Fishing for a state championship

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The adoption of bass fishing as a sanctioned Illinois High School Association sport has led to the emergence of a new type of athlete never before seen in the prep sports arena. Naperville North (Ill.) High School's bass fishing team is gearing up for what will surely be an exciting weekend on Lake Carlyle at the first ever IHSA bass fishing state championships.

The team is composed of senior Kurt Deichstetter, as well as sophomores Cam Barone, and Connor Stapleton. Seniors Kevin Yndestad and Jeremy Thomas will also be in attendance, and the five-some has high expectations for the state tournament.

The team's goal is simple: to win state by catching the biggest fish. But what is it that separates these five anglers from a bunch of buddies out for a day on the lake?

The trend seems to be that kids are getting involved in fishing at a young age, whether it is at a family lake house or, in the case of Barone, the interest stems from being a family or father-son activity. Leisurely fishing has developed into a competitive sport for Illinois teens who have been involved for many years.

"A lot of kids like doing it and it something that's cool to have. There are also scholarships you can get for fishing," said Barone.

The Naperville North team began when Barone and a friend decided they were bored back in January because they weren't in a spring sport. They started the Naperville North outdoors club, which then developed into the school's bass fishing team when they learned that bass fishing was becoming a sanctioned sport.

All members of the club are included in the team's practices but the tournament fishers were chosen based on their performance at practice and their knowledge level of the sport.

During the winter months, the team practiced in the school's cafeteria, casting at targets with plastic worms or pieces of wood tied to their lines. As the weather got nicer, the team fished on local lakes and ponds almost every day except Wednesdays when they held meetings to discuss fishing.

The team has been hard at work studying the host lake, Lake Carlyle, in order to locate "hot spots" where they expect the fish to be said Barone. This will likely be an advantage for the Huskies heading into this weekend.

The team also has a system in the boat where the person at the front uses one type of lure and the person at the back uses a different type and they see which works better. The team is also going down a day early to pre-fish the lake.

"It's a lot more fast paced and you can't just slack off," said Yndestad.

"It's a lot of right out of the water and cast right back in," added Barone.

It's clear that the team has put in a lot of hard work and the expectations as well as the excitement of these young anglers is high. The same can be said for the schools in the area of Lake Carlyle. In fact, a kick off party for the weekend has been scheduled including a guest speaker and a concert all taking place near Lake Carlyle.

It's now time for the team to put into practice the past semester of training as well as any skills they have picked up over the years to make a run at the first ever IHSA state title for bass fishing.

"I think we've got a shot at it if things start to go our way and we get some fish in the boat," said Deichstetter.

Michael Hogan is a senior at Naperville North High School in Naperville, Illinois.
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