, a known kidder, knew they also had a 36 so when his team added another big fish they said it weighed 49.5 to make Team Cat Clinic think they were beat by 0.5 pounds.
“We believed Team Flathead Luke until weigh-in when their fish only weighed 45.5 pounds,” joked Capt. Hamilton. “Their true weight made us the winner. All day it was a competition between friends as much as it was a club tournament.”
“Fisher was getting hot under collar that we had given them some of the shad he dipped,” continued Capt. Hamilton. “We even brought them some perch. Since Zach normally fished the Catawba and we fish the Wateree, Fisher wanted it to be a river vs. river competition. So when Zach came to Wateree and we gave him bait and it looked like he was gonna’ beat us on our home river ole Fisher was steaming. Of course, Zach was doing math and lied about the size of their big fish to look like they had us beat. I just kept telling Fisher that God don’t like ugly which made the day hilarious.”
It turned out the tagged fish was a 44.65-pound blue that was tagged by Eric Smith (unknown to Hamilton) back in December. Smith’s email was on the tag site so on his way to Great Falls Hamilton contacted him and thanked him for releasing the trophy blue. Smith responded while Team Cat Clinic was accepting the win and Hamilton responded with a photo of the tagged fish that helped his team win the tournament and 2nd big Fish.
“We edged out Zachary Taylor, Timothy Langley, and Flathead Luke by about 5 pounds,” Capt. Hamilton said. “We want to thank the Southeastern Catfish Club for sponsoring an awesome tournament to benefit the Shriners and 521 BAIT & Tackle. And certainly last but not least, my professional shad-dipping wife Stephanie for bait!”
“I also want to thank Eric Smith for tagging and releasing the 44-pounder,” concluded Capt. Hamilton. “After the weigh-in Fisher and I returned all the fish of the top 2 teams including the first and second big fish back to the Wateree River. They swam off with vigor. I tag a lot of trophy fish in the Catawba/Wateree/Congaree/Santee watersheds and offer PayPal reward money for an email containing a video of a fish’s release. I do this to encourage CPR. Without CPR I could not have won this tournament so I would like this experience to put CPR and tag placements in a positive light!”
Second Place and Big Fish
The runner-up spot went to Team Flathead Luke. Timothy Langley, Luke Langley, and Zack Taylor teamed up to bring 74.25 pounds to the scales to win the 2nd Place check for $900. They added a 45.57-pound blue to earn Big Fish honors and add another $500 to their payday.
Team Flathead Luke also fished the Wateree River. Understanding the nature of the tournament and the trailering involved, they planned on the long haul and made sure the recirculating pumps were working.
On tournament day they began up in some skinny water of the river where the current was ripping. The shallow water did not produce so they started working their way back downstream. They began marking some fish on flats in about 15 feet of water.
“We were anchoring each time,” reported Tim Langley. “It was a lot of work and a lot of bouncing from spot to spot. We gave each spot about 30 minutes. We finally found some feeding fish and caught our first fish at 10 am. We continued to work those long flats and pick off fish along the way. We caught our big fish about 1:00 pm.”
“We didn’t expect to place,” added Tim. “We were expecting it to take 80 to 100 pounds to win it. Placing was definitely a nice surprise for us.”
“Hopefully they do this type of tournament again,” continued Tim. “It was fun to not only to river fish, but to compete with all the other SC waters. Everyone has their favorite spots, so I felt like the competition was going to be really tough. We really like the tournament format. It was different from what we were used to and was open to any SC waters. We were looking forward to this one!”
“Special thanks to my wife Miranda for putting up with us and our fishing adventures and always being there for us at weigh-ins,” concluded Tim.
Bring in the 3rd Place weight was Team Polekat. Benji and Lindsey Brown fished their honey hole and brought a total weight of 69.58 pounds to the scales to earn the third-place check for $300.
“We decided to keep our body of water a secret,” noted Benji. “We’re not trying to be rude, but the area we found is small and has some good fishing” But if the word gets out, it could be ruined. Hope everyone understands.”
The husband/wife team planned to fish extremely shallow on tournament day. They first targeted water in the 1 to 2 feet range. After that plan did not work out they made a change to deeper water in the 6 to 8 feet range.
“Once we made the change, our day began to get better,” recalled Benji. We were anchoring on structure to catch our fish. We lost a few due to the debris but managed to have one of our best days ever. Gizzard shad was the bait of choice.”
“We’ve been excited about this tournament all year,” admitted Benji. “I really like this format. Everyone has a favorite place they like to fish and how cool is it to compete against other anglers on your own turf.”
“We want to thank the sponsors that help us regularly,” concluded Benji. “They include Monster Rod Holders, Drifting Stix, Rippin Lips Rods, and Parks Planer Boards. And last but not least, Jesus for giving us everything we need to do what we love.”
Richard Crisp, Colt Compton, and Deklan Crisp took the 4th spot. Team Crispy Colt had a total weight of 50.09 pounds to earn 4th place.
Rounding out the top five was Team Trophy Hunter with John Terry, Dave Chaney, and Steve Whitley with a total weight of 47.07 pounds.
This statewide tournament was the first time the Southeastern Catfish Club had tried the unique format. By all indications, it won’t be the last.
“The 1st ever statewide tournament in club history is in the record books,” read the club’s website following the tournament. “Teams fished as far as Georgetown to Monticello to the South Carolina side of Lake Wylie!”
When the results were in the top two teams fished the Wateree River. This is a location that is not amiable for hosting a single event. Given the number of teams the club usually has there isn’t enough space to keep everyone safe.
“I don’t think the majority of anglers are familiar with navigating the river, and not all teams have boats equipped to fish it,” explained Joshua Coggins. “That’s one of the things that makes this event special and unique. With teams spread out all over the state, it worked out very well.”
“The weather was perfect,” continued Coggins. It was an awesome event partnering with the Great Falls Shrine Club. We can’t thank their club enough for all the support. They came out in full force and had a huge pot of hot chicken stew for the anglers and attendees. We donated all of the proceeds to their charity amounting to $6,555.
“We want to give a big shout-out to Jamie K Outdoors and Best Rate Plumbing for donating the grand prizes. The anglers really enjoyed the unique format. We asked for a show of hands if we should do it again and got nearly a majority vote. We’ll definitely have it again on our schedule next year.”
“The statewide format was nice,” confirmed Capt. Hamilton of the 1st place team. “I think as it grows other Shriner sites and other catfish clubs should be involved so multiple weigh-in locations could evolve to be more inclusive of the Santee community and even the Pee Dee regions. It was a blast fishing against good friends on familiar waters.”
The Southeastern Catfish Club members are gearing up for their next event on Santee Cooper. The Santee Big Cat Brawl is a two-day event scheduled for March 15th and 16th, 2024.