By Lucas Stoner

The Illini Bass Fishing Club of the University of Illinois hosted our 2nd Annual High School Open tournament on April 7th at Clinton Lake. In our inaugural event, we had 50 teams compete from all over the state of Illinois. We are excited to report that we set the bar even higher, surpassing that mark with participation from 67 teams this year. This tournament was one of the largest high school tournaments in the state, as well as the largest known collegiate ran high school tournament.

On a tough post-frontal day, the 134 high school anglers competing in this tournament still found ways to catch some finicky Clinton Lake bass. Out of the 67 high school teams in attendance, Dunlap High School topped them all with a five fish limit weighing 17.73 lbs! Monticello High School came up just short with their best five weighing 17.71 lbs landing in second place. Bishop McNamara locked in a third place finish with another fantastic bag of 17.62 lbs. Monticello High School had a great showing, adding a fourth place boat to their runner-up team. The latter team had five fish weighing 14.12 lbs, anchored by a 6.75 lb beast earning big bass of the day. Rounding out the top five was Plainfield Central with a five fish limit weighing 13.32 lbs. On a difficult day of fishing, to have these anglers weigh in limits like these is incredible. The proof is in the pudding, these ‘kids’ can fish! Check out our website for the full results here:

The goal of our tournament is to help promote fishing to the younger generations, and also show high school anglers there is a place for them after Illinois High School Association fishing. Illinois was the first state to implement high school fishing as a sport and it has been a huge success. Since its founding 5 years ago, participation has grown every year throughout the state and several other states have followed Illinois’ lead. We have seen the effects first hand in our club, as we have had more and more members coming in with previous tournament experience.  College fishing is growing every year, and a lot of this growth is due to tournament organizations like B.A.S.S. but also to the high school fishing programs that get anglers started at a younger age. College fishing provides anglers want to take their passion for the sport to the next level a chance to do so. Many collegiate anglers are heading straight into professional fishing after college, such as last years B.A.S.S. Elite Series Rookie of the Year, Brandon Card. He was the first collegiate angler to make it to the Elite rankings and was welcomed with immediate success, winning a prestigious title and qualifying for the Bassmaster’s Classic. Our club has witnessed this transition firsthand, as our current president, Cody Sullivan, is in the process of making the transition to the professional side of bass fishing as well. Cody’s story gives us the unique ability to show these young anglers how they too can rise in from the high school level, to the collegiate level, and eventually to a professional career.

Although the fishing was tough, judging by the reactions from the anglers and coaches alike, the tournament was a success because we were able to get the students out on the water and enjoying the sport they love. The smiles on the faces of each and every high school angler made all the work that went into this tournament more than worth it. The future of competitive bass fishing is something the Illini Bass Fishing Club takes seriously, and we are proud to do our part in developing the future of this amazing sport. This tournament is something that our club looks forward to every year, and we are proud that it has been more successful than we ever could have hoped for. We are all looking forward to running this tournament again next year, hopefully with an even larger field and more prizes to give away to the up-and-comers of our sport.