BATH, Ill. (WMBD) — The boats are in the water and the world-famous “Redneck Fishing Tournament” has returned to the Village of Bath this weekend.
The Redneck Fishing Tournament is a tradition spanning nearly two decades.
It was first created by founder Betty DeFord after Silver Asian Carp made it difficult to enjoy the Illinois River.
“They were just knocking the heck out of us, we couldn’t even take the kids out and I said you know the battle is on,” DeFord said.
Since its creation in 2005, thousands of fishermen have picked up their nets in Bath to catch and remove as many of the flying fish as possible. Some people have participated in the tournament for years.
“We’ve been coming here since 2013 and won a few years, lost a few years, got second a few years, it’s all about having fun,” said Adam Carney from New Haven, Illinois.
There are also others that traveled hours to see the tournament firsthand for the first time.
“Well when you see flying fish jumping at you, you definitely want to get in on something like that, it looks like a lot of fun,” said Lee Chapman from Mossville, Pennsylvania.
Education is a big part of the event as well, and this year it may be more important than ever.
In June, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced it is rebranding Silver Asian Carp as “Copi”, highlighting it being a quality fish to consume.
“It is the second healthiest fish you can actually eat, the only healthier one is wild-caught salmon,” said Roy Sorce, president of Sorce Freshwater.
While DeFord has stepped down from running the tournament and her friends have taken over, she said as long as the carp are in the river, the event isn’t going anywhere.
“They’re not going to leave, I said the first year if we didn’t see another one we wouldn’t have the tournament anymore, here it is 17 years later,” DeFord said.
Proceeds from the Redneck Fishing Tournament will be donated to services for veterans and money is also being collected separately for Peoria’s Hult Center.