ST. MARYS - The West Virginia River and Rail Festival in St. Marys came to a successful end Sunday with the conclusion of the West Virginia Bass Tournament.
There were 250 fishermen who took to the Ohio River in 125 boats over the weekend for the 29th annual West Virginia Bass Tournament. The tournament remains one of the signature events of the festival, which was previously known as the West Virginia Bass Festival.
People came out to the riverfront and St. Marys throughout the weekend for a number of events, music and more.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Scott and Greg Wilson, of Pleasants County, won the West Virginia Bass Tournament in St. Marys this weekend with a total of nine fish out of a possible 12 over Saturday and Sunday with a combined weight of 22.65 pounds.
Greg and Scott Wilson, of Pleasants County, won the bass tournament with a total of nine fish out of a possible 12 over Saturday and Sunday with a combined weight of 22.65 pounds. The brothers were awarded the $10,000 grand prize. They also received the top prizes for the biggest fish caught each day of the tournament, 4.13 pounds for Saturday and 4.21 pounds for Sunday. They received an additional $700 for each of the big fish.
"We had a wonderful time," Scott Wilson said. "We enjoy being together and especially enjoy fishing together.
"We had a great two days."
Scott Wilson said they struggled Sunday, but Greg was able to bring in two large fish that helped put them over the top.
They caught all of their fish in a half-mile section of the river, Greg Wilson said.
"I have a lure that has paid off a lot," he said. "It is the one I caught the big ones with."
Other than that, the brothers said there is no other real secret to it.
"You throw a lure in there and hope and pray they bite it," Greg Wilson said. "We asked the good Lord to put us onto the fish and he done it."
A lot of it is luck, but it helps to know the river as well, Scott Wilson said.
"You have to know what areas to look for to find fish," he said. "Greg does a lot of fishing in this area so he is familiar with the spots where fish tend to be.
"We just pounded those areas hard."
The brothers are expecting to return for next year's festival to defend their title.
"We will be here fishing hard," Greg Wilson said.
A lot of fishermen were talking about having good days on Saturday and not so good days on Sunday while others had a bad Saturday and a better Sunday.
The total number of fish weighed in for the weekend was 1,007 at 1,213 pounds, organizers said. The release rate, the number of fish that went back into the Ohio River, was 97 percent resulting in 978 fish put back in the river, they added.
Professional fisherman Joe Thomas, who has a couple of shows on the Outdoor Channel, was helping host the awards ceremony and was on-hand talking with the fishermen as they came in.
"I think this is a great tournament," he said. "I had fished this river in tournaments growing up in the '80s and the river wasn't as good.
"Now we are seeing a lot of smallmouth bass. It says a lot about how much the river has been cleaned up and how the catch and release has worked," Thomas said.
He talked about times 20 to 25 years ago where it wasn't uncommon for only one out of six fishing boats in a tournament like this one to bring in fish to weigh.
"Now over 90 percent of boats are coming in with fish and a lot getting the six-bass limits," Thomas said. "he river is healthy and it is putting out a lot of fish.
"This event is well run and they make sure they take care of the fish and make sure they get back into the water."
The top 30 fishermen won prizes ranging from $200 to $10,000, said John Burdette, president of the West Virginia Bass Federation. The tournament was open to a wide range of fishermen with a wide experience range.
Without any rain for awhile, Burdette said the overall conditions were good during the weekend. He said more of a current could have helped with bringing the smallmouth bass out more.
Boats went up and down the river with some going as far south as Ravenswood and above Steubenville, Ohio.
"It was a pretty good weekend," Burdette said.
Jessi Rupert, executive director of the St. Marys Chamber of Commerce and festival coordinator, said the festival was a big success with over 3,000 people attending.
"We had a great weather weekend," she said. "We had great crowds and a lot of participation.
"I am very happy with the weekend."
Rupert hopes everyone found something that appealed to them throughout the festival. The bass tournament remains a big draw for many people.
"Our tournament has been great the last couple of years," she said. "It took only 15 days to fill our full field.
"I think we have a really good reputation to uphold here. People want to be here. They want to be a part of this."
Rupert said it is the work of many volunteers who helped make the festival a success and their work has helped the community put on a good event.
"I couldn't do this without my volunteers," she said. "We are hoping to really build this festival to help with tourism, bring people into town and support our local businesses.
"This festival helps us all."