River monsters

Wade War V hits Troy

By Matt Clevenger

Photo: NAPRA founder Pete Ziehler prepares to reel one in; photo: Amy Ziehler

Anglers from all across the state of Ohio will meet in Troy Oct. 7, ready to spend a full weekend fishing the Great Miami River for charity as part of the annual Wade War tournament sponsored by the National Association of Professional River Anglers (NAPRA).

The Wade War weekend kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday night, with a ceremonial first cast by Troy Mayor Mike Beamish at a popular fishing spot on Eldean Road, followed by the NAPRA 50/50 challenge, a charity event where anglers compete to catch the first 50 inches of fish. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers.

“It’s going to be low-key,” NAPRA founder Pete Ziehler says. “On Friday, we invite the mayor out, then we have a competition afterward.”

Anglers will meet again on Saturday morning for NAPRA’s Duel at the Dam contest at the Troy dam, with prizes for the two biggest fish caught at the dam that morning. After the contest, there will also be a group tour of the city followed by a welcome dinner with special guest speaker Steve Coomer.

“Saturday’s pretty cool,” Ziehler says. “We have a competition in the morning that we’re going to do, and proceeds will go to a local food bank in the Troy area. Then, we go take kind of a downtown tour and go and see some of the sights up there. It’s a great way to bring people to Troy, and then maybe, when the competition’s over, to bring people back.”

The Wade War tournament is on Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., and starts out at Treasure Island Park. NAPRA’s annual championship is only open to members who have already qualified through the playoff system. “With the Friday and Saturday events, people are more than welcome to come,” Ziehler says. “The actual fishing competition on Sunday, that is something for our league anglers that they have to qualify for.”

“It’s a big time event,” he says. “We have over 60 people funneled down to roughly nine or 10 that are going to compete in a winner-take-all championship. It’s challenging because anyone can win. It just depends who has the best day out on the water. Last year, our champion was in the semi-finals and just made the cut for the finals. He didn’t even win his division; he finished in second place then went to the semis and qualified, went to the championship, and proceeded to win by a pretty heavy margin.”

Like all NAPRA events, the Wade War tournament and other contests are catch-and-release only. “We catch the fish, check the length, and let it go back in the water, then we use a chart to convert what we caught to a weight system,” Ziehler explains.

“It’s a very humane way to catch and measure the fish,” says NAPRA member Steve Kortis, who qualified for a spot in this year’s Wade War. “Basically, we catch the fish long enough to put them on a tape measure and put them back in the water as fast as we can.”

“Especially with the type of fishing we do,” he says, “it’s primarily bass fishing; in our waterways it takes a small mouth bass a long time to get to that trophy size. If you catch one of those nice small mouth bass, you definitely want to get it back in the water. It’s got good genes, and it takes them a long time to get as big as they need to be to be trophies.”

“Usually, we’ll catch small mouth bass,” says NAPRA member Mike Hill, who will also be competing in the Wade War. “Sometimes you’ll catch largemouth bass, too. Those are the two we’re really shooting for, and in the Wade War, those are really the only two that count. But you’ll catch everything from carp to pike, rock bass, and freshwater drum. It’s really anything that can live in the river, you’ll catch.”

As Ziehler explains, many of the Miami Valley’s local waterways are perfect for wade fishing. “The rivers around here are excellent,” he says. “The Stillwater River has historically been known as an outstanding small mouth and large mouth river. The Mad River is known statewide as a good trout stream. All the rivers, the Little Miami and the Great Miami, are excellent rivers.”

“For me, wading is about being in the water and right in your surroundings,” Kortis says. “I think it’s just being out there; you never know what you’re going to see. You could be out in the morning and have deer run by; you’re going to see all different types of wildlife.”

“There’s something about the thrill of catching a fish when you’re waist deep in the water, and you’re fighting that fish in,” he says. “It’s a totally different experience.”

“It’s very different because it’s more than having the technology to catch fish like you do on a bass boat,” Ziehler agrees. “You’ve got to overcome a lot of physical obstacles and a lot of mental obstacles because some days it can be tougher than others.”

NAPRA is always seeking new members. The organization started out in 2006 as the Dayton Fishing League, then changed its name to the National Association of Professional River Anglers and grew more statewide in 2014. “We started out with just a few members here and there,” Ziehler says. “Now, we’re up to 65 members, and we keep growing.”

“We also have a fun league,” he says. “We take a yearly trout-season trip up to Michigan, and then we do some other competitions. We do a kids event, and we do a charity league.”

“It’s camaraderie, and it’s conservation, too,” Hill adds.

“It’s a great league to be a part of,” Kortis says. “Pete spends a lot of time just putting together a league we can be proud of and enjoy. We’re always out on the water having fun.”

Wade War V will run from Friday, Oct. 7 – Sunday, Oct. 9 at Treasure Island Park, 409 N. Elm St. in Troy. For more information, please call 937.307.8732 or visit NAPRAProWading.com/Wade-War.

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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