Catfish anglers happy with Alton event

ALTON — Twisted Cat Outdoors owner and tournament director Alex Nagy couldn’t believe how much the sport of fishing has grown in recent years.

At the season-opening Twisted Cat Fishing Tournament in Alton on Saturday, Nagy said the crowds were among the best he’s had for the series tournaments, now in their eighth year.

Each year, there are normally seven to eight tournaments in the Twisted Cat Series, taking place as far north as Fort Madison, Iowa and as far south as Helena, Arkansas.

Saturday was the region’s first competitive fishing tournament of the year.

“These people are so excited and passionate about the sport,” Nagy said. “It’s great to watch.”

A total of 67 teams from nine different states took part in Saturday’s contest; 45 boats returned for the weigh-in at the Alton Amphitheater.

At the end of each team’s weigh-in Saturday afternoon, all fish were returned to the Mississippi River. All of the fish caught were blue catfish except for one small flathead fish.

Teams were allowed to submit three fish that they caught on Saturday morning and afternoon. Winners were awarded based on the total weight of the three fish combined.

“This weigh-in was one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Nagy said. “It shows you that this area is absolutely some of the best catfishing in the country and the world.”

Eight teams recorded catches of a combined weight of over 100 pounds between the three fish, which Nagy says is a very rare occurrence.

The winning team of Jake Nalley and Scott Linton had a combined weight of 188.80 pounds, which included a 90.89-pound blue catfish that Nalley brought in to claim honors for the biggest catch of the day. They also had the second-best catch of the day with an 88-pound blue catfish.

Their total payout for finishing in first place for total books and having the biggest catch of the day was $5,500.

“Today, with all the wind and people, we dropped anchor in one spot and that was it,” said Nalley, a local fishing guide. Linton runs a smooth rod business in Carlyle.

“It’s easier to fish in the winter,” Linton said of the group’s success on Saturday.

They said they used four different baits to land their fish; the fresh shad was what attracted the catfish the most.

Nagy attributes the emergence of the Alton area crowds to nearby hotels.

“Watching anglers grow in the sport and the sport grow is great,” Nagy said.

“I can’t wait to come back here in September for the Alton (Catfish) Classic,” he said. “This region is the best. It’s cool to see how things have evolved.

Nagy said once COVID became a normal part of life, he noticed his tackle and rod shop in Warsaw was exploding with customers. Since fishing can be a socially distanced sport, it has grown over the past couple of years.

“Crowds like today show it’s still growing, even with the economy as it is and fuel prices being high,” Nagy said.

“The most important part for beginners in this sport is to not give up and follow your passion,” he said. “It’s still a series and an amateur sport, and it’s growing and getting better.”

Joseph K. Bennett