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Marist grads Nick Engel and Nick Kushnerik make quite a team

Nick Engel (left) Nick Kushnerik hold four bass thhelped Marist grads w2012 Illinois SAF High School Fishing State Championship last

Nick Engel (left) and Nick Kushnerik hold the four bass that helped the Marist grads win the 2012 Illinois SAF High School Fishing State Championship last Sunday on Lake Shelbyville. | Courtesy of Dave Engel

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Updated: August 2, 2012 10:36AM



The measure of the Nicks is what other coaches around Illinois high school fishing think of them.

‘‘They are glad to see these two boys graduating,’’ said Marist assistant coach Dave Engel, the father of Nick Engel.

Though Nick Engel and Nick Kushnerik graduated from Marist, they continue to build one of the most impressive resumés in Illinois high school bass-fishing history.

Last Sunday, the two won the 2012 Illinois Student Angler Federation High School Fishing State Championship on Lake Shelbyville. They caught only four keeper largemouth bass, but the fish weighed an impressive
12 pounds, 12 ounces. Keepers had to be 14 inches or longer.

Engel and Kushnerik will compete in the SAF conference championship in September against other state champions. By a lucky quirk, it will be held at Carlyle Lake, which has hosted the first four Illinois High School Association bass-fishing championships. The SAF and IHSA state championship aren’t connected, but the IHSA event has helped the Nicks get to know Carlyle.

The Nicks had Marist in second place after the first day of the IHSA championship in May, but the Redhawks finished 19th. Engel and Kushnerik won a very competitive Wildcat Open (hosted by Edinburg High School) on Easter break this spring on Sangchris Lake.

At Shelbyville, the pair had a tough day pre-fishing June 22.

‘‘But we really figured it out [during pre-fishing June 23] and caught, like, 10 pounds,’’ Kushnerik said. ‘‘We were fishing deep rock.’’

It was a successful enough pattern for them to win.

‘‘They were spread over midmorning [last Sunday],’’ Engel said. ‘‘First, I caught a 41/2-[pounder]. Within 10 feet, my partner hooked into another 4-pounder. The rest of the day was struggling to find 14-inch fish.’’

The SAF release said they caught most of their fish on
June bug-colored shakyhead.

‘‘I can’t tell you exactly what we were using because we are planning on doing it again,’’ Engel said. ‘‘Slow and working in the deeper water.’’

There’s luck in fishing. But at a certain point, success goes beyond luck. The Nicks are there.

Explaining why it works is another matter.

‘‘I really couldn’t tell,’’ Engel said. ‘‘Maybe it is we are friends. [Kushnerik] usually hooks into the bigger fish because he is more patient. [We] work well together.’’

Engel said they hang out on occasion and go fishing together outside of school events.

‘‘We always hang out,’’ Kushnerik said. ‘‘That really helps with the fishing. We both like rocks and deep fishing. He likes throwing a crankbait when he gets aggravated. I am a worm-and-deep-diver type of guy. He is really good on crankbait and on the worm.’’

‘‘I wish they would stay together,’’ Dave Engel said. ‘‘For some reason, there is a strange connection.’’

Kushnerik, though, is headed to study fisheries and natural resources at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, while Engel will attend Moraine Valley for his first year. Kushnerik hopes to fish on the team at Stevens Point and will try out for the golf team. Engel won’t fish through school but will fish through SAF.

Chicago-area teams had three other top-10 finishes at Shelbyville. Marmion took fourth and fifth, and Providence was 10th.

For details about SAF, go to www.HighSchoolFishing.org .



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