lonnie and donnie catfish winners
Courtesy of Mississippi River Monsters

Brothers Become Highest-Paid Catfish Tournament Winners in History

Lonnie and Donnie Fountain have raised the bar for catfish prize money.

Twins Donnie and Lonnie Fountain have officially raised the bar for the competitive catfishing circuit. The brothers took home first place and $50,000 in the Bill Dance Mississippi River Monsters Mega Bucs Pro Series catfish tournament in Vicksburg, Mississippi, over the weekend—winnings that mark the biggest payout in the history of catfish tournaments.

The Fountain brothers, both from Jasper, Georgia, brought in an enormous bag of three catfish to the final weigh-in on Sunday. The bag weighed a total of 146.6 pounds, outweighing 60 other teams'. Their catch included a massive blue catfish caught in the final moments of the tournament and weighing over 58 pounds. Donnie told the Vicksburg Post that their final catch was nothing short of a miracle.

"We caught a few good fish throughout the day, but we had four minutes left and needed one more good one," Donnie said. "I was cleaning up, but Lonnie was still fishing, and I looked at him and said, 'Lord, if you're going to let us get a fish, let us hook him now.' I turned around and Lonnie was reeling him in."

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The brothers fished from their 24-foot Mossy Cat and caught all of their fish within a half-mile stretch of river that was about 75 feet deep and had a good current seam. During their practice fishing, they pulled up a 96-pound catfish from that part of the river.

The stretch of the river that the Fountains chose proved fruitful during the tournament, too. The brothers found big cats there throughout the tournament, using herring-baited hooks and just one rod and line each.

Why Catfish Don't Bag As Much Prize Money

Historically, catfish tournaments have had smaller prizes than other fishing competitions—such as bass tournaments, where anglers can rake in well over $100,000 in prize money.

But payouts have slowly been creeping up for catfish tournaments, too: "They say that the bass is king in Texas, but I'd like to think there's a new prince coming along," John Tibbs, the catfish-management coordinator and inland fisheries district supervisor for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told Texas Monthly.

Advances in boats, tackle, and sonar have made it much easier to land monster catfish, and social media and TV shows including National Geographic's Mudcats and Animal Planet's Hillbilly Handfishin' are also driving a catfish craze and spiking interest in the monsters lurking below a river's surface.

This publicity in turn helps legitimize catfish tournaments and could drive payouts even higher.

"It wasn't about the money when we decided to fish this weekend, but this needed to be done," Donnie said. "This $50,000 payout sets a new standard for the catfish world."

Second place went to the team of Jeff Dodd, Randy Dodd, and Cedric Poynor. Their bag weighed 140 pounds and brought them $20,000 in prize money.

READ MORE: This Rookie Mistake Cost Champion Bass Angler $100k in Texas Tournament