West Virginia Bass Tournament lures anglers from around the region

Photo by Brett Dunlap Participants in the 35th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament lined up their boats at the St. Marys Marina on Sunday afternoon for the weigh-in. The annual River and Rail Bass Festival was held Friday through Sunday around the marina.

ST. MARYS — For the winners of the West Virginia Bass Tournament it was a victory a long time in coming.

John and Jonathan Thompson, a father and son team from Coolville, were the winners in the 35th annual bass fishing tournament held over the weekend in St. Marys.

“It was awesome,” Jonathan said. “There is not a whole lot of a better feeling than this.

“We have been close a few times and finally got it done. We have put a lot of time in on this river.”

John has been fishing for about 30 years and the annual West Virginia Bass Tournament in St. Marys is the one title that has eluded him over that period.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Jonathan and John Thompson, of Coolville, were the winners of the 35th West Virginia Bass Tournament held during the annual River and Rail Bass Festival in St. Marys over the weekend. The Thompsons won with a combined weight of fish of 12.93 pounds.

“It is just everything to be able to beat all of these guys,” he said with a laugh. “It is unreal.”

He described the fishing over the weekend as “the toughest it has been in a long time.”

“This is one I have always wanted to win,” John said. “I have won a few around, but not this one and to be able to do it with my boy, that is everything.

“That is what it is all about right there.”

Jonathan described his father as a “mentor and a teacher” to him.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Officials from Cashion Fishing Rods weigh the fish caught Sunday at the 35th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament held over the weekend during the annual River and Rail Bass Festival in St. Marys.

“It means a lot for me to be able to accomplish this with him,” he said.

The grand prize was $15,000 which is $5,000 more than previous years. The Thompsons won with a combined weight of fish of 12.93 pounds.

Fishing conditions were difficult throughout the weekend for the participants of the tournament.

“The fishing conditions were tough,” Jonathan said. “We caught seven fish out of a 10 fish limit.

“We got lucky and had a couple of quality ones (Saturday). It was as tough as it has been on the river in awhile.”

Photo by Brett Dunlap Sophie Layman of Ritchie County, Miss Pre-Teen River and Rail Bass Festival, kisses the biggest small mouthed bass brought in during the 35th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament held over the weekend during the annual River and Rail Bass Festival in St. Marys.

The annual River and Rail Bass Festival was held Friday through Sunday around the St. Marys Marina with 125 boats and 250 fishermen on the first day. The field was reduced to 65 boats with 130 fishermen for the second day.

“The fishing has been a little slow this year,” said Shaun Douglas, Vice President of the River and Rail Bass Festival. “Still, plenty of people have caught a lot of fish.”

Organizers cut the field to half on Sunday to limit the pressure on the fish in the river, he said. Many of the fishermen talked about challenging conditions along the Ohio River. Many who caught fish said they used Senko bait with many also saying it took some time for them to catch their fish.

Ed Dennis, of Logan, and Wes Kemper, of New Straightsville, Ohio, were second place in the tournament with a combined weight of 12.61 pounds of fish caught. Kemper said they lost one early in the day that could have made the difference. They took home $7,500.

Spring flooding and changes in temperatures from almost winter conditions directly into summer conditions impacted fishing conditions significantly.

Photo by Brett Dunlap David Riggenbach, of Sardis, (along with Steve Howell) caught this fish around 10:30 a.m. Sunday with it weighing 4.51 lbs. The two caught a combined weight of 10.24 lbs and came in fifth place for the West Virginia Bass Tournament held during the annual River and Rail Bass Festival in St. Marys.

“Overall, it has been tough all year,” Douglas said.

They have had fishermen who came in from all over West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and other states. The festival had over 50 vendors this year. Organizers added a car show this year. Saturday evening during the performance of Bucky Covington they had over 1,000 people in the audience.

“It has been a great event,” Douglas said. “I hope people had a lot of fun.

“We want to thank all the sponsors for a great a event and we are looking forward to next year.”

Photo by Brett Dunlap The winners of the Big Bass of the Day were Greg Perry and Ethan Perry for Saturday and Rich Law and Dale Prinkey for Sunday.

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