Mayhem ensues as the Redneck Fishing Tournament pits mankind vs. the Asian carp, a breed of fish that jumps into the air when provoked. Thousands of the invasive species were caught in nets as boaters of all experience levels hit the water Friday afternoon in Bath. Photo by Fred Zwicky.
Rednecks set sail to do battle with Asian carp
Peoria Journal Star
BATH — Nautically speaking, Team Shake n Bake is a questionable crew, even for Vikings.
They clutch beer cans. They wear flip-flops. They tote a garbage can to hold the day’s catch. Their longboat is a jon boat, their bow’s sea serpent bears deer antlers, and their home-painted wooden shields brandish such frightening totems as the Chicago Cubs.
Maybe it’s because “Captain” Beau Brugger of the USS Obama-Stomper is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, not the Navy. Or maybe it’s because ain’t nobody speaking nautically around here.
This is the eighth edition of the Original Redneck Fishing Tournament. One does not quibble about technicalities when one willingly courts being fish-slapped by an Asian carp. Wearing fake fur and plastic horned helmets while stalking these slimy bleeders on a 95-degree August day is just par for the redneck course.
“We’ve got a tall order to fill to beat last year, boys,” proclaimed the 28-year-old skipper, who normally hails from Dunlap.
Indeed. Last year, Brugger & Co. came as Spartans. It’s hard to say if spectators remember them more for their costumes or the fact they dumped their boat in the river. Either way, they’re gold in an even more motley crew.
True, a lot of people were barely wearing clothes, much less costumes. But there were bikini-clad girls in camo makeup. There were matching T-shirts depicting skulls with fish skeletons clenched in bony teeth. There were rugby players from New Zealand who have festooned their outfits with cotton balls so they look like sheep and call themselves The Bah-barians.
“It was a good three nights of gluing,” says Stacey Orton, 29, a children’s clothing designer now living in Vancouver who snagged this trip for her boyfriend as his 30th birthday gift. “He saw it on YouTube.”
Obviously, there are many shades of rednecks. Yet, the Norsemen could have been playing “Ride of the Valkyries” when 38 cobbled-together craft launched themselves at noon Friday. As soon as the engines churned, silver fish launched themselves back. Agile fisherfolk netted some mid-air. Others jumped in on their own in a fishy frenzy.
“I can’t even drink my beer,” complained would-be Viking Eric DeVore, a 25-year-old from Peoria.
Although Team Shake n Bake took a break to help another boat that tipped in honor of their own mishap last year, the fishing action was fairly nonstop for anyone who followed the wake of another boat. That’s part of the point of this whole event. Betty DeFord founded the redneck tournament eight years ago after aggressive Asian carp nearly swamped her boat. The owner of The Boat Tavern, she declared war, starting the redneck tournament as a fun way to raise awareness. Now it’s a two-day event with four, two-hour fishing derbies.
“If we get rid of these fish, we’ll never have another tournament,” says DeFord. “And that’s all right with me.”
What: Expedition to haul in as many Asian carp as possible while having just as much fun
When: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The boat launch in Bath
Why: To rid the Illinois River of Asian carp
Cost: $60 per boat per heat entered.
For more information, check http://www.redneckfishingtournament.net