Illinois team qualifies for high school championship five times

BENTON, Ill. — High school anglers had five opportunities to qualify for the 2016 Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship, and most competitors feel proud to have collected on just one of those occasions.

But Dailus Richardson and Trevor McKinney of Illinois qualified all five times.

“That’s the first time anyone has ever made it to the championship qualifying every single way possible,” said Hank Weldon, manager of the B.A.S.S. High School program. “It’s very impressive.”

Richardson and McKinney qualified the first time by winning the 2016 Bassmaster High School Classic Exhibition in March. They didn’t have to compete another time to make it — but they did.

In April, they finished in the top 10 percent at the Southern Open. All a team needed was to finish in the top 10 percent in any one Open.

In June, they won the Midwestern Open, earning their third qualification. And less than two weeks later, they won their state’s high school championship. Immediately after that, they went to the 2016 Costa Bassmaster High School Central Open, where they finished second, earning their fifth and final qualification.

As if that wasn’t enough success for one year, the pair were also selected for the exclusive 2016 Bassmaster High School All-American team. They were two of only 12 high school anglers who were invited to compete at the 2016 Bassmaster BASSfest and fish with a pro — a trip that was sandwiched between their Midwestern Open and Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation High School Championship victories.

“The High School All-American was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” McKinney said. “It made us feel like we were pros.”

That’s good practice for these two because both anglers plan to go pro after competing at the college level. McKinney and Richardson are starting school at McKendree University in August, where they will compete on the bass fishing team. Richardson will study business and marketing, and McKinney will major in education. After graduation, they hope to launch successful careers as professional bass anglers.

But before all of that, the two have the high school championship to focus on.

“We’re really excited,” Richardson said. “Hopefully, we can win this one. Coming so close two years ago was a heartbreaker.”

Richardson is referring to the 2014 Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship, when he and his teammate took the runner-up spot, missing the win by only 7 ounces.

Now, Richardson said, a win would mean even more.

“We would love to end our high school career with a championship win, and then we would be starting college with a lot of momentum.”

Dailus and Richardson will compete against 160 other teams, Aug. 2-6, on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn. Tune in to for updates.