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Illinois hunting and fishing

Illini West anglers Travis Wilson (left) and Brian Lafferty hoist the first-place trophy after winning the Illinois bass fishing state championship at Carlyle Lake.

Illini West wins bass title

May 08, 2010 at 05:36 PM

Final results

1. Illini West, 10 bass, 30 pounds, 5 ounces; 2. Moline, 10, 25-8; 3. Alden-Hebron, 10, 25-6; 4. Pinckeyville, 10, 24-13; 5. Bethany Okaw Valley, 9, 22-8; 6. Rockford Christian, 10, 21-8; 7. Monticello, 6, 21-1; 8. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, 8, 20-14; 9. Bradley-Bourbonnais, 8, 20-11; 10. Woodlawn, 10, 20-9.

Big bass (Saturday)

5-2 -- Travis Wilson, Carthage.

CARLYLE—Football is a way of life at Illini West High School. Apparently so is fishing.

At least it is for Travis Wilson and Brian Lafferty. Despite gusty winds and a dramatic weather change, Wilson and Lafferty weighed in a second straight limit of bass Saturday to win the Illinois high school bass fishing championship at Carlyle Lake.

Illini West’s two-day total of 30 pounds, 5 ounces was well ahead of runner-up Moline (25-8). The impressive sack proved that flipping, pitching and casting matter as much as passing, blocking and tackling to some kids at Illini West, winner of the 2008 Class 3A football championship.

“I’d rather win the state bass fishing tournament than play on a state champion football team,” said Lafferty, a junior. “It’s kind of an obsession with me. Travis is the same way.”

Lafferty and Wilson partner up for a few fishing tournaments in the summer, as well, but spend most of their time fishing for fun on Pool 19 of the Mississippi River or in various farm ponds and small lakes.

“These boys are state champion football players, too, and now they’re state champion fishermen,” Illini West boat captain Darrin Olin said. “They work hard at it. They are fishing probably 100 days a year.”

That experience paid off Saturday, as Illini West changed strategies when a cold front gusted through southern Illinois. One day after catching a five-bass limit mostly on crankbaits, Illini West changed to flipping and pitching black-and-blue plastic baits—mostly Sweet Beavers or tube jigs.

In one rocky stretch of Carlyle’s Peppenhorst Branch, Wilson and Lafferty hooked into 15 fish. Ten of those were keepers and four went to the scales, including Wilson’s 5-2 lunker that ranked as big fish for Saturday.

“It was kind of slow and steady, we’d get a bite every 10 or 15 minutes,” Wilson said. “And we had the spot almost all to our selves. One boat came in but they didn’t stay long.”

Olin had actually saved the Peppenhorst hotspot for Saturday, opting to fish several other locations on Friday when Illini West weighed a limit that went 14-2 and put the team in sixth place. Fortunately for Illini West, their honey hole was on the west side of Carlyle Lake.

Winds that gusted up to 35 mph Saturday created headaches for anglers who tried to reach Carlyle’s east side. Limestone attempted to cross Carlyle early in the morning but turned back after winding up with 3-4 inches of water in the bottom of their 16-foot john boat. In another attempted crossing, Athens took a wave so strong that it broke the windshield on the driver’s console. By 1:15 p.m. the Illinois High School Association had ordered all teams to fish only the lake’s west side.

That was bad news for first-round leader Monticello, which had a hotspot on the east side Friday but weighed only one fish Saturday.

Going west paid off for second-place finisher Moline, which caught its limit on “beaver baits” and small crankbaits. “We beat everyone else in the state, we just couldn’t beat (Illini West),” said Moline coach Bryan Prybil, whose team also placed second to the Chargers at the Argyle Lake Sectional.

Two ounces behind Moline in third place was Alden-Hebron. Hebron anglers caught three of their bass in the final 30 minutes of fishing, all on black and blue jigs.

Dunlap and Metamora were among the 11 teams that had five-fish limits on Saturday—half as many limits as Friday. Dunlap used shaky head worms and beaver baits to finish 14th with 16 pounds while Metamora wacky wormed its way to 15th with 14-15.

Overall anglers caught and released 293 bass weighing 600 pounds, 10 ounces.

NOTABLE: Only six of 57 teams failed to catch a fish in the tournament. Among the fishless was Chicago Harlan, which loaded up and left by 1:30 p.m. Saturday, two hours before the weigh-in. ... Pickneyville’s senior anglers missed their graduation ceremony to fish Saturday and wound up fourth overall. ... The top 13 finishers topped 2009 champion West Frankfort’s winning weight of 16.25 pounds.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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