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High school fishing coming of age in Illinois

Brother Rice seniors Matt Caulfield (left) Jim Ciurej wRayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn High School Bass Tournament Saturday with five bass weighing

Brother Rice seniors Matt Caulfield (left) and Jim Ciurej won the Rayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn High School Bass Tournament on Saturday with five bass weighing 7.43 pounds. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:52AM

It was comforting to hear Jim Ciurej say he and fellow Brother Rice senior Matt Caulfield ‘‘found a good pattern around deeper weed edges.’’

That’s timeless fishing talk coming from a high schooler. Those of us who want to see the love of the outdoors passed on through fishing should be encouraged.

They caught a limit of five largemouth bass by 10 a.m. Saturday and won the Rayjus Outdoors-Oak Lawn High School Bass Tournament with 7.43 pounds, which included the big bass of 2.5 pounds.

The 45-boat tournament, the biggest in the state outside of the high school state championship, is one more sign high school bass fishing in Illinois is coming of age in its fifth year.

Ciurej and Caulfield were fishing Chigger Craws and spinner baits on the Des Plaines River out of Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Second was the Geneva team of junior Sam Vogelsberg and sophomore Matt D’Onofrio in a boat captained by Vogelsberg’s dad, Mark. They caught four weighing 6.02 pounds, with a 2.16-pound kicker largemouth.

Brother Rice’s boat No. 1, with Joe Hayes and Brendan Moriarty, finished third with
5.9 pounds.

Despite a tough morning bite and a steady rain at the end, the tournament drew teams from as far north as Grayslake and as far west as Seneca.

There is something comforting in that. There’s a coming of age in learning to travel to compete in new places, learning new waters. Twenty-one teams weighed fish on a tough-bite day.

Frank Labanowski, the president of Illinois B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, emceed the weigh-in and proudly noted the winning team came through the Junior Bassmaster program. Unique Bassmasters, a local club, worked the mechanics of the tournament.

On another level, the coaches and the Illinois High School Association are doing serious work to add more sectionals for this spring and to change the two remaining low-performance sectional sites at Skokie Lagoons and Busse Woods. They also are looking at LaSalle Lake, which has wind issues in April.

Recognizing problems and addressing them is true growth.

That’s building a sport.


The waterfowl seasons in the north zone open Saturday. Rapid crop harvest (corn is nearly completely picked statewide) and low water are the two biggest factors. . . . The youth waterfowl hunt in the central zone is Saturday. Open local sites include Braidwood Lake, Kankakee River State Park, Mazonia lakes and Momence Wetlands State Natural Area. . . . Bowhunters had harvested 11,154 deer through Sunday, more than the five-year average (10,840).

Cleaning up

The Hofmann Dam River Rats will hold their Des Plaines River cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday on the south side of the Barrypoint Bridge in Lyons.

Stray cast

Those ‘‘CBS Sports Minutes’’ feel like a strange man throwing stones into the familiar waters you’re fishing.

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