With high winds causing dangerous conditions on Day 2 of the Kansas BASS Nation College State Championship last weekend on Wilson Reservoir, the day was shortened to just four hours of fishing.
But that was just enough time for Kansas State anglers Zach Vielhauer and Michael Mueting to make the jump from second place after Day 1 on June 27 to the lead spot on Day 2, capturing the state title and a berth in the Bassmaster College Series National Championship, tentatively slated for Oct. 29-31.
"Michael and I were pretty excited about this tournament after our pre-fishing," said Vielhauer, a Shawnee Mission Northwest product who won the 2018 Bassmaster College Classic alongside teammate Will Andrie. "We had a good plan going into Saturday about trying to get some shallow fish since those were our bigger fish in practice.
"We caught a few up shallow early in the morning and then later in the afternoon on a frog and flipping a Texas rig. On Sunday, we went for some deeper fish, because our fish Saturday were harder to find. So we caught a limit pretty early and then kept culling until the last minute we could."
The wind-shortened day gave the Wildcat team an extra sense of urgency on Day 2.
"We knew we had to get a limit early to have a shot," Vielhauer said. "We are really excited for a chance at another national championship title this fall."
Day 1 leaders Zac Hopkins and Josh Flynn — who won the state title in 2019 on Council Grove City Lake — led by more than a pound heading into Sunday’s final round, posting an 18.53 bag on Saturday to edge out Vielhauer and Mueting’s 17.27. However, despite posting the biggest bag of the tournament, they couldn’t deliver on Day 2 with a bag of just 13.81, dropping them into second place in what is likely to be the seniors’ final college fishing tournament.
"It wasn’t the ending that Josh and I were hoping for, but it’s a good finish nonetheless," Hopkins said. "Josh and I were fishing super shallow, pitching and flipping as well as throwing a frog. We had to run through quite a few two-pound fish to get a bigger fish, and having our day shortened to just four hours was killer for us.
"Our bite got better as the day went on, because the fish would set up consistently on the outside edge of the phragmites. The wind never really affected our bite, it just made the frog bite slow down and made it harder to feel the bites flipping. Josh and I lost some big fish yesterday and we never really had a chance at a big fish this morning."
Washburn’s Thomas Heinen and Jake Brunton sat in third place after Day 1 with a bag of 16.03, but the Ichabods couldn’t locate the big fish on Day 2, dropping to sixth with a bag of 10.48 after the round was shortened to a half-day. Heinen said he thought the loss of the afternoon bite probably hurt their chances.
"Our better bites always came in midday when it got hot," Heinen said. "We could of had what we had yesterday if it was a full day I think. The higher the sun, the tighter to cover they got."
KBN youth director Travis Burch, hosting his first state championship since replacing Richard Heflin in that position last fall, said the move to a half-day was made because of 25 to 35 mph constant winds that were forecast after 11 a.m.
"Safety of the anglers is the most important thing," Burch said.
He added that he enjoyed his first time at the helm of a state championship and was happy with some of the additions that were made, including video from the weigh-ins being uploaded to the KBN youth division’s YouTube channel at https://tinyurl.com/ycjc38dt/.
"I loved it," Burch said. "Hope bringing the new trailer out, having the national anthem and prayer every morning was a hit. Of course, schedule on a lake by themselves instead of fishing with or after a 50-boat high school field helps. They also had scheduled two days instead of one."
K-State’s Hunter French and Brianna Wagoner replaced the Ichabods at the No. 3 spot with a two-day total of 30.28 after sitting in fourth on Day 1, giving the Wildcats a 1-2-3 sweep of the state tournament. Wagoner is believed to be the first female to finish in the top three in a KBN College State Championship tournament.
With their college careers now all but over, Hopkins and Flynn are looking toward the next step in their bass fishing careers.
"We have both been getting more interested in adult and pro-ams and we are wanting to branch out and expand our careers," Hopkins said. "We hoped for our last college tournament to be a win, but we’re excited to start the next chapter in our careers. I graduate in December and will be fishing the opens next spring."
The Washburn team of Heinen and Brunton was joined on the weigh-in stage this year by a second Ichabod squad, made up of Grant Huerter and Joshua Geither.
Fishing in their first college fishing tournament together, Huerter and Geither posted an 11.60-pound bag on Day 1. The Ichabods fell off the mark a bit in Day 2, however, and were unable to climb out of last place, weighing just one fish for 2.25 pounds on Sunday.
In total, there were six K-State teams and two Washburn teams in the field of eight. The event is open to all college fishing teams across the state, from JUCO all the way up to Division I.
K-State’s Andrie and Drew Easterday had a costly penalty levied against them Saturday after self-reporting that they had accidentally kept six fish in the livewell.
The deduction dropped them from sixth place to seventh on Day 1 with a net weight of 12.18 pounds following the penalty. The extra two pounds would’ve been enough to vault them into fourth place in the final standings, as the team had a two-day total 26.56 to finish fifth behind fellow Wildcats Kyle Simmons and Brett Halstead (28.25).
Fore, O’Niell win bonus qualifier
In the monthlong, online-based bonus qualifier event for the Kansas BASS Nation High School/Youth State Championships, Kickback Club’s Peyton Fore and Griffin O’Neill maintained their lead in the high school division, while Topekans Nick and Kyle Herrman posted the largest total bag of both classes to take the youth division.
Bags were determined by the combined lengths of the best five bass measured by each team and reported with a photo via a fishing tournament smartphone app.
The Herrmans were the only team in either division to break 100 total inches, posting 101.25 to edge out Topeka Junior Hawgs teammates Laiken Emanuel and Avery Bowen, who tallied 89.75 inches, in the youth division.
Fore and O’Neill’s victory in the high school ranks was, by contrast, razor thin. The pair topped Basehor-Linwood’s Colton Hutchinson and Owen Blackburn by just a quarter-pound, winning with a weight of 98.50. Rounding out the top five were Olathe East’s Sean Ferguson and Noah Amundson (97.75), Buhler’s Nathan Fideldy and Preston Gover (96.00) and Kickback’s Jackson Ophreim and Luke Crane (94.0).
Fishing as a co-angler on the adult side, Fideldy also won the KBN state team qualifier from June 27-28 on Grand Lake, Okla., with Kenny Turpin winning as a boater.
The rescheduled high school and youth state championships will take place Sept. 12-13 at Crawford County’s Bone Creek Reservoir. There are two rescheduled high school/youth qualifiers remaining, with the next one set for July 25-26 on Milford.
For more information on the KBN’s college, high school or youth series, contact Travis Burch by phone at 913-562-4660 or by email at email@example.com.
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