Schools in the west suburbs fish for state title

In just its second year as an IHSA sanctioned activity, bass fishing has developed quite a presence in Chicagoland schools.

West Chicagos Wheaton Academy, Wheaton Warrenville South and St. Francis High Schools all have teams competing in the April 23 sectionalsWheaton Academy will compete at the Shabbona Lake Sectional in Shabbona, and both Wheaton Warrenville South and St. Francis will be competing at the Busse Woods Reservoir Sectional in Elk Grove.

All three teams will battle nearly a dozen other teams at sectionals with the hopes of making it to the state tournament May 7 and 8 at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, Ill, with only the top three schools advancing to state.

In just its first school year, 2008-09, IHSA registered 199 bass fishing teams from high schools around the state to compete in sectionals. For the 2009-10 year, 27 more schools entered teams, making the total number of schools competing 226.

In 2001, IHSA started talking about new sports and activities it could bring to schools to get different groups of students involved, said Dave Gannaway, IHSAs assistant executive director and IHSAs administrator for bass fishing. Since then, such sports/activities as bowling, journalism, water polo, competitive cheerleading and the scholastic bowl have come to fruition and have been successful in Illinois schools.

We had about 2,600 kids participating in bass fishing across the state last year, and 58 percent of those kids were involved in no other activity at school, Gannoway said. We accomplished exactly what we set out to doget more kids involved. And its growingthis year we anticipate 3,300 kids to take part in bass fishing.

Pete Ventrelli, social studies teacher and head bass fishing coach at St. Francis, said that although his team didnt make it to state last year, the 12-person inaugural team had a great year in 2009.

We had a lot of fun last year, but weve already been out fishing twice so far and we hope to get out to Busse to practice before sectionals, Ventrelli said.

With 16 students on his roster this year, Ventrelli said he has faith in the skill of his teamespecially returning fisherman Joe Duncan and Dan Jaeger.

But, more than winning, Ventrelli said his deep-rooted love of the sport is the best part of his job as coach.

The sport is a great way to get outside and get closer with nature, Ventrelli said. And this is something kids can develop a passion for and continue to do for the rest of their lives. Thats the real beauty of fishing.

Wheaton Warrenville South was one of the teams to advance from the Busse Woods Sectional in 2009, and went on to take 21st in the state tournament with two bass caught, weighing in at a total 2.88 lbs.

Art Tang, head coach at WWSHS, said he hopes to be just as successful this year. Tang even held tryouts this year where students presented their personal tackle selection as well as displayed their casting skills, among other tasks.

Last year was great for the first year, and IHSA did a great job with the whole program, Tang said. This is such a great opportunity for athletes as well as non-athletesIm happy to see these kids coming forward and showing interest in joining a team.

Gannaway, too, said IHSA is glad to provide a new extracurricular for a new group of students, and has high hopes for the future of the activity in Illinois schools.

Theres a lot of interestand bass fishing is providing another area of interest for our schools to get kids involved in programming Gannaway said. The more kids are involved, the better they do in the classroom.


By Bridget Doyle, TribLocal Reporter

Share this story