Coaches selecting high school fishing rosters

Bloomington, Ill. — It figures to be an anxious couple of weeks for coaches and high school bass fishermen as they prepare for the IHSA Sectionals on April 20.

Many teams are still trying to determine who will have the honor of representing their school. Each team may send up to four fishermen. The goal is to qualify for the state finals on Carlyle Lake on May 4-5, and the top three teams from each of the 19 sectionals qualify.

An unseasonably warm winter followed by an early spring has some coaches obsessively following the weather.

And the IHSA participants can hardly be blamed after last year’s state finals were pushed back more than a month into June because of flooding and dangerous conditions at Carlyle Lake.

“I’m pretty good about checking the weather in the morning, at lunch and in the evening, and checking the wind direction,” said coach Travis Noto, a math and science teacher at West Frankfort High, in southern Illinois. Coaches are ever wary of cold fronts that could seriously impact the fishing.

“If the weather stabilizes, and we can pattern the fish, that makes it a lot easier,” Noto said. “But a cold front can still come in and give the fish lock jaw. … With it being this warm, this early, I’m afraid we’re going to get another cold snap, and that’s going to change the pattern. Right now, the fish are ahead of schedule for sure.”

Noto’s team, which won the first state tournament in 2009, will fish the sectional on Lake of Egypt.

“It is in our backyard,” Noto said, alluding to some of the anxiety that teams felt before the sectional assignments were handed down earlier this year.

West Frankfort is one of six teams that have finished in the top 10 of the state tournament more than once in the three years since the IHSA added bass fishing.

The sport has gotten more and more competitive, and there are now 226 schools competing statewide.

Teams in northeastern Illinois were wary of being assigned to Braidwood Lake, which replaced Tampier Lake as a sectional site.

So the Oak Lawn team let out a sigh of relief when it was assigned to Wolf Lake, a body they are familiar with. The Oak Lawn team been assigned to Wolf before, but had been switched to Tampier the last two years, said coach Chris Kuchyt, a social studies teacher.

“We were a little bit nervous,” Kuchyt said. “We did pretty well at Wolf last time.”

Still, the Oak Lawn team has missed the state finals all three years, narrowly missing one year after a few decent bass escaped, Kuchyt said.

He noted that teams at Wolf Lake fish the Illinois side.

At Reed Custer High, there was no apprehension about being assigned to Braidwood Lake, which is a mile away from the school. The Reed Custer team is a new entry. The school is one of 25 that started bass clubs this year.

“We were surprised,” said coach Erik Frederiksen, who said there’s about 20 students in the team. “We were anticipating going to LaSalle Lake. I think we have a pretty decent shot. I know there are good fishermen at other schools.”

There are about 20 students on the team, and they have had after-school tournaments.

“We’re keeping track of everybody’s weights,” he said. “We’re going to run it as true as we can.”

That seems to be the most common way teams determine who gets to compete at the sectional, but there’s no set rules.

While the Oak Lawn team, which has about 41 members, certainly looks at how kids have done at team outings, Kuchyt said, it’s a “coach’s decision.”

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