Brandon Key Catfishing Tournament Celebrates Life, Raises $50,000

10 guns, two brand-new Mathews bows, hunting and fishing trips, vacation packages all part of life celebration and charity event.

GON Staff | June 29, 2022

Eric Kent and  Dustin Herndon, both of Gray, won first place and a check for $5,000 in the 100% payback Brandon Key Catfishing Tournament on Lake Sinclair June 11-12. The 7th annual fundraiser netted $50,485 for 30-30 Ministries, a 501c3 non-profit organization youth ministry whose mission is to use hunting and fishing as a platform to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with youth 6-12 grade and their parents.

The annual event recognizes the life of Brandon Key, a former 30-30 Ministries camper who lost his life on Sept. 20, 2015 in a UTV accident. Brandon loved 30-30 Ministries, which is why his family and friends host this fund-raising tournament every summer.

A record 100 catfishing teams took to the water at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 to chase a total purse of $20,000. Anglers were allowed 30 floats and six rods. The tournament paid back 10 places and two big-fish pots.

Eric and Dustin’s  five-fish, first-place stringer weighed 109 pounds for the tournament.

“We probably caught 30 to 35 fish,” said Eric. “We didn’t have any luck on a rod and reel, it was all pretty much on jugs. We were using cutbait and live minnows.”

Eric said this was their third time fishing the event, but this was their first time placing in the money. 

Top team at the 7th annual Brandon Key Catfishing Tournament was Dustin Herndon (left) and Eric Kent.

Big fish for the tournament, worth $3,500, was a 38-lb. flathead caught by a team of anglers representing Peak Steel Contractors in Madison.

“We were fishing several baits, but I’m pretty sure that big fish bit a big gizzard shad that was cut in half,” said Mark James with the Peak Steel team.

Tournament Director Jonathon West addressed the estimated 500 to 700 folks at the event prior to blast-off. 

“Every year I work hard trying to get 100 boats,” said Jonathan. “I’ve been trying for six years. Well guess what, we got it! This tournament has now become an invitational. Now that you’re in our family, all that you’ll have to do is sign up by a particular date I tell you and you’ll get to fish next year. I turned down 65 boats when I cut this off at 100. I had a guy last night offer me $1,000 for a spot. So if you want your spot, you got it.” 

Second big fish was this 35-lb. flathead that paid out $1,500.

Before the tournament’s blast-off at Crooked Creek Marina, attendees enjoyed Christian music by duet Georgia West and Nolan Brown, praise band members at Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge. Hawkinsville’s Christian Friends Baptist Church Pastor Troy Davis shared the Gospel prior to the tournament.

There were also raffles for prizes that ranged from 10 guns, two Mathews bows, guided hunting and fishing trips, bowfishing trips, various gift cards and even a five-night stay in Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

Isaac Pryor, 16, made his drive from Geneva, Ala. to Lake Sinclair well worth it. He participated in a 50-50 cash raffle and ended up winning it, which put $1,477 in his wallet. Isaac stands with Tournament Director Jonathon West.

On Sunday morning before the weigh-in, a personal testimony was given by Charles Judy, a tournament fisherman who has fished a number of the Brandon Key events.

“It’s way more than a catfishing tournament,” said Chuck Hester, 30-30 Ministries board member. “This entire event does celebrate Brandon’s life, but between the music, the testimonies and the Gospel, it also gives God the glory.”

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