In the high school division, competitors include:
• Shawnee Heights’ Ethan Haufler and Washburn Rural’s Logan Redeker, who qualified through the Kansas BASS Nation High School State Championship
• Kyle Simmons, of Leonardville, and Brett Halstead, of Riley, who qualified as KBN High School state champions and through the Central Open regional
• Salina’s Hunter Baird and Herington’s Gabe Backhus, who also qualified through the KBN High School State Championship
• Louisburg’s Brock Bila and Eli Minster, who qualified as Kansas High School Team Trail Champions
Haufler and Redeker fished together as a competitive team for the first time this school year, though Haufler said they had fished together for years as friends. He said they were eager to represent their state well.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to fish at nationals this upcoming week,” Haufler said. “We have worked hard in previous tournaments to be where we are now. This has always been a dream for me and my partner, Logan, since this lake is famously known.”
He said the team had a basic outline of what they wanted to do coming into the tournament, but so much of it was completely new to them that it was difficult to game plan.
“Coming into this tournament should be a fun challenge considering that we have never fished a lake of this size against this many competitors,” Haufler said. “Our plans to fish and succeed consist of fishing to our strengths in shallow water, and using our time wisely.”
Haufler and Redeker earned a spot in the national championship after finishing third at the 2019 Kansas BASS Nation High School Championship this spring at Wilson Reservoir with a two-day total of 28.86 pounds of fish. They made up one of the four Capital City Club teams to qualify.
Simmons and Halstead won that event with a bag of 35.11 pounds, followed by Backhus and Baird with 29.76 pounds. Bila and Minster captured the fourth and final spot with 27.25 pounds.
“My goal this year was to make it back to nationals with Eli,” Bila said. “I am so excited to go to Nationals with Eli because we both have a open mind on what to fish. On Kentucky Lake, you have to play the shallow vs. deep game on where you think your best chances are at catching five best-quality fish.”
Bila said that the emergence of an invasive species on Kentucky Lake may play a role in where they find success during the tournament.
“The past few years the Asian carp have been a huge problem, and it’s spreading out these bass that are off shore,” Bila said. “So in turn, we might see a lot more shallow fishing going on compared to the last few years. I am excited to get down there and see how it is fishing.”
Both Bila and Halstead were named to the 2019 Bassmaster High School All-State Fishing Team in March. Simmons and Shawnee Heights’ Parker Still also earned honorable mention nods.
“Ending my high school career with the Bassmaster High School National Championship is the greatest,” Halstead said. “Last year, nationals went very well for my teammate and I. This season, we worked so hard to go back to nationals again. Took a lot of hard work and dedication, but it paid off. I admit it will be tough doing better than we did last year, but I believe in my partner, boat captain and myself to find a promising bite to carry us to the final day.
“Being a small-town kid from Riley, Kansas, and going to Riley County High School, which does not have a fishing team, I would say my partner and I have made the best of our opportunities. All-State was a big achievement for me, but I haven’t done it alone, my partner and I work together as a team and fish as a team, making tournaments easier than other partners. I also couldn’t have done it without our parents encouraging us and helping us along to way to make it to where we are today in tournament bass fishing.”
He added that getting to represent Kansas on the national stage two years in a row is “amazing,” and that he is “looking forward to it.”
In the Bassmaster Junior Championship, the state will be represented by Gavin Carson and Parker Welch, of the KickBack Junior Club, who qualified as the KBN Youth Series state champions.
Carson and Welch won the youth state championship by more than 3 1/2 pounds, edging out Topeka brothers Nick and Kyle Herrman with a 29.33-pound two-day bag.