BATH, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s an event that attracts hundreds of people from across the country to a small central Illinois village, all to combat an invasive fish species.
Boats went up and down the Illinois River, attracting the attention of the fish with their loud engines. Copi jumped out of the water, flailing around while fishermen tried to capture them with nets.
It is not a traditional fishing tournament, rather, the fishermen simply drive along the river waiting for the fish to jump at them or into their boat.
Betty DeFord, who founded the tournament 18 years ago, said that the event is a boost to the local economy.
“All the hotels and motels around the area, the stores in Havana, people go in and shop and buy groceries, they buy gas, so it helps the entire community when we have this event,” she said.
DeFord also says the tourney’s location is ideal due to its proximity to where the fish live.
“They spawn three to four times a year in this place through the chute here, it’s a 13-mile channel through here and so this is their spawning ground,” DeFord said.
Some of the money from the event goes to causes that DeFord supports, such as breast cancer awareness and veteran homelessness. John Goddard, who is the director of Schuyler Veteran Homes, was at the event. His organization builds homes for homeless veterans.
“We’re down here today and trying to assist Betty, and she let us set up an area where we can get people to sign 2×4’s which will be in the next home we build in 2024 in Rushville, Illinois,” he said.
DeFord said she hopes that one day a natural predator can come and take out the Copi population. Until that happens, she said the tournament is a nice alternative.
“It’s not going to end, we got them and we’re stuck with them, so deal the best we can with them,” she said.
While it is the tournament’s 18th anniversary, this is the 16th edition of the tournament due to the 2-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.