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The maturing of IHSA bass fishing: Some thoughts in the 8th year

Jim Phillips, veteran fisheries biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, tried to keep in the largemouth bass being weighed by Fenwick's Ben Kisla at the Skokie Lagoons sectional.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Alex Davis looked different Friday from the last time I saw him.

He should. He was two years older and in a different role for Fenwick.

Davis did his alma mater proud Friday, driving the boat from which the Friars qualified again for state from the sectional at Skokie Lagoons.

In its eight year as an activity sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association (first in the world to do so), high school bass fishing shows signs of maturity.

Davis is one sign. As a student, he qualified for state in 2012 and ’14. The last time, he partnered with Ben Kisla, now a senior.

This time Davis drove the boat from which Kisla and his sophomore brother Tim caught three largemouth bass–“flipping logs”–weighing 5 pounds, 9 ounces to win the sectional. Tim caught the big bass of the day–2 pounds, 10 ounces–on a “wacky-rigged Senko” about 9:30 a.m. They tried to get a “kicker’’ (bigger fish) but ended up not needing it.

That’s another sign of the sport maturing. The students, overall, are much better at the technical side of fishing.

In IHSA events, two students (male or female) fish with an adult boat driver. Each boat may sub up to two fishers. Each school may enter two boats. Weight determines finishes. Each boat may weigh their five heaviest black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted), 12 inches or longer.

The top three teams at the 22 sectionals qualified for state, May 20-21 on Carlyle Lake. Notre Dame and Taft (brothers Ken and Matt Maggiore) also advanced from Skokie. All three schools have made multiple trips to state, another sign of maturity in the sport.

Another sign of maturity comes with the seniors who qualified for state at Skokie. Fishing is important to their lives, but not a sole motivator. Ben Kisla will study business at St. Thomas. Notre Dame seniors John D’Amico (political communication, in the footsteps of his father) and Riley McAndrew (exercise science) will attend to Illinois State, where both plan to fish on the bass team.

Notre Dame had lively fish to weigh in too at the Skokie Lagoons sectional.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
Notre Dame had lively fish to weigh in too at the Skokie Lagoons sectional.
Credit: Dale Bowman

And they are good at fishing. Notre Dame also boated a pair of walleye, including one that went 19 1/2 inches.

In other sectional notes, the Chicago area had the distinction of having the heaviest winners (Sandwich, 16 pounds, 7.4 ounces, Lake Holiday) and lightest (Minooka, 4-12, Heidecke Lake). Joliet Central (Braidwood), St. Charles (Shabbona Lake) and St. Laurence (Des Plaines River) qualified both of their boats for state.

And yes, in one of my great joys as a former preps writer, I will do a Chicago-area top 10 for bass fishing next week.

Bret Vogt | Facebook photo

IN MEMORY: As president of the Illini Bass Fishing Club, Bret Vogt (right) fit a tradition of fishers from the Chicago area being club leaders.

He died unexpectedly earlier this month.

His wake is 4-9 p.m. Friday at Davenport Family Funeral Home in Barrington.

FORAGING: Many reports of morels already in dried-out mode come in.

So do many reports of wild asparagus being already stalked out or flowering.

STRAY CAST: “Rake” as a verb is to baseball talk what “duck snort” is as a noun: imprecise as a jig pitched to a dock pinging off the metal facing, over and over.