Since the weather is almost to a point where I can start to seriously think about fishing the way I like to do it now, being a little older. I think about times past and great outings I’ve had a chance to participate in.
Back in 1982 I fished in what was touted as the “1st Annual International Carp Championship”. It was on the Bath Chute of the Illinois River, the town of Bath, near Havana, Illinois. Whether or not it was the first or for that matter international, I'll never know... I doubt it. It was a tournament open to anyone who enjoyed being out with a bunch of guys that loved to be out on the water. Most of the 80 or so boats that entered the tourney as far as I can remember were from Illinois and Missouri. The entrance fee was $25.00 per person, with 2 to 3 guys per boat. There were no women in the contest for whatever reason.
We arrived in Bath the day before to take in some local culture. I had never been there before (or since) and wanted to get the lay of the land. Nobody “pre-fished”, they all headed for the tavern that was on an old barge on the chute. What a place, mostly locals referred to as river rats by some and as I found out it was for a reason. After staying there way too long and to avoid having my brother-in-laws ear cut off as one guy threatened to do, we spent the night in the car sleeping it off ... with one eye open.
The tournament was sponsored in part by Pabst Blue Ribbon. They had a beautiful 4’ x 8’ sign on the highway leading to the event that eventually was stolen. Other sponsors of the event were Carp Unlimited and F.I.S.H. (Fishermen Interested in Saving Harbors) out of Chicago and Springfield. Spearheading the whole outing was the late Representative Jacob “Jake” Wolf. Jake was one of my best friends and fishing partners. He made sure that everyone had a good time and in the spirit of occasion made sure no one took the competition too seriously.
The rules were simple; captains of each boat pulled 3 bobbers that had numbers on them from a bucket. The numbers corresponded to numbered buoys on a couple mile stretch of the chute. In 1½ hour intervals, your boat anchored at those buoys and you fished as individuals. Total pounds determined the winner. Trophy plaques awarded to the first 3 places. It was a blast. Before the shotgun start gift packs with hooks, spools of line, prepared baits, hats, shirts and all kinds of misc stuff was passed out to all participants.
A bass boat loaded with PBR cruised up and down the chute handing you all the beer you needed. After the weigh in we enjoyed a Carp Fry. Now I had never eaten Carp before this and I have to say it was fantastic. They scored the fillets real deep several times, light seasoned flour, and deep fried. They served it on French bread with onions. WOW! And for those wondering, they were not the Carp caught from the chute during the tournament. After dinner, trophies’ were awarded by Dave Kenny, Director of the DNR at the time. From there we were on our way home with plenty of stories, hangovers and all of our body parts.