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Eastern Illinois duo looking to hook big one at college tourney

Mike March (left) Dan MartChicago-arestudents Eastern Illinois finished fourth tournament Mississippi River qualify for National Guard FLW College Fishing central

Mike March (left) and Dan Martin, Chicago-area students at Eastern Illinois, finished fourth in a tournament on the Mississippi River to qualify for the National Guard FLW College Fishing central conference championship Sept. 6-8 on Carlyle Lake. | Courte

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Updated: September 23, 2012 6:16AM

‘This is my last
hurrah,’’ Mike March said.

March, who just graduated, and junior Dan Martin qualified Eastern Illinois for the National Guard FLW College Fishing central conference championship Sept. 6-8 on Downstate Carlyle Lake. They did it by finishing fifth on Table Rock Lake, then fourth on the Mississippi River this year.

Martin, who is from Elmhurst, is no stranger to competitive student fishing. As a high school junior, he helped York qualify for Illinois’ first state championship in bass fishing.

I think there’s a connection to the announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar of an 11 percent increase in fishermen from 2005 to 2011 in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

The primary reason for that increase is likely the extended deep recession. But I think the increased level of interest in fishing at the high school and college levels factors in, too. Other states are following Illinois’ lead in high school bass fishing. And college fishing has taken off.

‘‘I would say I’m surprised and encouraged,’’ said March, who graduated with a degree in psychology. ‘‘Surprised that so many teams are competing. You look around, and every school has a team. And I am definitely encouraged. You see all these sponsors joining in and giving kids TV time, pros lending their time.’’

March, a Chicagoan who graduated from Marist, said the Eastern Illinois Fishing and Hunting Club is in its fifth year. March and Martin met last year through the club.

‘‘We decided we wanted to team up for qualifiers,’’ March said. ‘‘It’s been a pretty good year.’’

Different styles help.

‘‘Dan’s strength is he is more of a finesse fisherman, drop-shotting, that sort of thing,’’ March said. ‘‘I am more of a power fisherman [and like to] whip a spinner bait or crankbait down the shoreline.’’

Their combined skills will be tested at Carlyle, a challenging lake for bass fishermen.

‘‘We have put in 40 hours of practice, and we can’t figure it out,’’ March said. ‘‘It is beating us up. We will make it work come tournament time.’’

Twenty college teams will compete the first two days before the field is cut to the top five for the final day. The top prize is a fully rigged boat.

‘‘We will fish one more time and hopefully put something together,’’ March said. ‘‘We will have the experience of sponsor day, get to talk to all the sponsors and hang with the pros.’’

A good last hurrah.

Wild things

One evening last week, a common nighthawk swooped near my head. First time for that. In the last week, there were reports of nighthawks during night games at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field on IBET, the birders’ list.

Stray cast

Ever wonder if Jose Quintana feels like a guy whose buddy keeps knocking 20-pound kings off the side of the boat with the net? Or if Dale Sveum feels like a guy set adrift on Lake Michigan in a restored wooden skiff?

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