By Pam Dudding Contributing writer
(Published on April 21, 2021) For some, memories have a way of conjuring up great times together of fun and laughter.
Even though Jesse Carper is no longer on this earth, many friends and family still have fond memories of him, including a special friend, Luke Kessler who is keeping Jesse’s favorite pastime alive, Musky fishing, with the Jesse Carper Memorial Tournament that takes place annually.
This year’s tournament dates are May 1 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 2, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Not only was Jesse an advent fisherman, but he also enjoyed hunting and had a voice that most people felt would have hit the charts in Nashville.
Kessler shared, “What gives me the drive to continue this yearly tournament is that it is a great cause for a great friend.”
Many have echoed those same words, “Anyone who knew Jesse understood the bright-eyed look and mile wide grin he would give when he caught another ‘big one.’” Added many of his fishing buddies, “He was so much fun to fish with.” Recently, his picture has been posted several times by friends and family.
Kessler set up a GoFundMe page for the Seventh Annual Jesse Carper Memorial Musky Tournament. The goal is to raise $5,000. The fundraiser page is where people can go to register for the tournament.
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.”
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 was started three years ago. Kesler also noted that if the VDGIF musky biologists need help with something that does not get funding, “we try to help them out with preserving the sport Jesse loved so much as well.” Adding, “Other funds have been used for memorial plaques at some of Jesse’s favorite fishing areas.”
“Our favorite thing about the tournament is being able to give money to Hooked on Fishing in Jesse’s name,” Donna and Steve (Jesse’s parents) 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 donations that are auctioned as well as prizes and trophies.”
Kessler shared that his best memory with Jesse was when they went bear hunting together with their dads.
“I’m humbled and truly honored to head this up,” Kesler said. “I knew Jesse his whole life and our parents were longtime friends.”
Trophies are awarded to first through third place winners and to the person who catches the biggest musky.
Last year’s winners were:
- First – Jeremy Wagner with 3 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
“Every year we like to have a banquet at the Moose Lodge on 311 where we have several bluegrass bands play and all the fishermen/women come after fishing 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.”
COVID-19 caused a hiccup last year and is again in this years after-tournament event. However, Kessler is conducting online auctions for all the donated items and they are then shipped to the highest bidder.
Kessler invites anyone who loves musky fishing or first timers to join and enjoy the event, sharing, “Jesse was the one who got me started fishing for musky and I have loved it ever since.”