OLNEY, Ill. — A Fairfield team won the title at the first annual High School Bass Invitational, sponsored by the new Wabash Valley College Bass Fishing Team, held on Saturday at East Fork Lake in Olney.
The tandem of boater Austin Holtgrave and co-angler Nate Kiefer topped the scales at 13.94 pounds for their maximum-allowed catch of five bass. They elected to share the individual honor for the single biggest catch of the day, at 4.25 pounds.
Finishing in second place were Peyton Rose and WVC-recruit Holden Kauble, from Flora, with a total catch of 13.6 pounds. Drew Gill and Chevvy Wood of Mt. Carmel, also Warrior recruits, were third at 13.13.
The top five rounded out with Konor Book and Evan Stone of Breese Mater Dei with a catch of 13.03 pounds, good for fourth place, and the Benton team of Laindree Richardson and Lucas Weilt (12.42) in fifth.
“In the first 45 minutes, we had our full limit just about”, said Holtgrave, who along with Kiefer graduated on Friday from Fairfield High School in a unique drive-thru ceremony. “We started off pretty shallow, then towards the middle of the day we started moving out a little deeper. Everything went pretty well — we got a good bag.”
The top five finishers all received awards and prizes. Holtgrave and Kiefer, by virtue of their first-place finish, were also presented with scholarship offers to join the Bass Fishing team at WVC.
Professor Todd Gill, Warrior Bass coach, thanked the groups and individuals who helped stage the event.
“For being our first time hosting this event, I felt like things went very smoothly. The kids had pretty decent weather. Out of 27 teams, 21 weighed in their limit. So, I was happy they were all catching fish.”
As for the winners, Gill said, “I’m happy for Austin and Nate for pulling it off. Hopefully, they’ll decide to come to Wabash Valley and fish for us.”
The six-hour long fishing period began at 5:30 a.m. with a controlled start. Each of the 27 boats were released one at a time from the launch area. An adult coach was on board to accompany the two-person fishing team.
As a bonus, the top weigh-ins remained in special “Hot Seats” until they were replaced by new leaders. Holtgrave and Kiefer, who were interestingly-enough on the last boat out in the morning because of a draw held days prior to the event, took their special seats with about 10 teams left to be weighed in. They never left.