Hononegah Bass Fishing team building a tradition of success on and off the water
Have you ever heard the quote "A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work"?
Recently, I had the opportunity to join the Hononegah High School Bass Fishing team for practice prior to the upcoming postseason fishing tournament.
The IHSA Bass Fishing Sectional takes place at Pierce Lake inside Rock Cut State Park. The IHSA Bass Fishing Sectional tournament starts Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 7 a.m. The top three boats move on to the IHSA State Final Bass Fishing Championship at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle Lake, IL Friday, May 19– Saturday, May 20.
The coaches for the Hononegah High School Bass Fishing team are Bill Heller and Sharon Bowman. Coach Heller has been a part of the program for six years and he remembers the reason they started the Bass Fishing team was to give opportunities to kids.
The Hononegah High School Bass Fishing team practices a couple of times a week on local lakes or ponds. They are always looking for new spots for the kids to practice on. Another point that I made note of was that the team didn’t have their own boats. They had to borrow boats from kid’s families and friends boats. They are always looking for community members to offer the use of their boats and fishing spots.
While attending practice I had the chance to say hi to team members Colton Boelkes and Mason Lambert. Colton is one of ten members of the first recruiting class for Southeastern Florida University on a bass fishing Scholarship. Southeastern Florida University is located in Lakeland, Florida just north of Miami. Southeastern Florida University is one of 610 colleges that have bass fishing teams (according to the Southeastern Florida University website). Last year, the IHSA had 319 teams compete. In the state of Illinois, since the inception of fishing as a sport for the IHSA in 2009, the number of teams grew from 199 to 319 in the 2022 season. The Southeastern Florida University Bass Fishing team competes in the Bassmaster College Series and Major League Fishing Abu Garcia College Fishing Series.
The Hononegah Bass Fishing program has 17 kids total on the roster. But since many times the team can only have a max of three boats in the water and two fisherman in the boats (if they have two boats), most times at practice kids fish from shore and in boats.
As I was leaving practice, I sat in my truck and looked out over the water at the two boats full of kids. Not a single one of them were on their phones - they were talking with each other.
There's an old quote that goes like this: "There are two types of fisherman – those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish."
The team has been very successful over the last few seasons:
IHSA State Final Bass Fishing Championship
2020-2021 #18 Place
2022-2023 #20 Place
But I’d be willing to bet that someday none of these kids will remember the finishes in the tournament. They will cherish and think back on the days, nights, and times they spent fishing.
Since I, like many others, love fish fries, I had to ask what they do with the bass they catch. Sadly, they toss them back to get bigger. I guess I will need to catch my own in the Northwoods of Wisconsin this summer.
The Hononegah High School Bass Fishing team is always looking for spots to fish and for use of boats for the kids. Contact Sharon Bowman or Bill Heller for more information on how you can support the team.