On September 28, 2019, over 150 high school anglers from across Illinois participated in the annual Sublime Wear, USA Oak Lawn Community High School Bass Tournament on Braidwood Lake. The tournament featured over 50 boats from 30 high schools with anglers eager to put their fishing skills to the test. After the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation weighed in all the fish, Naperville Central High School anglers Ryan Kouchoukos and Ryan Laper took home the first-place trophies.
After nearly six inches of rain fell the night before and with overcast conditions, 104 largemouth bass were brought to the scales. Winning Naperville Central High School angler Ryan Kouchoukos said, “The day started out kind of slow. My partner, Ryan Laper, started us off with a keeper after a couple of hours of fishing. Then we found a spot that had potential for multiple good size fish for the rest of the day. It was especially fun having my dad fish with us as he has captained our boat for the fourth year now and he helped contribute with our final culled fish in the last five minutes of the event.” Kouchoukos and Laper weighed in a five fish limit for a total of 10.69 lbs to bring home the victory. This is the tenth year that Oak Lawn Community High School has hosted this tournament and the Naperville Central duo set a tournament record with that weight!
Rounding out the top five teams were second place finishers from Minooka High School, Hunter Petrovic and Wyatt Pazdro (10.45 lbs); third place went to Gardner South Wilmington anglers Grant Olsen and Ryan Olsen (9.89lbs); fourth place went to Reed Custer anglers Blake Gad and Eddie Gad (9.17lbs); and fifth place finishers were Minooka anglers George Buss and Kerry Warzinger (8.58lbs). For their accomplishments, each angler was given a trophy presented by Sublime Wear, USA and the boat captains were awarded a $50 gift card to Basa’s Marine in Bolingbrook. Shimano awarded the top two teams with Shimano SLX reels and Fox River Rods awarded the top three finishing teams with a fishing rod for each angler.
The big bass of the tournament was caught by Eddie Gad of Reed Custer High School. Eddie enthusiastically explained, “I caught my bass on a custom painted 1.5 crankbait that my dad (owner of Shur-Set Tackle) painted. My brother netted the fish and the hook came right out in the net.” Eddie’s bass weighed 3.72 lbs, eclipsing the former tournament record which was set in 2013 by Hinsdale Central’s Jeff Hopkins (3.14lbs).
In an effort to get more kids involved in competitive fishing, a creature fish tournament was held for shoreline anglers. The creature fish tournament is an opportunity for kids who excel in other fishing techniques to showcase their talents by catching any fish that is not a bass. The creature fish award went to Oak Lawn Community High School freshman angler Marek Lekarczyk who caught a chunky 5.42 lbs carp.
Sublime Wear, USA provided each participant with a gift bag filled with a Sublime Wear, USA towel, stickers, and a lanyard. Frank Hyla, youth fishing coordinator for Shimano, provided baseball caps, patches, and stickers. Basa’s Marine in Bolingbrook provided $50 gift cards to the top five finishing teams along with a Crestliner catalogue and an Angling Aces neck gaiter. A very special thank you to the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation for bringing their aerated fish tanks, computerized weigh in system, and the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation trailer. The Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation offered the student anglers a unique opportunity to weigh in the fish just like to professional bass fishermen do. Capitol Outdoors streamed the event live on Facebook and parent Jill Wijangco took some amazing photos at the event for all the teams to enjoy.
This tournament is hosted on the last Saturday of each September. If you would like information about next year’s tournament, please email Coach Kuchyt at email@example.com.