Team Redneck Rodeo with tournament directors Kaskaskia River SFWA Site Superintendent Mic Middleton and Gretchen Steele
Bowfishers from five states braved tough bowfishing conditions Saturday July 16 at the 2nd Annual Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up held in Baldwin, Illinois at the Kaskaskia State Fish and Wildlife Area.
The tournament was hosted by Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and was a sanctioned Bowfishing Association of America points tournament.
At last year’s tournament, participants fought high water from the unusual summer flooding and very high temperatures. This year participants faced just the opposite problem and had to contend with low water levels. Despite the fact just two days before the tournament a severe storm had ripped through the tournament site, dropping old oak trees everywhere, including on the pavilion, the IDNR staff worked tirelessly to give participants a beautiful site with no hint of the previous days’ damage.
Thankfully, the weather tournament morning dawned “chamber of commerce perfect” as participant Wayne Swim remarked. That beautiful summer weather however brought out an abundance of unanticipated boat traffic, including a bass tournament, and a local duck club’s river run boat party. Waters were crowded, and fish were hiding thanks to all of the boat traffic. Despite those factors, 28 boat teams and 6 walking participants went forth into the fray vie for prizes and cash.
Fishing conditions were difficult. Water had just started to clear after two weeks of nearly daily thunderstorms sending lots of muddy run off into the sloughs, creeks, and backwaters. Participants who had traveled to the area in the days preceding the tournament to scout and prefish were somewhat disappointed by the seemingly sudden overnight change in fishing conditions. But alas Mother Nature and the sharp rise in boat traffic flipped the switch Saturday morning, and the old adage “Should have been here yesterday” echoed throughout the weigh in process.
Despite the difficult conditions, large numbers of Asian carp were removed from the lower Kaskaskia, and the weights for the biggest ten fish from each team were more than respectable for tough conditions.
The $1800 dollar first place prize money drew both experienced tournament teams and rookie first time tournament shooters. The Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up prides itself on being an “everyman’s” bowfishing tournament, where anyone who enjoys bowfishing has a chance to take the crown. The winning team “Redneck Rodeo” comprised of Levi Chandler, Jess Johnson, Kurt Lueders, and Nathan Stienkamp of Arnold, Missouri. Redneck Rodeo continued the tradition of first time “rookie” tournament shooters taking first place with 83.1 pounds of silver carp. Team Redneck Rodeo had an exceptional showing for their first ever tournament experience as team member Levi Chandler also walked away with the award for the biggest fish overall and the biggest Asian carp. This team is going to be one to watch on the bowfishing tournament circuit.
Redneck Rodeo Team Captain Levi Chandler during weigh in
“After we scouted yesterday, we made a last minute decision last night to swap out from our regular bowfishing boat to the duck boat with the mud motor. I think that’s what did it for us, we were able to get back into the really shallow areas where the fish were, and we couldn’t have gotten into those in the other boat. ” said Team Redneck Rodeo captian Levi Chandler.
The tournament also featured a women’s division and a small fish side contest. Team Back in Black from Sturgis. KY handily walked away with both of those awards. Amy Pease won the Heartland Outdoors Women’s Division and Greg Jones won the small fish contest with an incredibly small .3-pound fish.
Team Back in Black, Amy Pease and Greg Jones in action during the tournament
The walking division was won by Dave Mothershead of Waterloo, IL, with Bob Rutkowski of Marissa, Il taking second, and Wesley Craig of Sparta taking 3rd place. Craig was also a winner in individual/walking division of the 2016 tournament.
First Place winner in the Walking Division Dave Mothershead of Waterloo, Illinois
Area civic leaders and spectators at the tournament praised the efforts of IDNR, Local USACE employees, community volunteers and the bowfishing community for their contributions to the local economy and their efforts in removing invasive and injurious species from the water.
Lucas Aaron of Misguided Bowfishing unloads fish for weigh in while tournament helper Gavin Waston looks on in awe at “all the big fish”.
While bowfishers in many states face difficulties with public perception and acceptance and understanding by the regulatory agencies, this tournament allowed bowfishers to see firsthand that river communities and especially IDNR value and respect bowfishers not only for the economic impact they have on small river communities, but also for the huge amount of conservation done by bowfishers done to remove invasive and injurious species and improve the waterways and ecosystems.
It’s a new day and age in the bowfishing community, an age where bowfishers are respected and valued as conservationists, contributors to local economies, and as interested in the science pieces of things as any other avid group of anglers or hunters. The Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up is one tournament that brings the entire area’s community together to see the benefits of bowfishing. Area residents come to weigh in to marvel at the number of invasive fish removed, and to enjoy the after tournament fish fry provided each year by volunteers from Shameless Smokers and The Kaskaskia Delta Waterfowl Chapter.
Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up tournament, it’s hosts, and participants continue to play a vital role in changing the perception of bowfishing and those who enjoy and are passionate about the sport. From tourism professionals to average Joe anglers to waterfowl hunters – all who visited the tournament site throughout the day walked away with an improved perception and understanding of the role bowfishing plays in conservation and today’s outdoor world.
Mark your calendars now for the 2017 Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Round Up. It’s always the third weekend in July, in Baldwin Illinois.
Team Redneck Rodeo – First Place
Team Full Scale Assault – Second place
Team T-Star – Third place
Team Southern Illinois Bowfishing – Fourth place
Big Fish – Levi Chandler
Biggest Asian – Levi Chandler
Small Fish – Greg Jones
Ladies Division – Amy Pease