As high school bass fishing heats up, college angling in Illinois hits full stride
Fishermen and fishing fans are excited about this year’s high school bass fishing championship series, which begins with the sectional round May 5 (see the April 21 issue of Illinois Outdoor News for sectional assignments for the 271 teams).
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the advantages of competitive high school fishing — a number of former high school anglers have gone on to compete in college, some even earning college scholarships.
One program that has swooped in to attract many anglers is McKendree University in Lebanon. Earlier this month, the McKendree bass fishing team competed at the FLW College Open at Kentucky Lake. The two-day event hosted 194 boats from all across the country.
Just looking at the roster, you see how Illinois’ high school fishing has impacted the college ranks.
The McKendree team of Austin Chapman (Blue Mound) and Curtis Lilly (Sterling) sat in fifth place after Day 1 of the College Open with 21 pounds, 5 ounces, which was a little more than 4½ pounds out of the lead. Shane Campbell (Highland) and Phillip Germagliotti (Highland) held down 32nd place at 16 pounds, 1 ounce, which was one pound below the cut line for a berth to the national championship. Teammates Jacob Louis (Pinckneyville) and J.T. Russell (Goreville) were in 44th place, two pounds below the championship cut line, while the duo of Taylor Schmitt (Lebanon) and Trevor McKinney (Benton) were in 103rd place.
Day 2 was a bit rougher, as anglers were scrambling to figure out how to catch the fish. Many of the top teams from the first day were unable to find their earlier consistency and repeat their Day 1 performance. The same held true for Chapman and Lilly, who were unable to catch a keeper in the final day.
Louis and Russell were coming off a win earlier in the month at the Bassmaster College Series Midwest Conference Regional at Lake of the Ozarks. The victory qualified the duo to fish in the Bassmaster National Championship in August.
“I am so proud of this entire team for their dedication and passion to the sport of bass fishing,” McKendree coach John Rinderer said. “Due to the back-to-back scheduling of tournaments, the team had to drive straight from another tournament to fish the Bassmaster. These guys drove over 1,000 miles and were up by 5 a.m. or before each and every day and fished at least eight hours each day, completed homework in the evenings and averaged less than seven hours of sleep per night.”
Recognizing the interest in college angling — Illinois has more than a handful of college teams — Illinois Outdoor News will continue to follow the teams through the spring and into the summer.
Meanwhile, if you want to see how a college bass fishing tournament looks in person, check out the McKendree Spring Invitational, which will be contested on Saturday at Vandalia Lake in Vandalia.