After the Illinois High School Association board of directors extended Carlyle’s contract to host the state bass fishing finals for another three years, changes seem inevitable with bass fishing in Illinois high schools.

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A decade-long storm building came to a head on June 14 when the Illinois High School Association board of trustees approved the three-year extension of Carlyle’s hosting of the state finals for fishing at bass. The first 12 finals took place on Lake Carlyle.

“I guarantee that many schools will retire from IHSA bass fishing,” said Batavia coach Brian Drendel said.

IHSA should listen to him. He was part of the original advisory committee. He helped organize a section each year. He became president of the Illinois Bass Fishing Coaches Association, whose first board meeting was held in January 2020.

“Kids deserve better lake fishing and coaches deserve a more central lake so they don’t have to drive [up to five-hours-plus]”said Drendel.

Carlyle is excellent at crappie fishing and produced the previous Illinois record for flathead catfish. As far as tournament bass fishing goes, this is the least sought after of Illinois’ great waters.

According to ifishillinois.org, Carlyle hosted just 11 tournaments in 2020 with the largest total bag of five fish at 75.94 pounds. It’s overshadowed by Lake Shelbyville (69, 842.5), Lake Rend (59, 842.5), Lake Springfield (49, 473.19), Lake Clinton (50, 414) and Chain O ‘ Lakes (40, 287.25).

Carlyle is long and sensitive to storms, winds and waves in May. Only twice have the finals gone as planned. The other 10 were postponed, delayed or cut short.

Shelbyville or Clinton would be the most central, but neither has enough infrastructure nearby. No longer does. The chain is uncertain about neighboring dwellings and it is not central.

Organizing a state final is much more than fishing. With a field of 70 boats and support for a two-day event, hundreds of restaurants and accommodation nearby are needed.

That leaves Carlyle and Springfield. Both have submitted offers this year. Springfield is superior for restaurants and hotels, as well as better bass fishing.

Still, the IHSA Board of Directors chose Carlyle, as IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson explained: a. They helped us make the dream of a state bass fishing championship come true and embraced the event as a community in every way they could. We are proud to be returning to lead the event for three years.

The first two sentences are true. The conclusion shouldn’t be.

“I find it hard to believe the offers were equal, Carlyle is not geographically central,” Drendel said. “Call it complicity or laziness, they just wanted to stick with what they knew or something fishy was going on under the table.”

After the board meeting, he responded to calls and messages from across the state expressing his displeasure.

Drendel noted one of the ideas suggested by the original advisory committee to move the finals each year. Retired IHSA administrator Dave Gannaway, the mastermind behind IHSA bass fishing, advised holding the first few years on the same lake to keep it going.

Several coaches on the advisory committee had the impression that the finals would turn in a few years. Instead, the top 15 will be on Carlyle.

The IBFCA wasn’t just about moving Carlyle’s finals. They set up the Illinois State Coach and Student Tournament Trail. Even in the midst of a pandemic, it took off. Events took place across the state and drew fields as large as 60 boats.

At the ICASTT final on June 13, $ 14,000 in scholarships was awarded to the 57-boat course on Clinton, won by Galatia.

Several coaches have called it the Real State Championship.

“The coaches contacted the IHSA to change the lake,” Drendel said. “It all fell on deaf ears.”

So the change is blowing.

Despite all the issues with Carlyle Lake, this has been part of the growth of high school bass fishing in Illinois, pictured by Jim O’Neil, here in a 2011 file photo with one of larger bass caught, who would go on to become a boatmaster and trainer.
Dale bowman


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