Bloomington, Ill. – In high schools across the state, April 23
is the date marked with a giant “X.”
That’s when the journey to Carlyle Lake begins.
The second high school bass fishing finals will be held there
May 7-8. Last year’s finals, also held at Carlyle, were a success
with participating teams and the national media – despite less than
ideal weather conditions.
The Illinois High School Association earlier this month released
sectional assignments for the 226 teams expected to participate.
There were 199 teams entered last year, when West Frankfort High,
from southern Illinois, took the title.
The sectional lakes – many are the same as last year – are
purposely spread out across the state to provide a geographically
level playing field.
Dave Gannaway, an IHSA administrator who is in charge of
competitive fishing, said the goal of assigning schools to
sectionals is that no school’s fishing team will have to travel
much more than an hour to get to their sectional lake.
Securing boats and adult captains for each boat entered in the
sectional competition were primary concerns in the early going. But
schools and fishing clubs around the state stepped up to fill those
Meanwhile, other states have been watching Illinois’ efforts
with the fishing series. In Alabama, a High School Bass Fishing
Club Tournament Series is set to begin on March 6.
Officials hope the next step will be having the state’s athletic
association sponsor the sport.
“There’s tremendous excitement about making bass fishing an
official high school sport in Alabama,” Tim Tidwell, of Birmingham,
Ala., told the Florence Times.
Gannaway was quoted in the Times as saying “bass fishing has
attracted many students in Illinois who had never participated in
high school athletics.”
Gannaway said 2,496 Illinois high school students participated
in bass fishing during the 2008-09 academic year.
“Of that number, 55 percent did not participate in any other
school activity. Bass fishing has allowed us to reach kids who had
never shown interest in competitive sports,” Gannaway told the
More exposure is on the way for the Illinois fishing finals.
Last May’s event at Carlyle Lake was taped by Babe Winkelman.
Winkelman served as the guest speaker at last year’s state final
fish fry for participants and coaches that preceded the state final
tournament. Winkelman’s nationally syndicated show “Babe
Winkelman’s Good Fishing” will air the finals.
The state-final episode is scheduled to air April 24.
According to the show’s Web site, the Saturday program airs at
6:30 a.m. on all of the Fox Sports Regional Networks.