BIG OTTER, W.Va. — Grieved by the tragic death of a dear friend, a group of fishing buddies created what has become a powerful organization. The second annual Eric Workman Memorial Musky Tournament is slated for Saturday, June 7, 2014.
Workman was a state trooper killed in the line of duty along with Marshall Bailey during the apprehension of a drunk driving suspect in Roane County along I-79. During his life, Workman was well known for his passion about musky fishing. As a way to honor his memory and help his family, several friends decided last year they would hold a musky fishing tournament.
“Eric touched a lot of lives and he was a tremendous young man,” said Scott Smith. “We wanted to do something, so we decided we’d have a musky tournament and a banquet and get everybody together.”
The loosely tied group of mutual friends reached out to one another via social media and largely connected on the popular message board WVAngler.com. Smith figured they might clear a few hundred dollars which they decided would be used to buy a load of gravel to help improve a public access point on the Elk River where Workman frequently fished.
“We wanted to do something to give back to the musky fishery,” said Smith. “We thought we’d fix up the Sugar Creek Ramp because it was falling into disrepair and that was where Eric loved to fish.”
The idea didn’t seem like much more than a few friends, but it became far more. Eventually more than 100 anglers were entered and more than 200 showed up at the banquet. Businesses were donating numerous raffle prizes.
“We ended up raising over $6,000,” Smith said.
Faced with a lot of money the friends worked with Workman’s family to form the Eric Workman Foundation and dedicated the money to restoring musky fishing in West Virginia. Smith, who is now active with the foundation, said he thinks the sky is now the limit as they move forward.
“The two main things we are working on is access improvement and musky research and habitat development,” he said.
The organization is now in contact with the Coal River Group to discuss how to improve fishing access on the Coal River and working with the DNR and private land owners in hopes of creating boating access points on other popular musky fishing waters around the state.
The event will be June 7th. Fishermen who register and pay their fee get a t-shirt and an invitation to the banquet. The contest will be judged via pictures of fish caught and released on June 7th anywhere in West Virginia. Fishermen will be e-mailed a special code which must be displayed in the picture to prove it was caught on the day of the event. Awards will be given out at the banquet the night of the event.
Smith added one new wrinkle to this year’s even will be a kids tournament which will run from Saturday, May 31 – Friday, June 6.
Smith and the foundation believe it is a fitting tribute to Workman’s memory because of his lifelong love of fishing for musky.