Illinois high school sports stepped into history on May 8 and 9, when Carlyle Lake hosted the first Illinois High School State Championship Bass Tournament. Illinois is one of the first states to sanction bass fishing as a state high school sport. The real story is how we got to that day.

Two years ago the IHSA surveyed high schools across the state about new sports to add to the IHSA-sanctioned list. Bass fishing was #5 on the list of requests. This year 199 schools from all over the state signed to up to compete in the first IHSA bass fishing tournament.

Sectional Tournaments were held on 18 lakes around the state, two of them — Skokie Lagoons and Busse Lake — in our backyard. Ten to 12 teams competed on these lakes on April 24 to be among the 53 finalists who would fish for the state title. Among the area schools competing were Niles North, Loyola Academy, North Shore Country Day, Glenbrook North, Maine West and Regina Dominican (yes, the ladies had a team).

When the final weigh-ins were completed, Maine West and Regina Dominican were into the finals.  The teams, made up of a coach/teacher and two team members, headed for Carlyle Lake in southwest Illinois, Illinois’ largest man-made lake.  On May 7 the teams all had one day to pre-fish, get accustomed to the lake and get a game plan for the two-day tournament.

May 8, Day 1 of the tournament, had to be cut short after only three hours of fishing because of weather. Day 2 dawned much nicer, and 53 boats launched at 7 a.m. The final weigh-in at 3 p.m. on Saturday saw a reversal of fortunes for a couple of the teams. St. Charles managed only three more fish and slipped to 3rd place, while the young people from West Frankfort moved from 6th to 1st place with a big five-fish limit weighing in at 10.31 lbs and a two-day total of over 16 lbs.  Though Regina Dominican didn’t fare well in the finals, I congratulate them on getting that far. Remember, there’s always next year.

My congratulations to all the young people who competed. Maybe next year I can write about the Evanston Township High School team in the finals.

Until next time, keep a tight line.

–Dick, hookedonfishing@comcast.net