Active high school bass fishing coach earns induction to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame
Brian Drendel, currently president of the Illinois Bass Fishing Coaches Association, earned induction to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame for his work since the beginning of promoting Illinois’ innovative high school bass fishing program.
Brian Drendel honed his fishing with his parents and relatives on trips to a family cabin on Spider Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin.
“I loved every minute in the boat and every minute of untangling my lousy equipment,” he said,
He’s come a long way in fishing and into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.
The Illinois Conservation Foundation will induct John Burke, Jr. (hunting safety, outdoor opportunities), Betty DeFord (Redneck Fishing Tournament) and Drendel (high school bass fishing) in a virtual gala (ilconservation.org/Events/Gala) 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday. Nick Offerman will be the keynote speaker.
Drendel became a biology teacher at Batavia, where he grew up, attended and wrestled in high school. He was head wrestling coach for more than 10 years, then resigned and started a fishing club just before the Illinois High School Association made bass fishing an activity in 2008-09.
Drendel was on the ad-hoc committee that helped the IHSA set up its bass fishing.
“By the end of the meeting, we had a pretty good plan on how to move forward,” Drendel said. “It was an exciting day.”
With IHSA bass fishing, Drendel, who has been Batavia’s coach since the beginning, changed focus of the fishing club from multi-species to competitive fishing.
“[Tournament fishing] is a different deal than fun fishing,” he said “Because of time, we changed our time to be more competitive bass fishing.”
Drendel is used to learning/adjusting in fishing.
When young, he fished the Fox River, local lakes and Shabbona Lake in its early days, beside family trips to Spider Lake. He has a group of buddies who have fished together since high school and much anticipates their Canadian trip, which was delayed three years. When young, he read every Fishing Facts magazine he could “get his hands on,” watched every show possible and followed In-Fisherman.
“I did it the old-fashioned way, today the learning curve is so much faster,” Drendel said.
Learning high school bass fishing now is more YouTube than reading. Drendel made that adaptation in his coaching and teaching.
Asked his proudest moment, Drendel said, “At this point, starting the Illinois Bass Fishing Coaches Association [in 2019]. Out of that came ICASSTT.”
Many high school programs grew beyond the IHSA set-up, something IBFCA, with Drendel as first president, recognized in starting ICASSTT (Illinois Coaches and Student State Tournament Trail).
“The IHSA is a great thing, but it is basically a sectional and, if you qualify, going to state, so basically two tournaments,” Drendel said.
During the lockdown, Drendel set up IBFCA as a nonprofit. ICASSTT entry fees go “100 percent” for trophies, running the tournaments and angler scholarships.
ICASSTT also adapted to the world of teenagers. Rather than pre-tournament meetings, there are digital tournament rules and digital maps of off-limit areas.
“Basically, we brought [tournament fishing] into the modern era,” Drendel said. “You do everything ahead of time and it makes our tournaments run very smoothly. We have smart people who know how to use Google forms.”
ICASSTT tournaments are spread around the state nearly year-round. The championship will be about 70 boats June 4-5 at Lake Springfield.
“It will be a carnival-like atmosphere,” Drendel said. “Food trucks will be there to serve breakfast and food trucks in the afternoon. Hotels are giving discounts, businesses giving discounts.”
Last year, the top five boats at the championship qualified for the Bassmasters High School National Championship.
“Based on numbers so far this year, we will qualify more this year,” Drendel said.
More adapting comes for Drendel. He retires as a teacher another year, so he will step down as IBFCA president in July, though remain on the board, to make a smooth transition.