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2015 High School Bass Fishing Championship

This year’s high school bass fishing championship is in the books; time to give you my perspective.  Here is the news release:

North Platte’s Pavelka, Rowland Win State High School Fishing Title

LINCOLN – Grant Pavelka and Tyler Rowland of the North Platte Bass Bosses caught a five-fish limit weighing 9.86 pounds to capture the Nebraska High School Fishing Championship on July 25 at Lewis and Clark Lake near Crofton.

The winning team’s largest bass weighed 2.35 pounds. Ben Pavelka was the team’s coach and boat operator.

Rees Cudaback and Eli Leggett of the Millard North Mustangs took second place with three fishing weighing 5.84 pounds. Zane Leibhart and Brent Bergman of Lincoln County Bass Bosses caught three fish weighing 4.86 pounds for third place.

The Millard North team of Caleb Hoover and Grant Young caught the tournament’s biggest bass at 2.49 pounds.

This fifth annual event at Lewis and Clark Lake State Recreation Area’s Weigand Marina was hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and The Bass Federation-Student Angler Federation. Twelve teams competed. Each team could weigh in a maximum of five bass, with a minimum length limit of 12 inches. For more information on the tournament, visit: http://www.highschoolfishing.org/2015-state-championships/.

The winning team will represent Nebraska at the Southern Conference Regional tournament on Oct. 17. The event will take place on the Arkansas River at Pine Bluff, Ark., where they will compete against teams from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Anglers at this tournament will attempt to qualify for the TBF/FLW High School National Championship next spring and a $10,000 college scholarship to the school of their choice.

And here is the notice on The Bass Federation–Student Angler Federation website:

North Platte Bass Team Takes Nebraska Title

The duo of Grant Pavelka and Tyler Rowland brought a 5 bass limit of fish to the Lewis and Clark Lake weigh-in site on Saturday that weighed in at 9.86 lbs. to capture the Nebraska SAF High School State Championship. They edged out Reese Cudaback and Eli Legget from Millard North High School who had three fish that weighed in at 5.84 lbs. to claim the runner-up spot. Rounding out the top three was the duo of Zane Leibhert and Brent Bergman from Lincoln County who also had three fish that weighed in at 4.86lbs.

Pavelka and Rowland will represent the state of Nebraska at the Southern Conference Regional event in Pine Bluff Arkansas in October. There they will attempt to qualify for the TBF/FLW High School National Championship next spring and a $10,000 college scholarship to the school of their choice.

Special thanks goes out to Larry Pape and the Nebraska Game and Parks staff and volunteers for hosting the event once again this year.

As the news releases said, the high school bass championship this year was held on Lewis & Clark Reservoir.  I was excited to have the tournament there because I was looking forward to see what the teams would do on big water.  There were no tournament boundaries other than they could fish anywhere they could travel by boat from Weigand Marina.  Theoretically, they could have fished anywhere from the face of Gavins Point Dam all the way up the Missouri River above Lewis & Clark Reservoir to South Dakota.  I had heard reports from a bass tournament a few weeks before where the competitors did very well, and the most successful teams mostly ran up river several miles above Lewis & Clark to catch smallmouth bass.

Unfortunately, things did not play out that way for the high school championship.  I believe the big water and smallmouth bass were a little intimidating and foreign to the high school teams.  We had a number of teams pre-registered that did not show up, and to my knowledge all of the teams that fished did so on the reservoir itself.

Nevertheless, we had a beautiful morning for the tournament.  Excitement was in the air and there was a little time for a last-minute strategy session before launching.



“Blasting off” for their best spots–something that would play a role in the winning strategy.


Dave Kinnamon and his staff at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area/Weigand Marina spoiled us.  The boat ramp facilities there are great and we were set up in a perfect location.  They even put together a great weigh-in stage for us on one of their flat-bed trailers.


Bling for the winners:


Largemouths played heavily in the fishing strategies.  Many teams spent a lot of time fishing bays.  The Weigand Marina bay got fished particularly hard, but I saw some fish caught there right after the tournament started.


We had a couple of stools on the weigh-in stage this year.  As the teams weighed fish, the leading team had to sit in the “hot seats”.  Of course the first team to weigh was automatically on the hot seat.


That is Hoover and Young from Millard North.  They weighed first with a couple of very nice smallmouth bass, the largest of which was just a freckle under 2.5 pounds and was the big bass of the tournament.


