A lot was on the line Sunday morning as they came to Marion County Lake to fish for bass. These anglers were no ordinary fishermen. They probably could out-fish most experienced anglers four times their ages.
Seventeen 11 to 18-year-old anglers were competing for positions on the Kansas championship team to vie for a central division prize. The winners of that tournament would advance to a world championship tournament.
According to youth director Brad Burns, it was no small fete to compete in Sunday’s tournament. These anglers had to qualify by earning a first, second, or third-place in at least three events in the fall of 2008 and this spring.
The competitors were from McPherson, Olathe, Blue Valley school district, Overland Park, Topeka, Iola, and Wichita. They are members of Kansas Bass Federation Nation Youth program, which is sponsored by an adult chapter of BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society).
Marion County Lake was chosen for the competition, Burns said, because there was a fishing event in spring 2008. The association was impressed with the lake and the reception it received from lake personnel, it decided to return the following year for a state championship tournament.
Here’s how it worked
There are two youth age groups — 11 to 14 and 15 to 18. Two youth anglers, one from each age group, fished from each boat. The boat’s captain was an adult from a BASS chapter. The captain operated the boat and verified each fish caught by the youth. The fish was measured with the information recorded on a scorecard. The fish then was released.
The total length of the top five fish caught was converted into a points system, which determined the top three placements.
The two top anglers from Sunday’s competition will join other state champions to comprise two Kansas teams, six from each age group. The teams will advance to a regional competition June 22-26 in Greers Ferry, Ark., where the Kansas team will compete against six other states including Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and Mississippi. The winners of that team will advance to a world championship tournament at a date and place to be announced.
“The bait used is artificial,” Burns said. “This is about skill not just putting bait on a hook and catching fish.”
This requires more skill, giving fish a fighting chance.
“This is the sport at its purist,” Burns said.
After six long hours of fishing with some competitors on the road before 4 a.m. to travel to Marion, the teams came to shore, put away their gear, and ate lunch.
When it was time to announce the winners, Burns said there were many fish caught but some were shorter than desired.
“You are the best of the best,” he said. “You should be proud to make it this far.”
The longest fish caught was 18.25 inches, Burns said, with the most fish caught by two anglers in a boat weighing 15 pounds 11 ounces.
The top placers in the 11-14 age group were Nick Luna of Olathe, first; Daniel Wiens of McPherson, second; and Justin Niccum of Olathe, third.
In the senior age group, 15-18, Alec Reberry of Olathe took first, Brandi Branine, the only female competitor, of Wichita, second; and Johnnie Rodgers of Overland Park, third.
The first-place winners received plaques and a fishing rod and reel. Second-place finishers received a fishing rod and reel and third-place finishers received tackle boxes.
With two excellent fishing lakes in Marion County, it is surprising there are not organizations like BASS in Marion County.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the youth or adult fishing tournaments can go to www.kbcsn.com or bassmasters.com for more information. Burns said he would be available to answer questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (913) 481-9480.