MFL MarMac students compete in Iowa High School Bass Team Championship

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MFL MarMac students Kashton Mathis (left), TJ Hexom, Maccoy Pritchard, Braden Landt, Logan Engelhardt, Brittney Kober, Cullen McShane and Bryce Diehl (not pictured) participated in the first-ever Iowa High School Bass Team Championship. The team of Pritchard, Kober, Landt and Engelhardt placed second overall.

Kober, Engelhardt, Landt and Pritchard placed second with a 2.92-pound bass, and were just one of three teams to catch a fish that day. Their efforts were rewarded with trophies, rods and reels.

One team earns second place overall

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac students moved from the classroom to the water earlier this month to participate in the first-ever Iowa High School Bass Team Championship. The event, held on Pleasant Creek Lake near Palo, was also the school’s first foray into a fishing competition.

Brittney Kober said the students were introduced to the idea by principal Larry Meyer.

“He sent out this email saying there was a bass competition, and I had first interest in it,” Kober noted. She began recruiting and was eventually joined by Logan Engelhardt, Braden Landt and Maccoy Pritchard.

Soon, another team, consisting of TJ Hexom, Kashton Mathis, Cullen McShane and Bryce Diehl, was on-board.

At the event, each group was split in half, with two students and one coach per boat. High school science teacher Dan Anderson and superintendent Dale Crozier helped the first team, while parents Galen McShane and Carl Hexom worked with the second.

In all, 14 teams competed on the 400-acre Pleasant Creek Lake.

“That seems like a lot of [area],” Hexom said, “but it’s not when you have like 40 boats.”

All the MFL MarMac students said they fish regularly, but most of that experience has come on the Mississippi River. Bass fishing on a lake was, admittedly, quite different.

“There’s not as much current on a lake,” Pritchard explained, “and they’re usually more clear.” On Pleasant Creek Lake, in particular, participants could see down eight to 10 feet.

“There’s more variety in the Mississippi,” added Mathis. “More spots you can fish.”

“Maccoy was the only one who’d seen the lake and fished it before,” Hexom remarked, “so none of us really knew what to expect.”

Heading into the day, Anderson said participants were told the lake had a lot of fish. Unfortunately, that promise didn’t materialize.

“It was cool and overcast that day, rainy and windy,” he said. “I don’t know if they were in deep water because of the weather conditions or if it was a matter of the fish not being really aggressive, but we knew after the first hour it was going to be tough fishing.”

“The conditions were probably the worst I’ve ever fished in,” Landt said.

So Engelhardt and Landt, who’ve been fishing together a long time, developed a plan.

“We were just going after grass structure and rock, to see what would bite,” Engelhardt said.

Heading to the clear, shallow water along the shoreline was a good idea, according to Anderson. That’s where the bass, who were ready to spawn, had created their nests.

“They’ll take their tails and fan off an area—all the mud and debris—so you’ll see the light colored rocks. It’s a circular area about the size of a barrel,” he shared. “If you see these spots, there’s usually a pretty good-sized bass there.”

Just like a bird will protect its nest from prey, Anderson said bass will do the same.

“If you drop something down, they think something is attacking the eggs,” he explained. “Since they don’t have hands, they move it with their mouth.”

When catching fish at this time, he said it’s important to understand that bass aren’t necessarily hungry; they’re simply biting to guard their nests from the lure.

Kober hooked two fish this way, but they both slipped away. Engelhardt came through, however, snagging a 2.92-pound bass. 

That was one of only three fish caught in the whole tournament that day. But it was enough to clinch second place for the team, just behind the 3.14-pound winner. They took home trophies, rods and reels as a reward.

“We were pretty close,” said Anderson. “Another fish in the boat and we would’ve won.”

Looking back on the tournament, Hexom found he’d rather stick to the river than fish a lake or pond. Pritchard wasn’t sure if he’d go back to the location because it was so hit-and-miss. He’d be open to competing again, though.

“It was fun getting to fish through the school,” he said, as it opened up another extra-curricular activity to students.

McShane said he would’ve liked a few more bites too, but enjoyed fishing in clear water for the first time. 

“It was fun trying out a new lake,” Landt agreed.

“I liked the bed fishing,” said Engelhardt, “where you sat at the same fish for like 25/30 minutes, trying to catch the fish when you see it 10 feet from the shore.”

Kober also appreciated the opportunity to try a new kind of fishing.

“I fish for all kinds of fish,” she said, “but I haven’t really targeted bass. So this was a new experience for me, and it was fun.”

Normally, the students just fish for fun, so making it competitive was a new take.

“You were fishing with a purpose,” Mathis said.

Anderson loved that the experience got the kids outdoors.

“I love to take them fishing. I do that with my classes,” he said. “I’m proud of them for thinking outside the box and trying something different.”

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