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2014 High School Bass Fishing Championship

I got back yesterday from the 2014 High School Bass Fishing Championship at Merritt Reservoir, and I need to give a quick report on that tournament.  Here is the news release that will be going out:

Lincoln County Anglers Win High School Fishing Tournament

LINCOLN, Neb. – Kylan Rhodes and Austin Denisse of Lincoln County won the 2014 Nebraska State High School Fishing Tournament on July 26 at Merritt Reservoir.

The Lincoln County team weighed in a five-fish limit totaling 15.24 pounds. Second place went to Andrew Flair and Ethan Mally of Millard, coached by Dik Haneline, who caught five bass weighing 13.81 pounds.  Mally also caught the tournament’s biggest bass at 4.51 pounds.  Trevor and Sam Thomsen of Lincoln, coached by Dave Thomsen, finished third with five bass that weighed 13.60 pounds.

Rhodes, Denisse, Flair, and Mally advance to the Southern Regional Tournament October 19 on the Red River in Shreveport, LA.  The regional champion advances to nationals next spring.

Sixteen of the 24 competing teams brought 48 largemouth and two smallmouth bass totaling 132.25 pounds to the weigh-in station.  Five of the teams caught 5-fish limits.

The state tournament is a cooperative program between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and The Bass Federation – Student Angler Federation (TBF-SAF). The High School Fishing program includes a state tournament for every state in the continental United States, as well as Ontario, Canada. Two-person teams from grades 9 through 12 compete and are paired with a coach who provides a boat for competition.

Tournament organizers thank the Nebraska Walleye Association for the use of their trailer, scale and equipment, as well as their cooperation and support.

Now let me show a few pictures and fill in a few details.

The bass anglers launched early on Saturday morning.  It ended up being a day with about all the weather conditions you could imagine.  When I left the motel early that morning, it was foggy.  The launch was relatively calm and beautiful.


As the anglers were released to fish, from Beed’s Landing some went east,


and some went west.


Later the wind kicked up a bit.


Some of the teams fished the wind, others tucked in out of it.  Merritt offers plenty of different habitats and options.


Later in the morning it got cloudy and even a little cool and drizzly.  And then, after the tournament, the skies cleared, the winds died, and it warmed up like one would expect in July, all of that in one day!

Now I have to tell you we have no pictures of the winning team, Rhodes and Denisse, and their fish.  You see they had problems that morning; the electric motor quit on them right away, and then the outboard konked out too.  So, they did not cover a lot of water and actually weighed in an hour and a half early.  We were not ready to take pictures of their fish!  So, all I can show you are their boat driver/coach and them at the awards presentation.

Boat driver Heath Denisse on the left with the winning anglers Kylan Rhodes (middle) and Austin Denisse.

Here is the second place team of Flair and Mally with four of their five fish at the weigh-in.


Ethan Mally had the big bass of the tournament, a 4.51-pounder, the fish in his right hand.

And here is the third place team, Trevor and Sam Thomsen with a couple of their fish.


As the news release said, five teams weighed their 5-fish tournament limit.  One of those teams needed an extra hand holding all of their fish for pictures; you knew I would find a way to get into the picture holding a fish!


Most of the fish brought to the scales were largemouths but there were a couple of smallmouth bass weighed.

DSCN1189I can tell you that the top two teams caught fish on scum frogs!  Now you know I love fishing those top-water frog baits for summer bass (e.g. Miss Piggy Loves Kermit), but with water levels down 5-6 feet on Merritt, and exposed sandy banks, I would not have expected those baits to have worked as well as that.  I am always looking for aquatic vegetation and algae mats when I am fishing frog imitations.  On the other hand, I got to thinking back to my younger days poking around Merritt and I can remember late summer isolated pools of water back in some bays that were absolutely packed with frogs.  Maybe those frogs were having to get off the banks and out of their protective vegetation as the water is dropping and those bass knew that?  Very interesting.

We had a record number of teams that fished this year, 24 teams beats out last year’s record number of 23.  Here is the leader board at the end of the day.


You can see the Lincoln County (Lincoln County Bass Bosses)/North Platte teams did very well.  I anticipated they would.  I am biased, but I know there are more than a few anglers from North Platte and Lincoln County area that know how to catch fish, and I knew those Lincoln County anglers might have a little edge as they likely had more experience on Merritt than some of the other teams.

This year the top TWO teams from our state championship will be going on to the regional high school tournament on the Red River in Louisiana.  In past years only one team from each state has advanced to the regional tournament.  Nebraska teams have done very well at regionals in past years and I know our teams will represent well again this year.

Believe it or not, there was a Nebraska Walleye Association walleye tournament on Merritt at exactly the same time as the high school state bass championship.  In fact we even based both tournaments out of the same boat ramp!  You might think we were crazy for doing that, but we ended up having enough parking for all the vehicles and boat trailers, and the Walleye Association let us use their tournament trailer for the bass weigh-in!  I want to say a big THANK YOU to the Nebraska Walleye Association for doing that!  Thank you, guys!  I will leave it at that for now, but leave you with a little tease–I will say more about both tournaments at the same time in another blog post in the coming days.


Not all the high school anglers caught fish, and of course they were disappointed about that.  I know the feeling.  But, I also saw a lot of “kids” that were pumped, some ear-to-ear grins, and had several stop and talk and say “Thanks” at the end of the tournament.  No, guys, thank you!  It was a great day, and seeing those students and the fish they caught is one thing that makes my job so rewarding!  Congratulations to the winners, and I hope I get to see a bunch of this year’s anglers and more back next year!

Thanks Don for the photos.

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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