Congratulations to this week’s winner, Tracey Morris. She correctly guessed that “1 D. = 10 C.” was “1 Dekameter = 10 Centimeters.”
Here is next week’s trivia question: Three hunters are in a single-file line when a bird is flushed out directly in front of them and flies directly away. Whose shot is it?
Click here to answer the trivia question; you can win a free lube and oil change from Drake Tire, a $26 value; or a $20 gift certificate to Tony's Restaurant in downtown Alton, Gentelin's or Jimmy the Greek's on Broadway in Alton.
Folks refer to this area of southwestern Illinois as the Riverbend. It’s where the mighty Mississippi River takes a course of west to east, leaving her normal flow of north to south, before heading south once more on her path to the Gulf of Mexico.
Located a mile downstream of Alton is the Mel Price Locks and Dam No. 26, the last structure built on the Big Muddy by the Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to control water flow and manage the 9-foot channel necessary for barge travel. Fifteen miles upstream from Alton at Grafton, the Illinois River completes her journey through the heartland and joins the big river. Two miles below Dam No. 26, the wide Missouri adds her water to the Mississippi, just scant miles above St. Louis as the flow changes back to a southerly direction.
The region is steeped in American history; the departure point of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and the recognized Gateway to the West head the list. Rivermen and outdoorsmen have long labeled the Riverbend as special. Commercial fishermen, shellers, trappers and game hunters used the resource to make a living and help establish populations. Industry and commerce of today owe their existence to the river and those pioneers of yesteryear. Presently, in the thriving economy of the area, recreational boating and fishing play a role as boat ramps and marinas serve the boating public and anglers traveling the waters in pursuit of their passion.
In 1991, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) brought its tournament trail to Illinois for the first time and chose the Riverbend as the challenge. Anglers were allowed to fish the Mississippi from Alton to Clarksville, plus the Illinois River from Grafton to LaGrange. The three-day event was won by pro angler Woo Daves. His winning catch came from within sight of downtown Alton, the mouth of Brick House Slough.
The massive “500-year flood” of 1993 not only devastated the area by destroying dwellings, property and the lives of many people but also greatly impacted the bass fishing resource. Yet, in the summer of 1994 the top 32 women Bass’n Gals found themselves competing for the Woman World Championship here in the Riverbend. In 1995, another major flood brought a long-term halt to major bass fishing events in the area.
The old adage, “One man’s loss is another man’s gain,” may best describe what has taken place since on our river system. Commercial and recreational fishermen have long regarded the Mississippi, lower Missouri and Illinois rivers as a catfish paradise in both numbers and size of huge “cats.” Divers inspecting the deep-water structure below the old Alton Locks and Dam No. 26 often reported giant catfish as large as humans patrolling the deep below the dam. For years, area cat men have caught channel catfish, flathead and big blues. Commercial fishermen talk of cats taken in their net so large that the fish were towed to the bank rather than boated. Even rod and reel fishermen report fighting monsters until the fish finally won the battle.
As the 21st century arrived, so did competitive catfishing for money, prizes and prestige. The first tournaments were organized and sponsored by area river anglers. Then, in 2004 the Cabela’s King Cat Trail came to Alton, setting a higher standard as cat men from around the country came to test their skill and challenge the rivers and the whiskered creatures.
In 2005, area native Tim Pruitt boated a blue catfish on his rod and reel that tipped the scale at 124 pounds and set a new world record. His fish came from the tailwaters below the Mel Price dam.
The popularity of trophy cat fishing reached another milestone in 2006 when local riverman Justin Wolfe organized the River Bend Catfish Tournament Trail. Justin, along with fellow anglers and sponsors, begin their quest in March with monthly tournaments that qualify the top cat men for a championship event in October.
An average of 30 teams fish each contest and the results have been impressive, to say the least, as three-fourths of the boats weigh in catfish. Winning five-fish limits regularly total 150 pounds with big fish in the 60-pound range. All fish are returned to the river to work their magic again.
Thus, the beat goes on for our whiskered friends, both human and fish, as the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri form the playground for both.
Larry Reid is host of “Outdoors with Larry Reid,” which airs Sundays at noon on WBGZ Radio, 1570 AM/ 94.3FM.