Illinois juniors win spring qualifier

The teens were catching fish left and right

Photo courtesy of Illinois B.A.S.S. Federation Nation
Billy Matthews, left, and Matt Burns, right, took top honors at the Illinois junior qualifier. Frank Labanowski, center, said all the youth put on a good show.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The hot seats for the Illinois Junior Bassmasters State Qualifier turned into a game of musical chairs, May 21 at Lake Springfield.

Twenty youngsters from Junior Bassmaster clubs across the state competed in the tournament for the chance to qualify for the Northern Divisional. “The day started off with a little rain, but that did not affect the junior anglers,” said Frank Labanowski, Illinois B.A.S.S. Federation Nation (IBFN) president. “They were filled with determination before they hit the water. By 9 o’clock, we heard of two limits and several others that had fish in the livewells.”

The juniors put on an entertaining weigh-in with all of their catches. “When the scales opened, the line was forming at the holding tanks and I knew I would be busy for some time,” said Labanowski. “As the weigh-in progressed, the angler in the hot seat was changing for both age groups. Five limits were brought in, and the average weight per bass was just less than 2 pounds. I have seen many club tournaments that did not bring in that many fish.”

Billy Matthews won the 11- to 14-year-olds division and a 2011 Bassmaster Federation Nation Northern Divisional berth with 4.33 pounds. Alex Ellerbrook finished as the runner-up with 3.55 pounds, followed by Davis Hianik in third with 2.43 pounds.

The Northern Divisional qualifier in the 15-18 age group was Matt Burns with 10.11 pounds. Finishing second was Chris Walter with 9.78, and Jonathan Barzacchini took third with 7.03.

IBFN members who served as boat captains were Greg Walden, Jim Blumenstein, Greg Heindelsman, Mel Hedrick, Bob Blumenstein, Ralph Sweat and Bill Skowronski.

Matthews and Burns competed in the 2011 Northern Divisional in August but did not advance to the 2011 Bassmaster Junior World Championship.

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