Anyone who knew Jesse Carper would agree that the wide-eyed look and mile-long grin would give after catching a big one during fishing was something special.
Carper was a beloved young man from Craig County was taken from this world way too soon. Not only was Jesse an advent fisherman, he enjoyed hunting and had a voice that most felt was needed in the heart of Nashville.
Because of this, his close friends, Mike and Emily Marshall, decided to host an Annual Memorial Musky Fishing Tournament in his memory.
Emily, a Craig native, was a friend of Jesse’s and Mike and Jesse often fished together. Steve and Donna Carper, Jesse’s parents, were excited to hear that Jesse’s legacy would live on through the tournament. Each year, they have been present at every tournament.
After a few years, Luke Kesler, another one of Jesse’s friends and advent fisherman, started heading up the event. This year they hosted their Sixth Annual Jesse Carper Musky Memorial Tournament.
“I’m humbled and truly honored to head this up,” Kesler said. “I knew Jesse his whole life and his parents are longtime friends of my parents.”
“Jesse’s death affected people in different ways,” Donna added. “They knew he loved musky fishing. He actually had a real passion for it and was great at it.”
As the saying goes, it takes a village or in Luke’s case, a family to run the event.
“I head up the event for the most part and dad helps me at the Moose Lodge, along with my sister and Hailey,” Kesler mentioned before adding, “Keith Delk and his wife Kellie have helped in year’s past by accepting donations at the door.”
The Annual Musky Tournament attracts passionate men and women who enjoy the sport of fishing. Said Steve and Donna, “Luke has kept the tournament not only going, but thriving with zeal.”
Guidelines are open to Virginia and West Virginia open waters. “This means one can enter the tournament for a $25 donation and fish any waters in either state,” Kesler said. “When a participant catches a fish, they must have a picture of the fish on a bump board (measuring device) and a picture of themselves with the fish. There’s a code that’s drawn live on Facebook the night before the tournament starts that has to be in both pictures.”
Winners receive trophies for first through third place and to the person who catches the biggest musky.
This year’s tournament winners were:
- First – Jeremy Wagner with three fish 38.75 ,40.25 and 41.5 inches long
- Second and biggest fish – Eric A. Campbell with a 47.5 inch fish
- Third – Shannon Hill with a 42.25 inch fish
The coronavirus caused a hiccup in this year’s after tournament event. “Every year we have a banquet at the Moose Lodge on 311 where we have several bluegrass bands play and all the fishermen and women come all day to register their fish and see who wins,” Kesler explained. “We also have a silent auction of all kinds of custom baits that get donated from bait makers.”
This year, because of the social distancing guidelines, they were unable to have the banquet which is where most of their funds are raised for the annual events. That reality caused Kesler to have to be more creative for the event to still happen.
All fish entrees were conducted online through face messenger and trophies will be shipped to the winners.
“I did online auctions for all the kites that were donated and shipped those to the highest bidders as well,” Kesler said.
“This year I’d like to give a huge thank you to Tina Wagner and Brandon Briggs of WB Musky Shop. Because of COVID-19, we couldn’t have the banquet. They donated over $500 worth of bait from their online store and ran a huge raffle that raised over $1,200,” Kesler shared. “I just want to thank everyone who has continued their support for the last five years. Fishermen and women and bait makers who have donated and the Moose Lodge for donating their ballroom every year for the banquet. We truly couldn’t do it without everyone.”
Proceeds from the event will go towards the Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs Program in Craig County and the Jesse Carper Memorial Youth Tournament that began last year. Kesler also noted that if the VDGIF musky biologists need help with something that doesn’t get funding, “we try to help them out with preserving the sport Jesse loved so much.”
Other funds have been used for memorial plaques at some of Jesse’s favorite fishing areas.
Jesse’s girlfriend, Bri, is known as the “Musky Huntress.”
This year, the Youth Tournament Banquet will be held at the Craig County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 20, from noon to 4 p.m. “There will be a jump house, rock wall climb, and an obstacle course for all the kids,” Kesler said. “They do not have to fish the tournament to come have fun. It’s free, but we are taking donations at the gate.”
To register for next year’s annual event, Kesler created a GoFundMe, which is always the first weekend in April.
“Our favorite thing about the tournament is being able to give money to Hooked on Fishing in Jesse’s name,” Donna and Steve said. “We are very grateful that so many would work to make this annual event happen. It has shown us how much Jesse was loved and is missed. He met a lot of people in the business at shows. He had so many friends in the industry, as shown by the many donations that are auctioned as well as prizes and trophies.”