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Illinois was the first state to sanction bass fishing as a high school sport, and on May 8 and 9, the Illinois High School Association state tournament named the first state champion in the history of the sport.
West Frankfort High School took home the title. The members of the team include sophomores Dylan Vaughn and Kaleb Gardner, freshman Lane Murphy, and head coach Keith Vaughn. Riverton High School took home the biggest fish award for catching a 5.2 lbs bass.
The tournament was held at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle.
"We're all excited about it, and we're glad to see the enthusiasm generated by it. It is the first ever and an honor and privilege for the city," said Carlyle mayor Van Johnson.
In order to fish in the state tournament, teams had to place first or second at the sectional level and had to follow all the eligibility requirements set by the IHSA.
Each competing high school team was allowed two students fishing in the boat at one time and one adult to operate the boat. Alternates were also allowed to fish in the tournament, but could only do so if they switched out with another angler in the boat. There was also a speed limit of 35mph set, and teams exceeding that speed would be disqualified.
53 boats competed, and the boats were launched at 7 a.m. both mornings.
IHSA executive director Dave Gannaway had been involved with planning this event for two years.
"It's been a lot of planning, and seeing it pulled together is awesome," said Gannaway.
Some fishing teams arrived on Thursday to pre-fish on the lake. That night there was also a banquet with fishing legend Babe Winkelman.
The first day of fishing was cut short due to a storm, giving the students only about three hours to fish. After the first day's weigh-in, some students participated in a casting contest open to all ages. Along with the casting contest, the participants and the community had the opportunity to take in the sounds of the band South 70 in an evening concert.
The final day of fishing was a challenge. Students fished the entire time allowed and West Frankfort took home the trophy.
Taylor Scott is a senior journalism student at Carlyle High School in Illinois.
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