Video courtesy of John Patterson

What began in the early 2000s as a fun way to fight back against invasive carp on the Illinois River has turned into a two day festival that raises thousands of dollars for veterans’ charities.

This year’s Redneck Fishing Tournament in Bath, IL on August 5-6 netted 3,367 invasive carp weighing in at a total of roughly 20,000 pounds. The top team caught 346 fish in only two hours. The fish were trailered away to a processing plant. The tournament also raised just over $6,700 that will go to veterans’ charities with the help of the local VFW chapter in Havana.

The tournament has grown to attract people from around the globe to participate in the shenanigans. A media crew from South Korea was part of this year’s tournament. There were bands, food vendors, a beer tent and team costume contests.

“I just want to thank the participants, our sponsors and all the great people who joined us for the tournament this year,” said organizer Nikki Gregerson. “It was a chance to catch up with old friends and make a lot of new ones.”

What makes the Redneck Fishing Tournament different from other fishing tournaments is that anglers don’t use fishing poles. The invasive carp respond to boat motors by launching themselves out of the water. Teams cruise up and down the river to see how many they can net right out of the air.

“I never imagined we’d still be doing this and having so much fun,” said tournament founder Betty DeFord, who was inducted into the Illinois Conservation Foundation’s Outdoor Hall of Fame earlier this year for her efforts. “We’ve educated thousands of people about the very real dangers of these fish getting in your waterways, raised money to help veterans and had a blast doing it. Can’t wait for next year.”

DeFord, who is battling breast cancer, raised nearly $900 for the Hult Center for Healthy Living in Peoria. The center provides free cancer screenings and support programs for cancer patients.

The Redneck Fishing Tournament takes place in Bath, IL on the first Friday and Saturday in August. Next year’s dates are August 4-5. For more information, visit their Facebook page by clicking here.