It is finally here, my favorite time of the year! Spring has finally sprung in most parts of the country. The bass, and bass fisherman, are starting to get out in numbers everywhere. These next few weeks will be some of the best fishing all year! I know I’ll be getting out at every possible moment, and I hope you do the same when you get the chance.
But what I wanted to talk about today was the extremely bright future fishing has in it’s future! A couple weekends ago on April 6th the Illini Bass Fishing Club hosted our 3rd annual High School Open Tournament on Illinois’ Clinton Lake. To my knowledge, it is the only tournament ran by volunteer college kids for high school anglers in the country. I am extremely proud to announce that we topped all our expectations this year and had 79 high school boats compete in our tournament. With alternate anglers included, we ended up having around 170 high school anglers in attendance on a cold, post- frontal day in Central Illinois. The thirty-five degree weather didn’t seem to deter these future bass-masters at all; they were there before the sun, eager for the day.
We started this tournament three years ago with the main goal being to help promote bass fishing to the next generation, as well as showing high school anglers there is somewhere to go after Illinois High School Association fishing. Illinois was the first state to implement high school fishing as a sport six years ago and it has been a huge success. Several other states have followed Illinois lead and implemented high school programs. Industry leaders like BASS now even have an amazing program available to high school anglers! http://www.bassmaster.com/high-school-registration
This tournament offers us a great opportunity to showcase the Illini Bass Club’s sponsors amazing products. We know we are backed by the best companies in the industry, and we love the opportunity to pass these great products along to the next generation of competitive anglers. I cannot go without saying, that this tournament is only possible because of the fantastic and continued support of our sponsors. They all donate a boatload of prizes for these anglers to fish for, and the feedback has been fantastic! We had several anglers tell us this year that they look forward to our tournament every year, and that it is the highlight of their season. That alone makes all the preparation and work that goes into this tournament well 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 promoting the future of this amazing sport.
It was a very tough day on the water for the high school teams; they were met with a cold-front and having to fish a day behind another 75 boat tournament the day before. Still, these anglers found ways to catch fish when the conditions were against them. The full results of the tournament, and pictures can be found on our website through this link: http://www.fightingillinibassclub.com/uploads/6/5/1/8/6518616final_results_2014_ibfc.pdf
Even with the tough fishing, we are absolutely certain that this tournament was a success. Judging by the reactions from high school anglers and coaches alike, they would agree. There was still the usual excitement during the take off of the tournament, even with 35 degree temperatures! After a long and grueling day on the water, we were astounded to see all the upbeat and smiling faces at the weigh-in. These kids just flat out love to fish! Hot or cold, windy or calm, tough fishing or great fishing – none of it seemed to dampen their spirits. We had 170 high school anglers show up to fish in 35 degree weather on what they all knew would be a tough fishing day; if that doesn’t speak volumes about the passion the youth of this sport has and the promising future that competitive bass fishing has ahead, I don’t know what will!
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 cannot wait to run this tournament again next year, hopefully with another full field and even more fantastic sponsor prizes to award to the up-and-comers of our sport. I encourage you all to get out and take a kid fishing at every opportunity. We have a fantastic thing going on within this sport, and it is on all of us to make sure we pass it on to the next generation. For any college clubs out there reading this, I strongly urge you to consider hosting a tournament for your area high school clubs. The feedback from our tournament has been fantastic and it is a great opportunity to get involved with the next crop of competitive anglers! As always, keep your baits wet and your lines tight!