I warned the anglers at the rules meeting before the tournament that they might end up in the hot seat and that I would be the “clown” sticking the microphone in their faces.  I thought all the students did very well interacting with the goof ball trying to get them to speak into the microphone.  They were willing to talk and I enjoyed conversing with them.

We did see some smallmouth bass.  Here is Smutny and Martinez from Elkhorn Valley with another one.


The winning team, Pavelka and Rowland staging for their weigh-in.


OK, I have to tell you a little bit about the winning team.  They placed their fish in their own weigh-in bag to come to the scales.  The bag was black and no one could see what was in it.  But, Pavelka and Rowland hauled their fish across the grass right in front of the stage, right in front of the crowd, before they came up on stage to weigh.  You can see the smiles, a person could tell they had some weight in the bag even though you could not see in it, and they were strutting a bit when they carried their fish over to the holding tank.  Once they got up on stage, you could tell they were excited.  As a matter of fact, they were shaking a bit.


Once they got in the “hot seats” they never left.


Wish someone would tell me my hair was sticking out the back of my cap and that I looked like a complete nerd (normally I just look like a nerd, not a complete nerd).

Again, you can tell I had some fun with those guys on the hot seats.  I found out that they did NOT just luck out and win the tournament–they fished hard, strategy and knowledge paid off, and a fast boat did not hurt either. . . .

Pavelka and Rowland were #10 in the launch that morning.  They had pre-fished the week before the tournament, but did not discover what turned out to be the winning location until the day before.  They were not the only team that knew about that spot, but fortunately they had enough horsepower to get their first.  They caught four of their five largemouths within the first half hour of the tournament and believed being the first team in that bay first thing tournament morning resulted in those extra fish that were the difference.

They also told me that they recognized the potential of the bay they fished because it was different from all the other bays they scouted.  This bay had cleaner water, more shallow water habitat, especially aquatic vegetation, more bluegills and less gar.  In short, these guys recognized good largemouth bass habitat when they found it!

I am pretty sure I know exactly the bay they fished, in fact here are some shots of it that I took the day after the tournament.  Notice how “bassy” it looks, especially for largemouth bass.


Look close, even a few pads in the bay.

Bear with me while I take this a little further with more to the story:  We have done some Aquatic Habitat projects on Lewis & Clark Reservoir.  One of those was on a small bay where there was a boat ramp, but the mouth of the bay had silted shut over the years.  So, the work done there was deepening of the mouth of the bay and then installation of breakwaters to prevent shore currents from re-depositing sediment across the mouth of the bay.  That work also improved water quality and shallow water habitat.  Here is what that work looks like; who knew those habitat improvements would one day be instrumental in the winning strategy for our high school bass championship?


From what I understood, the winning team caught several of their fish on buzz-baits.  They referenced what they called a “Pillsbury Dough Boy”, and I am not going to pretend that I know exactly what they were talking about.  I believe they were referring to the body or trailer on their buzzbaits and I am betting it looked something like this, Rage Tails.  They also mentioned that they caught their last fish, their biggest fish, not long before they had to head to the weigh-in.  If I remember right, they said a small swimbait accounted for that last fish.  I know the shad I saw while I was there were not very large yet, a couple of inches, and a small swimbait was likely an excellent imitation of those baitfish.

Here is the final leader board.


Great to see my old hometown Lincoln County/North Platte boys represent!

You might have noticed in some of the weigh-in pictures that the skies darkened as we approached the end of the tournament.  We just finished the weigh-in and awards when it started raining, it rained hard.  We had hot dogs, chips and drinks for the participants and spectators, and I was looking forward to standing around talking to some folks after the tournament, but I am afraid the rain sent everyone scrambling.  At least we got the weigh-in done first!

First place
Big bass

Pavelka and Rowland will be eligible to head down to the regional high school championship Oct. 17 down at Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  They will be fishing the Arkansas River down there.  I am sure they will represent us well!

I have to say a big THANK YOU to all the boat drivers!  Thank you for donating your time, your boats, and your expertise; none of this high school bass championship could happen without you.  Also a big thanks to Dave Kinnamon and all of his staff at Lewis & Clark SRA!  Thank you Larry P. and Don G. for the pictures.  Congratulations to all the students that participated.  Whether they caught fish or not, I hope they all had a worthwhile experience.  I know I enjoy being present just to see how they do every year!

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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