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High school bass fishing on the rise

Brother Rice landed District 230 Classic Championship Saturday Des Plaines River behind fishing sophomore Joe Hayes (from left) senior Luke

Brother Rice landed the District 230 Classic Championship on Saturday on the Des Plaines River behind the fishing of sophomore Joe Hayes (from left), senior Luke Opoka, boat captain Jim O’Neil, sophomore Brendan Moriarty and junior Bryan Lee. | Courtesy o

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Updated: July 2, 2012 9:54AM

Iwondered what Jim O’Neil was doing in a Brother Rice photo.

Saturday was a historic day for high school bass fishing. And word came last week that Kentucky will be the next state to follow Illinois’ lead and have a state championship for high school bass fishing.

As much as I love the state championship — Illinois’ fourth was May 4-5 on Carlyle Lake — I find it even more encouraging that the Upstate Eight had enough teams to hold a conference championship Saturday at Shabbona Lake.

The healthiest sign might be the tournament District 230 has run for several years on the Des Plaines River. Brother Rice won the District 230 Classic Championship on Saturday with a five-fish limit weighing 8.43 pounds, edging Sandburg (8.08) by a few ounces.

‘‘It was a great tournament,’’ said Andrew coach John Bartgen, whose team finished ninth.

Much like in life, great experiences in fishing often are not tied to winning.

That brings us back to O’Neil, the anchor on Marist’s bass-fishing teams until he graduated last year.

‘‘That is so funny you caught that!’’ Brother Rice team manager Jim Opoka emailed. ‘‘Jim helped us out in a big way. We qualified two boats but could only come up with one because of all the bass club tournaments that weekend. Jim stepped up at the last minute to help out and save the day. I even put my BR hat on him for the picture!’’

Senior Luke Opoka and sophomore Joe Hayes caught a limit in their half of the day, including Hayes’ big fish, a 2.36-pound largemouth. Then junior Bryan Lee and sophomore Brendan Moriarty clinched the victory by landing three bigger bass to cull three.

‘‘Fishing brings us together for a common cause,’’ Jim Opoka emailed. ‘‘Many of the kids on different teams have joined Maple Bass Club and other clubs as a result. On Saturday, we even took a group picture of all the Maple Bass Club kids, and there were a lot of different jerseys in the picture.’’

There is an exchange of information among coaches and fishermen that I find encouraging. I was reminded of that while tracking down Upstate Eight results. Multiple coaches pitched in with information. Geneva won with only three keepers (7.55 pounds), including the big fish (2.8 pounds) caught by Connor Olson.

On the side, I notice many coaches are science or math teachers. Where are the English teachers? Fly-fishing?

IDNR money

House Bill 4193, the IDNR Sustainability Package, was introduced by Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) on Monday. I suggest checking it out and making up your mind quickly.

Stray cast

Former Sun-Timesman Dave Manthey said the weekend series reminded him of the whale engulfing Jonah, which made me wonder if that made the Ricketts clan akin to Nineveh.

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