High school championship field reaches 57
Carlyle, Ill. — If there’s an opposite of the ballyhooed rain dance, Kurt Gibson may currently be doing such a jig on the shorelines of Carlyle Lake.
Why? There have been three Illinois High School Association State Fishing Finals since 2009.
And each were weather-hampered.
“We’re due a sunny, 70-degree pair of days, for sure,” said Gibson, the IHSA executive in charge of the bass fishing series, half-jokingly following the April 20 sectional round.
A total of 57 teams from the 19 sections up and down the state qualified for the finals, set for May 4-5.
Speaking of weather, it was not favorable at either end of the state for the sectionals, but that did not stop fishing.
“From the feedback we received, the fishing was pretty good, despite some cold and rough conditions,” Gibson said. “Some would say a day of fishing is never bad, but rain and cold can make it tough. We were happy to see our high schools kids catch a lot of fish.”
There were some nice fish caught, too.
At Lake of Egypt, Goreville’s J.T. Russell finished with the sectional’s biggest bass, a 4.2- pounder. His team finished in second place with a total of 13.9 pounds of bass. That was just under the other Goreville squad’s Mason Bishop and
Jeremy Hudson, who took first place with a weigh-in of 14.22 pounds.
In central Illinois, Highland anglers Evan Welz and A.J. Burns battled the elements by catching big bass early in the competition. The duo reached the five-fish limit in the first hour. Welz caught a 4.33-pound bass and Burns boated one weighing in at 4.72-pounds.
“Coffeen bass tend to like ugly weather,” Highland assistant coach Scott Sautman said. “When it’s beautiful out, they don’t like that. We knew that the conditions were going to deteriorate during the day. It was going to get colder and colder.
So we knew we had to get on ‘em pretty quickly. We got our limit in the first hour at our first spot.”
Highland finished third in the state last season.
Up north, sectional meet managers each had good things to say: the fish were biting, was the summary. Several lakes reported a record number of fish caught for a sectional. Despite winter-like conditions, teams at the Busse Woods sectional produced the most fish ever caught at a forest preserve district lake. At Pierce Lake, Brad Doherty, of Rockford Christian, landed the big fish of that tourney with a 4.08-pounder. Rockford Christian won first place with 15.52 pounds total. As for the finals, Gibson expected all 57 teams to show up at Carlyle Lake ready to catch fish. Last year’s finals was postponed more than a month because of high waters.
“We’re set to go and I’m sure the folks in Carlyle are ready, good weather or bad,” Gibson said. “We’re hoping the fish are read for the finals, too.”