Excitement over high school and college bass fishing teams is sweeping the country. This is the hottest thing going on, and it has given a huge boost to the sport of fishing.
Northern Illinois is well represented in the ranks of high school competition. A recent invitational tournament organized by Woodstock and Woodstock North, which have a co-op team, certainly proved that point. The tournament was populated by anglers from Woodstock North’s co-op, Stevenson, Niles Notre Dame, Deerfield, Streamwood, IC Catholic and Elgin.
Staging a tournament is a formidable challenge, so is establishing a competitive high school fishing team. Thank goodness that Jason Penuel, a science teacher from Woodstock North, was up to both tasks.
“I just have an unbelievable passion for fishing,” Penuel said. “I only wished that something like this was available for me when I was in high school. I would have loved it. I wasn’t into sports. I just wanted to go fishing.”
Penuel rejuvenated the co-op club at North that had been in existence for about five years, but had been foundering. Penuel began his mission with the goal of building the club into a team that would be recognized by the school district and moved into IHSA competition.
Penuel had experience in forming fishing teams. He was the founder of Northern Illinois University’s program in 2011 when he was a student there. At Woodstock North, it took a long semester to sell the program.
There were a lot of questions and concerns, including insurance costs, but Penuel fought on. He finally was granted permission to pursue his goals for the 2017 spring season.
The current club is comprised of four students from Woodstock and 21 from North.
So how does one join the fishing team?
“If this was the basketball team, I’d ask you if you knew how to dribble,” Penuel said. “If you can dribble, I’ll put you on the court, and we can work it out from there. If you have the basics, we can teach you the rest.”
Staging a tournament often is a difficult task. The hard thing is securing a location for the event. Penuel was able to get permission to have the Woodstock Invitational Tournament on Wonder Lake.
Wonder Lake is a private lake, but Tom Stygar from Wonder Lake’s Master Property Owners Association and who also has a son – named Tom, as well – on the co-op team, stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park for the kids.
The property owners were concerned about making their body of water available to the youngsters, but Stygar sold them on the idea, and the tournament became a reality. The MPOA also allowed the schools to use the lake for practice sessions.
Another huge helping hand came from the Woodstock Sportsman Club. Stygar also is a member of that organization. Thankfully, the club volunteered to handle the weigh-in for the inaugural tournament.
The tournament went off without a hitch. Twelve boats fished in the event. Stevenson topped the home team at the weigh-in, although North’s boats finished second, third, fifth and ninth.
The younger Stygar caught the biggest fish of the tournament, a 3.91-pound monster.
Penuel said Woodstock will host its next tournament in the spring. The club has remained active and has been present at every IHSA event since it was granted permission to do so.
Penuel also is excited by the possibility of some of his anglers receiving scholarships to attend college in the future.
“I have three or four kids in the junior- and senior-class levels that have a definite chance of getting scholarships to continue their fishing on a college team,” Penuel said. “That is so exciting. I can’t think of a better reward for these great kids.”
Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville are currently flooding, and caution is the word of the day. The river is closed to boating, and fishing from shore is nearly impossible and can be extremely dangerous.
“The McHenry County Conservation District has Lake Atwood, and the bluegill are always hitting. Even the high water and heavy rains haven’t seemed to slow down the Atwood bluegills. Use a small hook and a small float with a waxworm or redworm. Take the kids out for some fast fall fishing.
“Crystal Lake has Vulcan Lake at the Three Oaks Recreation Area. Although boats are only available on the weekends, bank fishing is very good here. Use artificials to catch some of Vulcan’s largemouth bass and northern pike, which can be caught from shore.
For more info on Northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”
Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service (www.tboneguideservice.com – 630-330-9090) sends word, “We are under a no-wake restriction again. Do we ever get a break? The panfishing has been very good, even with the high water. The boating restriction makes it tough to travel to find spots for walleye, bass and muskies.”
• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at email@example.com. Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at www.wefishasa.com.