Bass fest held in St. Marys

ST. MARYS, W.Va. – The big winners of the 2013 West Virginia Bass Tournament were two Parkersburg men.

The West Virginia River and Rail Festival in St. Marys came to a successful end Sunday after three days of food, fun and entertainment with the conclusion of the annual West Virginia Bass Tournament.

There were 256 fishermen who took to the Ohio River in 128 boats over the weekend for the 30th 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 downtown St. Marys throughout the weekend for a number of events, music and attractions.

Dave Calebaugh and Tony Mohwish, of Parkersburg, won the bass tournament with a combined weight of 22.85 pounds of fish over Saturday and Sunday. The two were awarded the $10,000 grand prize.

“It feels great,” Calebaugh said. “We worked hard the last couple of days.

“It feels really good. I have been fishing this for the last 24 years. The highest I have placed is second. This is the first time I got first,” he said.

Mohwish said it was a “very ecstatic feeling” for the both of them to win the tournament.

“We put in a lot of hard work for a decade now trying to make this thing happen,” he said. “Finally, all of the cards just fell into place and all the fish we needed to bite bit at the right time.”

Many fishermen in the tournament talked about rising waters from the opening of a number of floodgates creating muddy conditions that caused many people to struggle throughout the tournament. The weather was also extremely warm Sunday.

“It was hot and miserable, but we got lucky and caught some big fish the first day,” Calebaugh said. “We got five of our keeper fish by 7:30 a.m. (Sunday) and then the fish bite just shut down. We had eight bites all day long and we caught our last fish about five minutes to 3 p.m.”

Mohwish talked about dealing with the weather.

“It was warmer (Sunday) than (Saturday),” he said. “It caused the bass to push up under the shade trying to get out of the sun.

“We had to fight a little harder around the roots, vines and the stumps to get the fish to bite and we didn’t catch as many (Sunday) as we did (Saturday), but we had a couple of key bites early in the morning. It set the tone for the day.”

The total amount of fish caught and weighed in over the two days was 1,119, tournament officials said, adding the total released back into the river were 1,102 or 98 percent.

The total weight of fish brought in for the weekend was 1,575.60 pounds. The average weight of each fish was 1.41 pounds. The average weight per team was 12.31 pounds.

The Big Bass Award, which included a $700 check, for the first day went to Greg and Scott Wilson with a fish weighing 4.29 pounds. The award for the second day went to Steve and Josh Freed with a fish weighing 4.47 pounds.

The top 30 teams won prizes ranging from $200 to $10,000, said John Burdette, president of the West Virginia Bass Federation. New this year, the bottom five teams each received $200 each for the least amount of fish caught in the inaugural awarding of the Headache Awards.

“The fishing has been really good,” Burdette said. “The festival has always been a big event.

“There is a prestige where everyone wants to win it. It draws a big crowd. It is a well run tournament. All around, it is a good event.”

There were a lot of people wanting to participate in the tournament where a number of people had to be put on a waiting list.

“There were people who came to the Friday night mandatory meeting who hoped guys wouldn’t show up,” Burdette said. “There were guys who wanted in.”

The tournament was open to a wide range of fishermen with a wide experience range.

“We have some serious fishermen here,” Burdette said. “We have father-son teams. There are guys who just want to go out and have fun fishing and want to be a part of a big tournament. There are some guys this is the only tournament they fish in. It just draws a lot of folks out.”

The West Virginia River and Rail Festival saw around 2,500-3000 people throughout the weekend, said festival coordinator Betty Wells.

“The festival has been really great,” she said Sunday. “The weather cooperated with us.

“We had three beautiful days.”

The theme for the festival was “Joyful Noise Family Reunion” where a number of events created a family reunion atmosphere for everyone, Wells said. It was a time for everyone in the community to come together and have a good time.

“This was a Pleasants County family reunion,” she said.