CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you happen to be on the lookout for the proverbial Next Big Thing, you might want to consider next year's Eric Workman Memorial Fishing Tournament.
The first-ever tourney, held June 1, far exceeded organizers' expectations. The event drew 100 anglers and raised more than $5,000 for muskie research and enhancement.
"I never dreamed we'd get that many people fishing, or that we'd raise that much money," said tournament spokesman Scott Smith. "I thought we might raise $1,000. We made five times that, and still have money coming in from T-shirt sales."
The tournament honors the memory of state Trooper Eric Workman, an avid muskie angler killed in the line of duty after a shooting last August. Workman's family set up a foundation in his name, and the tournament is its principal fundraiser.
Smith said the tournament was originally to be held on the Elk River, Workman's beloved home waters, but the sheer number of fishermen forced organizers to expand it to any of the state's muskie rivers or lakes.
River fishing wasn't much good during this year's event. Smith said 80 percent of the anglers fished the rivers, but most of the fish came from lakes. Of the 15 legal-sized muskies caught, only two were river fish - one from the New River and the other from the Tygart.
"If the river bite had been on, we probably would have had 30 to 40 muskies caught," Smith said.
Jason Staats took home the prizes for the most muskies caught, three; and for the largest one caught, a 48 3/4-incher.
One even bigger fish was caught, but it didn't count because it was landed after the tournament ended. Angler Jason Lusk, who hadn't caught a fish inside the event's official time period, decided to skip the post-tournament banquet and keep fishing, even though he knew his catch wouldn't count.