Teams can enter from Kansas colleges ranging from the JUCO level to Division I. College teams from outside states also are allowed to enter. Takeoff will be at 7 a.m., with the weigh-in at 3 p.m. at the Rock Creek State Park boat ramp.
KBN youth director Richard Heflin said the tournament had 11 teams participate last year, and he expected to have between 10 and 15 teams this year, though entry forms were still coming in. Many of those entries are coming from Kansas State, which has one of the most storied fishing programs in college bass fishing history after winning three national championships in a four-year span.
However, the Washburn Ichabod Fishing Team will make its college fishing debut this year after the club was started this spring by Hayden graduate Thomas Heinen, now a freshman at WU.
Heinen’s teammate on the Washburn team, Ryan Anderson, also attended Hayden. He was a senior during Heinen’s freshman year at the high school.
“After forming the club at Washburn, I am fortunate to have Ryan as a partner this year and we are looking forward to competing in the college series,” said Heinen. “Our goal as college anglers is to make the national championship and represent Topeka and Washburn University at the national level. Now we have the opportunity to do that fishing local waters.”
Heinen fishes a finesse style that may be beneficial on the typically pressured fishing lake, and already has amassed a number of sponsors thanks to his tournament successes, including Z-Man Fishing Products, Yakima Baits, Pro-Cure Bait Scents, TBC Jigs and Carhartt Fishing. He also recently picked up sponsorships from Yo-Zuri and Falcon Rods, which he said he was “very excited” to represent this year.
Washburn students who are interested in joining the new club and fishing competitively can do so by getting ahold of Heinen by phone at (785) 272-2452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heinen has had some previous success on Perry while fishing competitively in the high school ranks at Hayden. Heinen and his former teammate, Brock Bila, won a KBN high school qualifier on Perry in 2017. The lake has a quickly growing smallmouth bass population that he likely will look to take advantage of, and the reservoir has seen the addition in recent years of several thousand dollars worth of structure upgrades thanks to the KBN.
“My previous experiences on Perry have treated me well, but our main focus is to learn the current water conditions,” Heinen said. “Having success in the past helps, but everyone has an equal opportunity at the event. It will be fun to compete against some of the guys again from when we were all in the youth and high school series.
“I would like to thank John Burns for helping me start the club at Washburn and being our academic advisor, as well as Richard Heflin for all of his efforts organizing the college series for the state of Kansas.”
Among the familiar anglers that Heinen will likely see at the tournament is Zach Vielhauer, who along with Kansas State teammate Will Andrie won the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic. Vielhauer, now a sophomore at K-State, came up through the Kansas BASS Nation’s youth system and fished in the high school circuit for the Kick Back Club while attending Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“I think starting in the youth program and then going into the high school program has played a huge role in preparing me for college fishing,” Vielhauer told The Topeka Capital-Journal last March. “Growing up in each of those programs allowed me to begin to travel and meet friends from around the country. It has also given me the opportunity to network myself and try to make a name for myself. On the competitive aspect it gave me the knowledge of what tournament fishing is and how the whole system works.”
Teams need to make sure they are in good standing with BASS, BASS Nation and the KBN in order to participate in the state championship. For details on registering and to get help, contact Heflin by phone at (785) 246-0243 or by email at email@example.com.