From grilling deer steaks outside to going sauger fishing in the evenings, Ken Maggiore and his brother Matt know how to set outdoors ambiance.

Sophomore Matt Maggiore (left), his senior brother Ken and coach Mike Mulligan had a better weekend after the IHSA's state championship for bass fishing. Credit: Dale Bowman

Sophomore Matt Maggiore (left), his senior brother Ken and coach Mike Mulligan had a better weekend after the IHSA’s state championship for bass fishing.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Maggiore, a senior, and his sophomore brother Matt, qualified Taft for the Illinois High School Association’s eighth state championship for bass fishing on Carlyle Lake.

With four state appearances, Taft is by far the most successful bass fishing program in the Chicago Public Schools.

This year was disappointing with one bass of 2 pounds, 9 ounces caught opening day Friday. They blanked Saturday to finish 42nd.

Things took a major turn Saturday night.

They went jigging near the General Dean Suspension Bridge on the Kaskaskia River downstream of the Carlyle Dam. They had done well for sauger there other evenings.

Maggiore was using a smelt-colored 3-inch Gulp! Minnow on an 1/8th-ounce orange and chartreuse jighead when something big his way came.

“When I hooked it into, I thought it was a [bighead carp] or something,’’ he said. “All of a sudden my drag started screaming.’’

“It was hooked in an eddy close to shore underneath the suspension bridge just John Albers, one of the coaches fishing with the brothers.

It weighed 4 pounds, 15 ounces on a digital scale.

Albers suggested Maggiore look up the state record for white bass. Illinois’ white bass record (4-14) was caught from the Kaskaskia by Bruce Wilson on Oct. 7, 1981.

That changed Maggiore’s plan to eat it. “Then the rush came and I thought let’s get it to a certified scale,’’ Maggiore said.

Easier said than done.

“We tried to get it weighed at Walmart, but the manager said, “We are not going to do that,’ ‘’ he said.

No bait shop or other store with a certified scale (key to verifying a record) was open.

“So we decided to freeze it and take it back home and take it over to Henry’s Bait and Tackle,’’ Maggiore said.

He did it right, wrapping it in a towel and freezing it. But he knew it would lose some weight. Sunday afternoon at Henry’s, it weighed 4-10 on their certified scale.

I’m leery of telling white bass from hybrid striped bass, so I sent the photo to Dan Stephenson, fisheries chief for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He thought it was more likely a hybrid: “I would have to see the tongue patches to confirm.”

The hybrid record is far bigger (20-0.32) than the white bass one. Illinois’ record hybrid was caught by David Gjelsvik from Lake of Egypt on June 20, 1993.

White bass have one tooth patch, hybrids have two tooth patches.

The fish had already been sent to Dean Duda for mounting, so Maggiore couldn’t get a picture of the inside of the mouth.

From the first year of the IHSA’s state championship, the best fish were not bass.

On the first day in 2009, Zion-Benton sophomore sub Josh “Schnagg” Stagg fished below the dam while he waited and landed a 46-pound flathead catfish. In 2012, Streamwood’s Zach Eldredge caught a 50-pound flathead on a classic black and blue jig prefishing (find the YouTube video).

Add Maggiore to that wonderful tradition.

“It is a once in a lifetime memory,’’ Maggiore said.

Catch’em where make’em, I say.

IN MEMORY: Tom Bolbot was a fixture at Chauncey Niziol’s events. Now the life-long friends are separated by Bolbot’s death. Visitation will be 3-9 p.m. today at Schmaedeke Funeral Home in Worth.

STRAY CAST: Shakira in “Try Everything” sounds like the Dixie Chicks as much as hybrid stripers look like white bass.