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Boats prepare to set off for the annual Catfish Chasers Tournament Series in St. Joseph on Saturday.

For the sixth consecutive year, Craig Collings will host the Catfish Chasers Tournament in St. Joseph.

A field of 200 boats will set course on the Missouri River starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, going throughout the night until the tournament ends at 10 a.m. Sunday.

“The first year, I had 30 boats in the event,” Collings said. “It is a far cry from the 200 that we are going to have this year. It is going to be the biggest catfish tournament in the United States.”

Collings' love for fishing is well known, and it was during his travels to tournaments throughout the country that he learned what an event like this could do for the city.

“Talking to the local people I learned it brings a lot of money to the community,” Collings said. “I thought, 'I’ve got the Missouri River, big fish, lots of parking near the river' and thought I’d like to have one of these tournaments in St. Joe.”

Collings said he believes that the tournament could add as much as $150,000 into the local economy.

There is no limit on the distance that a boat may travel on the river. Collings said they can go as far north or south as they want, but the boat may not leave the water.

“Everybody has to leave from the same ramp and come back to the same ramp,” Collings said. “What they do in between is up to them, as long as it is by water. I’ll have boats strung up and down that river 100 miles in both directions.”

Aside from the number of teams partaking in the tournament, the biggest change since the event's inception six years ago is the number of prizes given. Collings said that first place in his original tournament was $500. Winnings have changed dramatically since then.

“We have a prize for the highest-finishing team with a veteran on board, a prize for the highest-finishing team with a female, and five $500 gift certificates from Mercury Marine that I will draw for,” Collings said. “I try to do a lot of things where everybody has a chance at winning things, though it’s hard with 200 teams.”

Victory Chevy will be giving away a new 2021 pickup to the winning team. Collings said they’ll be giving away around $90,000 worth of cash and prizes over the weekend.

The Missouri River will provide quite the challenge for fishermen entering the tournament.

“For us to draw this many people up to St. Joe is really, really awesome,” Collings said. “Most of your big tournaments, and I mean tournaments with over 100 boats, are down in Texas, Alabama, the Mississippi River, Kentucky and those areas. The Missouri River is a very tough river to fish because it is so narrow and so fast. I fish a lot of rivers, a lot of lakes, dams, and the Missouri River is the toughest body of water to be productive on.”

Anthony Crane can be reached at anthonytcrane@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @crane_anthony

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