Changing weather conditions and an overnight storm made for tough fishing on Clinton Lake near Champaign, Illinois, last Saturday. Nevertheless, senior Jimmy Ciurej and junior Joe Hayes were able to boat three keeper largemouth bass weighing 6.8 pounds with a 14 inch limit to win The Bass Federation (TBF) Illinois State Championship.
Boat captain/assistant coach Luke Opoka ‘12 pulled out all the stops in his game plan under the tough conditions, but the fish just didn’t cooperate. The two-man team caught a few smaller fish, but they were not able to add to their total. They lost a nice lunker with just ten minutes to go before check-in. However, the three keeper bass were enough to win the tournament. The win now qualifies Ciurej and Hayes to fish in the TBF Regional Championship in October on Kentucky Lake in Murray, Kentucky, which is considered one of the top ten bass fishing lakes in the country. A win in that tournament would qualify them for the national championship and college scholarship opportunities.
The Bass Federation is the nation’s oldest and largest organized grassroots fishing organization and has developed an affiliated Student Angler Federation (SAF) component. The SAF holds state high school tournaments across the country all leading to regional championship tournaments and a final national championship.
The Brother Rice Bass Fishing Team is having another banner year and continues to add to their overflowing trophy case. Coupled with winning the Oak Lawn Tournament last October to start the season, the Crusader anglers finished number 2 and 4, respectively, in the District 230 Tournament Series final standings. In addition, they placed third in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Sectional Tournament on Wolf Lake in April and are headed to the IHSA State Championship on Carlyle Lake on May 31.
Head coach Ted Lowery’73, and assistant coaches Jim Opoka, Luke Opoka’12, and Brian Moriarty will have one more opportunity this year to put the Crusader anglers “on the fish.” The rest is up to them and we wish them well! Senior Mike Slakis and junior Joe Hayes will represent Brother Rice in the IHSA State Championship.
The team is losing a powerful lineup of graduating seniors in Bryan Lee, Matt Caulfield, Jimmy Ciurej, Mike Slakis, Joe Leitelt, and Nick Stimac. We thank them for helping to make the Brother Rice Bass Fishing Team one of the most accomplished, respected, and feared bass fishing teams in the IHSA! We hope you will be back as alumni to pass on your wisdom and help mentor our up and coming Crusader anglers. We wish you well in all that you do. Great job men! Best of luck and Go Crusaders!
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