Two more Topeka high school bass anglers will join Shawnee Heights senior Parker Still from June 23-27 at the FLW/TBF High School National Championship & World Finals later this month on the Mississippi River at Lacrosse, Wis.
Fellow T-Bird senior Ethan Haufler and Washburn Rural senior Logan Redeker teamed up to post a five-fish bag of 14 pounds, 3 ounces, on Saturday, May 30, at the FLW/TBF Kansas State High School Championship on Melvern Reservoir. The win marked their first tournament victory and an entry into nationals after last year’s Bassmaster nationals berth.
“It means so much to us, and only fishing tournaments for the last two years and now going to nationals for the second time, it’s really unbelievable,” Haufler said. “Fishing at nationals alongside Parker will be awesome, because we are very close friends and we’ve been joking about me going there with him just for fun. Now I will be going to compete against him.”
The winning anglers of the national championship will then advance to the 2020 FLW Series Championship on Nov. 5-7 at Lake Cumberland, Ky., to compete as co-anglers and fish for the top prize of $30,000, in addition to each receiving a $5,000 scholarship to a school of their choice.
“It’s pretty awesome to have our first win be a state championship,” Redeker said. “We’ve been close a few times to winning but it’s awesome to be able to win one. Ethan and I are both extremely excited to fish the national championship. After our experiences fishing the one last year, we feel like we both have grown as anglers and have learned a ton since then.”
He said he’s looking forward to the experience of fishing against the best of the best once again.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to fish a place like the Mississippi River and fish against the best high school anglers in the country,” Redeker said.
The pair edged out runners-up Still — who secured his berth in the FLW High School Open on March 7 at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. — and his T-Bird teammate, Connor Brees, who was unable to secure a nationals bid. The team posted 12 pounds, 14 ounces, for the second-place finish. Still will fish alongside Austin Chandler, of Ketchum, Okla., in the national championship.
“This being Connor and I’s last time to ever be eligible to fish a TBF state championship, we wanted to bring home the win bad,” Still said. “We had a decent day pre-fishing and ended up with roughly 15 to 16 pounds of fish. We knew if we could get those bites Saturday and one kicker fish, we would have a pretty good shot at winning the tournament.”
Redeker and Haufler, who both are planning to play baseball for Barton Community College next spring, had developed a strategy going in, deciding that they would go against the grain of what the other teams would do.
“Our strategy going in was to find something different then everybody else,” Redeker said. “Everyone knows the main spots on the east side of Melvern Lake, we wanted to find something different that didn’t have as much pressure.
“During pre-fishing, we ran a lot of new water that Ethan and I have never fished before and put together a very solid pattern. We caught 17 to 18 pounds in practice and hoped that everything would work out the same way the day of the tournament. The tournament day went just how we planned it to go and we were lucky enough to win.”
Still and Brees also gained a lot of insight from pre-fishing. As Saturday rolled around, Still said they had a game plan and we went out fished hard.
“We had a slow morning until a five-pounder knocked Connor’s topwater out of the water,” Still said. “Sadly, the fish didn’t get hooked and we went a couple more hours without a single keeper. I switched things up a little and finally managed to land us a keeper in the boat. Then the day started to pick up after that fish and by noon we had a solid limit.”
Knowing they still needed to upsize their bag to have a shot at winning, Still and Brees decided to go hunting for a giant to help put them over the top.
“We had multiple opportunities of having to land a four-plus-pound smallmouth, but the fish would just follow the bait to the boat,” Still said. “So as the day goes on, we kept fishing hard, and then it was time to weigh in.”
Despite not getting the win, Still said he couldn’t be upset with the runner-up finish when he was finally getting to do what he loves again.
“It was a solid day on the water and not a bad way to come back from the COVID-19 lockdown,” Still said.
He also was happy to have some familiar faces joining him at the end of the month in Wisconsin.
“I think its really cool that two Topeka teams will be going to nationals in June,” Still said. “I think it shows that Topeka has some really good fishermen.”
However, both teams know they’re going to have to do something major to pull off a victory against the nation’s best.
“We’re going to have to do something that not everybody does up there and just fish hard,” Haufler said.
Ryder Mains and Mason Chapman, of Legacy Christian Academy, finished third with 12 pounds, 9 ounces, followed by Peyton Fore and Griffin O'Neil, of Kickback Bass Club (11 pounds, 15.5 ounces) and Gardner-Edgerton's Derek Landis and Cale Harlin (7-5).
Oh Captain! My Captain!
Washburn University angler Thomas Heinen, a former Hayden Wildcat, served as boat captain for Haufler and Redeker at Melvern, but won’t be able to travel with the team to Lacrosse because he will be competing June 27-28 in the Kansas BASS Nation College State Championship, tentatively at Wilson Reservoir. Despite that, he was quite excited for the team and wished them the best of luck at nationals.
“Winning a state championship is a feeling you will never forget,” said Heinen, who won the 2016 and 2018 FLW events alongside then-teammate and current Drury angler Brock Bila. “My partner and I were very fortunate to win two of them in our high school careers, and it’s awesome to see your buddies win one. I think I was just as excited as they were about catching those fish and winning that trophy.
“I’m proud of Logan and Ethan. They didn’t waste any time throughout the day, they kept grinding by throwing new baits and trying to find a new pattern. Pre-fishing was pretty fun. You know we thought we had a lot figured out for Saturday but we had some slight changes and that actually benefited Logan and Ethan. Now they will be going to Wisconsin for nationals and I’m pumped for them. Wish this was a trip I could make with them, but Jake Brunton and I have a state championship college tournament at Wilson the last weekend of June.”
Kansas State’s Josh Flynn, who served as the boat captain for Still and Brees at Melvern, also is set to compete in the KBN state championship.
More Topeka success
A pair of Topekans also won on the youth side, with the Topeka Jr. Hawgs team of Laiken Emanuel and Avery Bowen securing their berth in the TBF Junior World Championship with a 10.77-pound bag.
The boys continued a string of successful finishes at Melvern after posting a runner-up last fall at the Kansas BASS Nation youth opener.
The JWC will take place from July 29-31 at Mosquito Lake in Warren, Ohio.
The Basehor-Linwood team of Cydney Hutchinson and Joey Batesel finished second with 5-3, followed by their teammates Logan Plum and River Kiernan with 2-8.