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High School Bass Championship, 2019

I hung out around the high school bass championships at Merritt Reservoir this past weekend.  Let me give you a few details:

Once again this year, the two bass organizations in Nebraska teamed up to hold their high school championship on the same waterbody, two days in a row.  This year the TBF Nebraska Student Angler Federation anglers fished first, on Friday, while the Nebraska B.A.S.S. Federation fished on Saturday.  Many of the anglers fish both days, both organizations, so it makes sense to hold those tournaments back-to-back.

Here is the leader board from Friday, the anglers who fished:


And here is Saturday’s lineup:

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Competition starts early each morning, we tried to have everyone fishing by 7:00 a.m., but first the national anthem!

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Then, one last kill-switch check, and they’re off!

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As is true with most fishing tournaments, anglers scattered to every corner of the “lake”.


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When you see boats running in the middle of fishing hours, it usually means they are trying hard to find fish:


It was a tough bite.  The water level on Merritt was high, reservoir was completely full of water, and the fish could go way back into cover.  With polarized sunglasses, I could spot a pod of young-of-the-year (YOY) baitfish pretty much everywhere I looked.  It was typical mid-summer fishing–well fed fish that were tough to catch.  The leader boards reflected that at the end of each day:


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Here is a short news release on the TBF Student Angler Federation winners on Friday:

Cooper, Oettinger win state high school fishing tournament

LINCOLN, Neb. – Jaron Cooper and Keegan Oettinger of the Platte Valley Bassmasters team caught a five-fish limit weighing 15.88 pounds to capture the The Bass Federation – Nebraska High School Fishing Championship on July 12 at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area.

Cooper caught the tournament’s biggest fish at 4.55 pounds.

Hunter Cooper and Kaden Oettinger of Platte Valley Bassmasters, a team comprised of students from Sutherland and Hershey, took second place with three fish weighing 6.31 pounds. They are brothers of the anglers from the winning team.

Caleb Horne and Chase Liebhart of North Platte caught two fish weighing 5.04 pounds for third place.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and The Bass Federation-Student Angler Federation were hosts. Twenty-one teams competed in this ninth annual TBF – SAF state tournament. Each team could weigh in a maximum of five bass, with a minimum length limit of 15 inches.


And the same team won the B.A.S.S. side on Saturday:


Here are more pictures of team’s that fished on Saturday, Nebraska BASS Nation Youth.

You can see on the leader boards that some nice fish were caught, just not many of them.  We had more teams “zero” this year than we have had for any of the high school bass championships, it was just a really tough bite.  I did not get a lot of details from any of the anglers, so I really have no secrets to give away, but many teams noted that the few bites they did get came early, first thing in the morning–again typical for mid-summer when the fishing gets tough.

Let me make another observation and comment:  If you follow the high school bass championships from year to year, you cannot help but notice the same teams, same kids do well year after year.  Some folks still think that fishing is no more than a matter of luck, BALONEY.  There are many skills in fishing that can be mastered, and people can learn to become good anglers.  Fishing success can become consistent as anglers learn and improve their skills.  Like any sport, lots of practice makes a big difference (“Ah, you mean I have to practice some more?!”), and I believe in fishing it takes a lot of intelligence as well to understand fish behavior and how to catch them.  Every year I am impressed with the quality of the high school bass anglers!  They are some very good sticks and already expert anglers!  I love just hanging around talking to them, hope I can pick up a few tips!

Also let me say this:  Some of the teams fish very well year after year and besides their skills as anglers it is due in no small part to the boat captains that have volunteered their time and expertise.  Each team of two high school anglers is required to have an adult who runs the boat whenever the outboard motor is running and coaches the kids while they are fishing.  The boat drivers cannot fish nor assist in any fishing or landing of fish, but they are present and coaching throughout the competition.  I want to say a big THANK YOU to those boat captains!  The conduct of the kids and their ability to catch fish is a testament to the quality adult bass anglers who have volunteered their time, and in most cases, boats, to make this happen.  Well done!

Top teams will go on to represent Nebraska in upcoming regional competitions.  Sorry, I do not know the details of those competitions, but I know our Nebraska anglers will do us proud, and I wish them “good luck” even though “luck” has very little to do with it!

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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