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Spotlight: High School Bass Fishing

Each year, over 400,000 high school students across the state participate in nearly 40 sports and activities through the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). One of IHSA’s most unique offerings is competitive bass fishing. In 2009, Illinois became the first state in the nation to hold a high school bass fishing tournament at the state level. IHSA has been hosting state high school bass fishing tournaments for the past 15 years and interest in the sport has continued to grow. In 2023, IHSA bass fishing tournaments included over 200 Illinois high schools and thousands of high school aged fishing enthusiasts. One of those high school bass fishermen is senior Levi Chandler from Chatham Glenwood High School. Levi is on the Glenwood Titans Bass Fishing Team which competes in high school tournaments around central Illinois. When asked what he enjoys about being on the team Levi stated, “it brings the love of fishing to a team atmosphere associated with your school.” Levi and his fishing partner Luke Leahy recently finished 12th out of 40 boats on Lake Springfield in the ibass Lake Springfield Tournament held on March 30th. 

Glenwood Titans Bass Fishing Team Members, Levi Chandler and Luke Leahy

With tournaments on Lake Springfield, Sangchris Lake, Lake Decatur, Prairie Lake and others, the members of the Glenwood Titans Bass Team get to spend time in the great outdoors and put their fishing skills to work trying to catch the heaviest 5 fish limit per boat. Each boat consists of 2 anglers and an adult captain/coach, who may make suggestions but not fish in any way. Fish must be kept alive in a live well during the tournament, and all fish are released immediately after weigh-in. Other local schools participating in high school bass fishing include Rochester, Edinburgh, New Berlin, Petersburg PORTA, and Jacksonville. Last year's state tournament was won by Teutopolis, with Petersburg PORTA placing 4th in the state. This year, the IHSA will hold 25 sectional competitions on May 2nd. The state final tournament will be held May 17th and 18th at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, Illinois.

For those high school anglers who want to continue their craft in college, there are over 600 colleges in the United States that have competitive bass fishing teams. Scholarships may be available. Organized collegiate bass fishing tournaments have been around longer than high school tournaments. The first known college bass fishing tournament took place in 1992 at Lake Monroe in Indiana between Purdue University and the University of Indiana. Purdue won that tournament by three pounds.

Illinois is home to several colleges that have competitive bass fishing teams, including Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, SIU Carbondale, University of Illinois, Illinois State, Illinois Central, and McKendree University. In fact, McKendree University in Lebanon is a perennial top-tier collegiate fishing school. In this year’s preseason poll, the McKendree Bearcats were ranked 5th in the nation. Since the 2018-2019 season, McKendree has finished each year in the top 5 of the Association of Collegiate Anglers School of the Year standings. McKendree is also a two-time winner of the prestigious Bass Pro Shops School of the Year in 2019 and 2020. In the fishing off-season McKendree University students might just practice bowling. McKendree University has several national championships in bowling.


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