"Grafton Part 1 - River Rat Catfish Classic"
We were excited for the opportunity to visit, to tour and learn about Grafton, IL where the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers meet and to discuss the 1st River Rat Catfish Classic Tournament for June 21st and 22nd hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Hopes are this event will help promote and jump-start the Summer of 2014 for the City after years of struggling with awful flooding including the most devastating record flood of 1993. This community fought and pulled together and rebuilt the city around them to become the bustling tourist town they are today.
This River Rat Catfish Classic tournament will have an 80% pay back to 6 places for teams of 2-4 members with a 6 pole limit. You can read or print rules and entry form from our website. We are sure this event will be a great time, even if you do not fish come to watch the weigh-in or just enjoy the hospitality and experience the hometown flavor and down-to-earth qualities of this real river town.
Arriving early we drove the Great River Road with the river on one side and the massive rock bluffs on the other side. On edge of town is a massive 20 acre Raging Rivers Waterpark, thinking the grandkids would love these waterslides. Driving through this river town we got a real feel for how much more there is to do than just fishing in this recreational paradise, watching Pelicans on the river and seeing cars drive onto the ferry, cross and drive off the other side, there were some joggers and bicycles enjoying the paved bike path that looked like Fun.
As the enormous Grafton Harbor Marina caught our eye, we could not help but check it out. We discovered a first class floating marina with gift shop, ship store, a Winery and the Big Kahuna Bar & Grill. We enjoyed lunch on their waterfront deck watching fishing boats leave their slips, big boats come in for fuel, supplies and lunch and a couple barges pass through this junction of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. We later met owners Joe & Jan DeSherlia who told us of filling the 1st slip in March 2006 and now with hundreds of slips. They also have a floating pool & hot tub at this state-of-the art full service marina with a 5 Anchor Rating.
We understand the River Rat Catfish Classic Tournament will be held adjacent to this Marina near the city boat ramp with 2 days of events including entertainment and food vendors throughout both days.
When we met our gracious hosts Rick & Kim Eberlin at their wonderful ice cream shop, The Whole Scoop, we were told our lodging would be in The Loft above. While in town you need to try their unique ice creams and more. 1st stop was at the Loading Dock on the river with great food, beverages, good entertainment and an amazing patio with fire pits overlooking the river. Talking with owner Pete Allen we discover they also have lodging and the old boat manufacture building that holds huge Flea Markets throughout the year. His big news was the April opening of the American Heartland Fish Product LLC using the plentiful Asian carp to produce fish byproducts, instead of consumer foods, we’ll have more in Part 2 next month.
Next was up the hill to the Aries Riverview Winery & Cottages to meet owner Jeff and sample their good wine from the deck with spectacular river views and now we know why they are known for “The Best View in Midwest”. Plus there is the ZipLine Adventures there with 10 zips across the valley that I really want to come back for. Also our tour included the Tara Point Inn & Cottages on the bluff again with a beautiful view and so serene.
Next stop was the Grafton Winery & Brewhaugs with dining areas indoors or patio overlooking rivers. After a tasting, we got a tour with owner Mike Nikonovich where we found the most clean and organized stainless steel equipment and wine making operation I have seen, not to mention the most educational tour. Also toured the full production Micro Brewery which was very cool and also put out some great brews.
Last stop was the Hawg Pit BBQ to sample their Award Winning pulled pork, ribs and more.
After a comfortable night at The Loft with great accommodations, we had a wonderful breakfast in the beautiful stone Lodge at scenic Pere Marquette State Park with cabins and campgrounds. Heading back we had to stop at the Cassens Bait Shop that seems to have all your baits and tackle supplies and even a complete archery section.
We learned so much history about Grafton by going through the Historic Grafton Walking Tour with city clerk Mary Lillesve, who we would call the town historian due to her knowledge and passion for this river town of 177 years. The lighthouse on the riverfront stands as a symbol of resilience and determination of this historic river town marking the mouth of the Illinois River. We will have more on the town history in Part 2 next month. For now, Grafton offers 500 rooms at 27 lodging options from Bed & Breakfast to the Cottage or Resort feel. Main Street also has shops for fresh produce and unique gifts or antiques, Linda loved Harrisons Gifts and good thing we drove the truck.
Before heading home we lunched at the Fin Inn restaurant with fish aquariums at every booth of mostly fish native to the Mississippi River. They have a unique menu and bet the kids would love this place too.
A big THANKS to our host and all the great folks for taking time to make this a memorable visit to a river town that has a welcome mat out always. There were many times we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were still in Illinois.
We apologize for this condensed Part 1 synopsis of our visit as we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of this experience, therefore, we will have more on history next month in Part 2. However, we encourage you to consider a trip to this outstanding little river town to enjoy endless recreational opportunities of FUN for Adults, Kids and Family..!
For more on Grafton, go to www.enjoygrafton.com or visit us at www.larrysfishinghole.com for River Rat Catfish Classic rules/entry form.
Till Next Time, GOD BLESS & GOOD FISHING.!