MORRIS, Ill. — Cody Laite and Eddie Wozniak found the right fit Saturday.

The Minooka seniors, who plan to become pipefitters, caught the only five-bass limit on the Illinois River to win the Rayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn Community High School Tournament out Stratton State Park.

Oak Lawn’s fall tournament has drawn high school teams from around the Chicago area since its beginning. Morris-based Rayjus Outdoors has been a sponsor since its founding eight years ago.

Boats lined up along the Illinois River Saturday at the end of the Rayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn Community High School Bass Tournament.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Schools can take bass fishing several ways. Some focus on tournaments, but many focus on general outdoors. Oak Lawn fits the broader side. As a writer, I enjoy that club members produce a newsletter and articles.

‘‘It’s not just for the competitive fishermen,’’ coach Chris Kuchyt said.

He proudly noted that club members had a blast catching bluegills and catfish at the last event on Shabbona Lake.

At Minooka, coach Stan Tischer leads one of the biggest and most successful programs. Four fall tournaments determine the top eight anglers, and they become the tournament anglers.

The turnout from parents and community is stunning. There were 14 boats at the last tournament on Braidwood Lake.

‘‘We have very good support from the administration and the community and the sponsors,’’ Tischer said. ‘‘It’s the people and the kids.’’

Plainfield South caught the big bass and finished second at the Rayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn Community High School Bass Tournament.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Saturday showed another evolution in high school bass fishing. It was an Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation state tournament qualifying event.

IBN vice president Ralph Sweat organized the weigh-in. He put Frank Hyla, the youth-fishing coordinator for Shimano, on the mic and Fred Labanowski and Andrew Thiesse on the bump board and scales.

The crowd murmured when Plainfield South weighed the big bass of the tournament, a 2.68-pound largemouth caught by senior Riley Carr. Plainfield South finished second (four bass, 6.18 pounds).

As for Minooka, Tischer said his fishermen caught their fish shallower than usual (3 to 4 feet) and with slow-moving baits.

Laite and Wozniak primarily used Ned rigs and Carolina rigs to catch four keeper smallmouth and one keeper largemouth, totaling 8.76 pounds.

‘‘I was dreaming since I was a kid to win a tournament,’’ Laite said.

That’s the heart of high school bass fishing.


Here’s to Dan Svachula, a longtime bass-fishing coach at Notre Dame College Prep, who finished the Chicago Marathon in 6 hours, 29 minutes, 17 seconds.

“I was proudly wearing my Bass Fishing State Qualifier shirt,’’ he messaged.


Illinois’ north zone youth waterfowl hunt is Saturday and Sunday. Nearby public sites included Chain O’Lakes State Park, Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area and William W. Powers State Recreation Area.

Tame things

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant holds another aquatic pet take back event from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at Evanston Ecology Center. Only fish and aquatic invertebrates accepted (no penalties for turning in regulated species). Click here for more information.

Wild things

Fallen hedge apples and walnuts begin to litter fencerows and rural roadsides. . . . Sandhill cranes are moving. The weekly count at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, southeast of Valparaiso, Ind., will begin. When the counts begin, they should be posted here.

Stray cast

Monday as a Chicago sports day (Cubs playoff game, Mitch Trubisky debut) was like a May day outdoors (morning turkey hunt, midday morel picking, evening crappie fishing).

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.