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Ryan “Ski” Kwiecinski: A prism to the IHSA bass-fishing sectionals

There’s stories of Ryan “Ski” Kwiecinski at 2 in the bottom of the boat, sometimes in a car seat, fishing with his dad Joe.

“I grew up on the boat fishing,” Kwiecinski said.

There’s good reason he is who he is: Somebody who loves fishing and marketing/sales.

Oh, it’s a good thing, a true- blue American thing.

The Illinois High School Association’s state tournament for bass fishing also helped.

This is the expanded online version of my Wednesday column on the Sun-Times outdoors page with notes and Show & Go at the bottom.

The seventh state tournament for bass fishing begins Friday with 22 sectionals. Chicago-area schools are in 10 sites: Braidwood Lake, Busse Woods (two), Chain O’Lakes (two), Des Plaines River, Heidecke Lake, Lake Holiday, Shabbona Lake and Skokie Lagoons. A record 254 schools are signed up for sectionals.

skiethanKwiecinski (right in photo) and fellow senior Ethan Goldstein will be one of the two teams Sandburg sends to the Des Plaines sectional out of Big Basin Marina. Coach Jim Corcoran hopes their experience carries them to a top-three finish. The top three at sectionals advance to the state finals May 15-16 at Carlyle Lake.

“Both are exceptional anglers with four years of experience,” Corcoran emailed. “Both run their own boats outside of the IHSA season and compete in high school tournaments as well as open tourneys and perform well.”
But fishing as a profession is more than catching fish. Having a father in sales helps. Kwiecinski gets that.

“He is pretty special,” said Brad Jackson, manager at Anglers Outlet, where Kwiecinski worked the past year. “He is an excellent fishermen and very mature, very good with customers. This was the profession he wanted to do, sales rep or something like that.

“He can play all the positions [in fishing]. The problem you have with some of the younger bass guys is that [bass fishing] is all they know. [Kwiecinski] is different. I think he can actually fillet a fish.”

At the Schaumburg show this winter, I watched him work the floor like an old pro. He even shot two GoPro interviews for me.

He ran an innnovative Relay for Life fundraiser, a fishing tournament on the Des Plaines where he was able to gather support and prizes from Bass Pro and Odin Outdoors.

“Ryan does have a knack for the marketing side of the sport and has made great contacts in the angling community in Chicagoland,” Corcoran said. “He is mature for his years and interacts well with adults in the angling community. He has potential to go far in the industry.”

Kwiecinski will study marketing at Moraine Valley. He and Oak Lawn senior John Neubauer will revive the bass fishing team. Neubauer is one of two from Illinois chosen among the 57 for the 2015 Bassmaster High School All-State Fishing Team. Marist grad Jim O’Neil was the last to make Moraine bass fishing go.

As to fishing the Des Plaines, Kwiecinski said he has fished it weekly to “stay on the fish, just to make sure I know what they are doing by sectionals.”

“It is a fun fishery, but it can also be one of the toughest,” said Kwiecinski, who will likely work creature baits or throw crankbaits.

The guy he looks up to in the fishing world is Mike Iaconelli, not surprisingly, because of how he fishes, his show and his marketing skills.

“He is a great guy from seeing him out at the Schaumburg Show,” Kwiecinski said.

Yet Kwiecisnki, who also played forward for the Sandburg hockey team, understands life is more than fishing.

“I had to miss a tournament Saturday for prom,” Kwiecinski said.

Life does need balance.

STRAY CAST: The Baltimore riots looked like bass corralling shad, but with opposite emotional responses.

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Hoosier Coho Club Classic: Michigan City, Ind., Saturday-Sunday, hoosiercohoclub.org

Midwest Morel Fest: Ottawa, Saturday-Sunday, morelmania.com, (815) 434-2737

Stark County Morel Mushroom Festival: Wyoming, Saturday, on Facebook, (309) 286-6200 or (309) 883-3057

Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Series opener: Delavan Lake, Wis., Saturday, kayakfish247.com