Kansas native Brock Bila, Drury teammate finish second at ACA's Pickwick Slam

Bila one of two Kansans on the Springfield, Mo.-based team, with a third on the way

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
From left, Drury's Brock Bila and Jack Rankin hold up their limit of bass for the day during the Association of Collegiate Anglers' Pickwick Slam bass fishing tournament, which ran April 10-11 in Florence, Ala.

Louisburg native Brock Bila and his Drury teammate, Jack Rankin, finished strong this past weekend during the Association of Collegiate Anglers’ 11th annual Pickwick Slam from April 10-11 on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala.

Bila and Rankin accumulated a two-day total of 40.15 pounds, making the jump from fourth place after Day 1 to finish in second place on Day 2, roughly five pounds behind the winning squad of James Willoughby and Chance Schwartz, of Montevallo (45.42 pounds). Blue Mountain College’s Fisher Young and Fisher Overton rounded out the top three with a two-day bag of 38.99 pounds.

“Everyone was cranking shallow rock or throwing a spinnerbait and I wanted to find something different, so I idled for practice and found a couple offshore areas with grass in five to six feet of water,” Bila said. “I threw a Temptation Tackle 5.3 swimbait and a Rat-L-Trap.”

Fellow Drury anglers Hunter Baird, of Salina, and Beau Browning, of Hot Springs, Ark., also cracked the top 30, finishing 28th with 29.53 pounds.

"It’s pretty awesome to be able to have the opportunity to fish for Drury University and represent our small town of Springfield," said Rankin, himself a native of Springfield. "Our team has worked really hard the last few years trying to put our school on the map for a sport we all love, and every tournament we fish, that is what we strive to do."

Rankin said he was initially drawn to fishing at Drury because of the reputation the college bass program had garnered.

"I started tournament fishing my eighth-grade year of middle school and shortly after joined Glendale High School's fishing team," Rankin said. "From there, my love for the sport and its competitive nature made me want to continue my fishing career at a collegiate level and have a chance to compete against the top collegiate anglers in the country. I chose to fish at Drury because I had a couple friends that fished there and I knew the program was beginning to really take off, so I decided to give it a shot.

"Here we are a couple years later and I wouldn’t want to fish for any other university. The relationships I’ve been able to develop with my teammates and the guidance and support of Coach Rick Emmitt has not only made me a stronger angler, but also a better individual."

Joining the two Kansans currently on the Drury squad next season will be back-to-back Kansas BASS Nation High School Angler of the Year Nathan Fideldy, of Buhler, giving the Springfield-based Panthers even more of a Sunflower State flavor.

“It's nothing I have done,” Bila said of Drury’s success in attracting anglers from Kansas since his arrival. “After I joined Drury, Hunter came in and now Nathan. The school sets up for the top anglers from Kansas because of location and the opportunity it presents.”

Besides the two teams that made the top 30, three other squads placed in the top 100 for Drury. Those teams were Cameron Smith, of Ozark, Mo., and Cole Breeden, of Lebanon, Mo., (63rd, 23.30 pounds); Grant Harris, also of Springfield, and Jacob Welch, of Jefferson City, Mo., (86th, 17.78) and Riley Fletcher, of Cassville, Mo., and J.T. Long, of Oldtown, Idaho (89th, 17.55).

Nearby Missouri State also had a few notables competing, including Trent Ellis, of Nevada, Mo., and McCabe Johnston-Herzberg, of Des Moines, Iowa, (34th, 28.38 pounds); Kirk Stilwell and Cole Crossman, both of Blue Springs, Mo., (61st, 23.71); Blair Cox, of Branson, Mo., and Zach Adamec, of St. Louis (77th, 20.26). 

Drury’s next tournament will be April 30-May 1 on the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series trail on Lake Cumberland in Russell County, Ky.

• In other BASS news, the Nation trail also will feature a Kansas-based event April 21-23 with the 2021 TNT Fireworks BASS Nation Central Regional at Milford Reservoir in Junction City. Start time will be at 6:30 a.m. and weigh-in will be at 2:30 p.m. each day at Acorns Resort, 3710 Farnum Creek Road. Spectators are welcome.