The Eric Workman Memorial Muskie Tournament is only seven years old, but already it has become a tradition.
“A lot of people treat it as a tradition, an event they’ll attend every year,” said Scott Smith, a tournament spokesman. “I know I’ll always be there, whether I fish or not. For a lot of guys, this is the only tournament they fish.”
The sense of tradition, Smith added, stems from the origin of the tournament itself. After state trooper Eric Workman was killed in the line of duty in August 2012, a few of his muskie-fishing buddies banded together to conduct a tournament in his honor.
“That first year, we thought would have 15 to 20 people show up to have a little fishing outing,” Smith recalled. “We ended up having 100 people show up, and the tournament raised about $5,000.”
The tournament’s organizers formed the non-profit Trooper Eric Workman Foundation to organize future tournaments and to distribute each event’s proceeds. Each year since then, they’ve donated $6,000 to $10,000 each year to a variety of causes.
“The majority of the money goes to the Division of Natural Resources,” Smith said. “They use it to help pay for raising muskies in state hatcheries, and for equipment such as electronic fish-handling gloves and fish-tag readers. The foundation has also donated bulletproof vests to officers in small towns that can’t afford them, contributed to drug-prevention programs in schools and Little Leagues, and created a $1,000 scholarship for graduates of Clay County High School.”
Last year’s muskie tournament attracted 185 anglers, and the accompanying kids’ week-long, multi-species tournament drew 60 participants.
“In addition, we average about 300 people at the Sunday banquet that follows the tournament,” Smith said.
This year’s muskie tournament will be held June 1-2. The kids’ tournament began on May 25 and will end on June 2. Entry fees are $25 for the muskie tournament and $10 for the kids’ tournament. Smith said anglers can register for the events on the foundation’s website, eworkman.org.
“Everyone gets a T-shirt and a home-cooked meal, whether they catch anything or not,” he added.
Anglers who participate are allowed to fish anywhere they wish in West Virginia.
As is the case in most catch-and-release tournaments, anglers are required to take photos or videos of the fish they catch lying on a measuring device called a “bump board,” with the tournament’s security code displayed alongside the fish. Smith said this year’s codes would be posted on the evening of May 31, and that anglers may begin to fish as soon as they receive the code.
Winners will be determined by the total length of the fish they catch, based on a system that awards 10 points for each fish that reaches the 30-inch minimum, and one additional point for every 1/4 inch of length thereafter.
Smith said the winning angler usually has to catch three or four fish to amass enough points for a chance to win. Plaques will be awarded for first, second and third places, and for the biggest fish.
Youth anglers must use the same measuring technique, but may measure any fish species they catch. Prizes will be awarded for cumulative length, biggest fish and the most different species.
All tournament participants must check in at Big Otter Elementary in Clay County by 2 p.m. on June 2.
The dinner will begin at 1:30 p.m. on June 2. Pieces of outdoor equipment will be raffled off during the dinner. Smith said 1,500 tickets will be available for year’s major raffle prize, a john boat-and-trolling motor combination.