Celebrating young anglers in IHSA bass fishing

Just cause to celebrate the first sweep of the medals by Chicago-area teams at the IHSA’s state finals for bass fishing and to ponder the state of the state finals and Carlyle Lake.

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Antioch’s Tucker Siminak eyes his second straight trophy at the IHSA’s state finals of bass fishing, with coach Brad Rubin (left) and teammate Christian Filipek.

Antioch’s Tucker Siminak eyes his second straight trophy at the IHSA’s state finals of bass fishing, with coach Brad Rubin (left) and teammate Christian Filipek.

Dale Bowman

CARLYLE — Asked if he had dreams in bass fishing, Brett Mouw said, “Yes sir, ever since I was younger, I wanted to fish the Bassmaster Classic.’’

This from a guy who runs track and is a running back at Joliet Catholic Academy, a gridiron powerhouse that sends players to top colleges and the NFL. All four anglers who qualified in both Hilltopper boats for the Illinois High School Association state finals for bass fishing were football players.

Last Saturday, JCA claimed its first state championship in bass fishing on Carlyle Lake. Mouw, a junior, and sophomore Logan Kinsella in JCA’s Boat 1, driven by Mouw’s dad Ryan, caught their limit of five largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Kinsella caught two keepers on back-to-back casts in the final hour, so they culled two smaller fish, important because Antioch finished second, ounces behind (8-8).

Joliet Catholic’s Boat 1, of Logan Kinsella (left) and Brett Mouw, won the Hilltoppers’ first championship in the IHSA’s state finals of bass fishing.

Joliet Catholic’s Boat 1, of Logan Kinsella (left) and Brett Mouw, won the Hilltoppers’ first championship in the IHSA’s state finals of bass fishing.

Dale Bowman

After 13 years (14 if the cancellation in 2020 is included), here’s a few takeaways.

  • Bass fishing at the high school and collegiate level has come a long way since the first IHSA state finals in 2009. The IHSA deserves credit as a catalyst for that seismic shift.

At smaller or religious schools, bass fishing has become a featured scholarship sport. At larger state schools, it is often a club sport, involving nationwide travel.

Ryan Mouw said his son would like to bass fish and play football in college. That sounds impossible, but I hope he pulls it off.

Antioch senior Tucker Siminak was noticed as a freshman by Jon Rinderer, bass-fishing coach at McKendree University. Siminak is a prime reason the Sequoits finished top-10 the last four consecutive seasons for coach Brad Rubin. Siminak finished top-10 all three of his years at state: eighth in 2019 (might have won state if not for a frightening boat wreck), third last year and second this year with sophomore Christian Filipek.

On Signing Day, Siminak signed with McKendree.

  • Note Siminak was noticed as a freshman. The improvement of younger anglers the last 14 years is stunning. The first couple years of state finals were a tough watch. Since then, coaches and anglers improved exponentially.

Take Stevenson, which qualified both boats for the finals. Boat 1 with sophomores Liam Plautz and Matthew Qaulich, driven by Troy Billingsley, finished third with 7-13, anchored by Qaulich catching tournament Big Bass (3-5).

“He’s no stranger to catching big bass,” said coach Chris Mural, noting Qaulich also has taken Big Bass honors at Illinois Coaches and Student State Tournament Trail (ICASSTT) events.

Stevenson has sophomores and a junior that make it a threat for years and also at the ICASSTT Clash, June 4-5 on Lake Springfield. The Patriots qualified both boats for that state championship.

Stevenson’s Boat 1 took third at the IHSA state finals for bass fishing; pictured at the medal ceremony are (L-R) Bill Mueller (coach/Boat 2 driver), head coach Chris Mural, coach/Boat 1 driver Troy Billingsley, Liam Plautz and Matthew Qaulich.

Stevenson’s Boat 1 took third at the IHSA state finals for bass fishing; pictured at the medal ceremony are (L-R) Bill Mueller (coach/Boat 2 driver), head coach Chris Mural, coach/Boat 1 driver Troy Billingsley, Liam Plautz and Matthew Qaulich.

Dale Bowman

  • A coach whose team regularly makes the finals and medaled once, texted, “Another year at Carlyle. Another tourney crushed by the weather. IHSA should have moved it when they had the chance. Our guys got skunked yesterday along with [nearly] half the teams.”

He’s right. The growth in high school bass fishing deserved better than the IHSA decision last year to return to Carlyle for three more years.

Weather threats delayed, postponed or shortened the state finals 11 of the 13 years at Carlyle. Day 1 was stopped early at 1 p.m. by wind. Day 2, last Saturday, was canceled after a second round of storms hit, making it the second finals shortened to one day.

  • The IHSA had a good option at Springfield, and didn’t try it. The ICASSTT Clash next weekend will make a good compare/contrast.
With the IHSA’s state finals for bass fishing delayed, shortened or postponed by weather 11 of its 13 years at Carlyle Lake, anglers, family and coaches have learned to find things to do, such as Saturday when some fished for crappie between storms at the Dam West ramp.

With the IHSA’s state finals for bass fishing delayed, shortened or postponed by weather 11 of its 13 years at Carlyle Lake, anglers, family and coaches have learned to find things to do, such as Saturday when some fished for crappie between storms at the Dam West ramp.

Dale Bowman

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