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Sunny days help lure anglers to West Virginia Bass Tournament

Photo by Brett Dunlap Around 244 fishermen in 122 boats competed in the 34th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament held over the weekend out of the St. Marys Marina. A number of fishermen traveled along the Ohio River as far as Ravenswood and up to around Wheeling.

ST. MARYS — Good weather and river conditions throughout the weekend led to what organizers said was a very successful 34th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament.

The annual festival was held throughout the weekend around the St. Marys Marina with 244 fishermen in 122 boats competing in the annual tournament.

The father and son team of Tom and Brad Berga, of Newport and St. Marys, received the $10,000 top prize, with 25 places receiving prizes overall. The Bergas were repeat winners having won the tournament last year. Tom is a five-time winner while Brad is a three-time winner.

Over the two-day tournament, the Bergas had a combined weight of 29 lbs-8 ounces. They led the first day with 16 lbs.

Brad Berga said things started out slow for them on Sunday with them catching six small fish. Around noon things started turning around and they were able to catch heavier fish.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Fisherman Bill Turvey, of Oak Hill, Ohio, poses with two fish his team caught Sunday during the weigh-in at the annual West Virginia Bass Tournament.

“It was a great second day and a great weekend,” he said. “It was flawless.

“In catching fish, we only lost two keepers all weekend.”

Brad gives the credit for their success to his father, Tom.

“I have had a great teacher and mentor,” he said. “He taught me everything I know.”

Being 41 years old, Brad said he has been fishing for 38 years. He also credits his own family, his wife and kids, for their support. The competition is what keeps him heading out.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Fisherman Brad Berga, left, stands with Professional Fisherman and touring Bassmaster Pro Charlie Hartley after Berga and his father, Tom, won the grand prize for the 34th annual West Virginia Bass Festival held in St. Marys over the weekend.

“I love to compete,” Brad said. “That is what drives me every day, the competition.

“I am a competitor and I love to compete.”

The festival also included other events throughout the weekend at the marina. There was a kids fishing tournament which had around 40 participants, along with inflatables, concessions, vendors and other activities.

The tournament weigh-in was handled by the Trail of Dreams tournament series.

A number of fishermen traveled along the Ohio River as far as Ravenswood and up to around Wheeling while out on their boats over the weekend.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Gia Salentro, the West Virginia River and Rails Bass Festival Queen, kisses one of the fish caught Sunday during the 34th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament held over the weekend out of the St. Marys Marina.

Fishermen came from West Virginia and Ohio, said Lyle Atkins, Marketing Director for Trail of Dreams.

On both Saturday and Sunday, the fishermen headed out around 7 a.m.

Professional Fisherman and touring Bassmaster Pro Charlie Hartley acted as the Master of Ceremonies during the weigh-in, talking with the fishermen and more.

The Ohio River was looking very healthy throughout the weekend, Hartley said.

”We had a good weigh-in (Saturday),” he said.

Photo by Brett Dunlap A man who only identified himself as “Robbie” puts fish caught during the West Virginia Bass Tournament into a holding tank. The fish were released back into the Ohio River following the tournament.

Atkins said they weighed in more fish on Saturday than they had in total last year.

‘Fishing across the whole United States is better than ever,” Hartley said.

He credited the conditions to catch and release practices, less pollution, mild winters and other factors contributing to the good fishing throughout the weekend.

“It is all kinds of things that have added up,” Hartley said.

Alan White, one of the boat captains for the Doddridge County High School Fishing Team, said the tournament sees a lot of father/son teams, brothers, good friends and others going out to fish. Although the prize money is good, many people go out for the love of fishing and spending time together.

“Many participate in tournaments like this to have good fellowship on the water,” White said.

Their fishing team was doing fundraising throughout the weekend.

Fisherman Bill Turvey, of Oak Hill, Ohio, said this was the third time he has participated in the St. Marys tournament.

“It was a nice day to fish,” he said. “Fishing was a little tough to start out with.

“We caught one right off and it was three to four hours before we caught another. It was a good day.”

Turvey said the $10,000 prize is always a tempting lure that has brought him back to the tournament every year.

“We just love to do tournaments,” he said.

Curt Smith and Gary Moore of Marietta said Sunday was a better day fishing than Saturday was.

“We didn’t catch many fish on the first day,” Moore said. “We caught three (on Saturday) and six (on Sunday).”

Although it was pretty warm each day, both men said it was still good fishing weather.

“When the fish bite it is always a good day,” Smith said with a laugh.

The two have been involved with the tournament for 20 years.

“It is just a good tournament,” Smith said. “We have always liked it.

“It is the challenge of winning against such good competition.”

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