Iowa college angler credits high school and junior fishing clubs

MARION, Iowa — Success in bass tournaments came at an early age for 2015 Bassmaster High School All-State Team member Hunter Reifschneider.

When Reifschneider was 6 years old, his grandpa, Bob Heath, had him join the Cedar Rapids Junior Bassmasters club. Reifschneider won the 10-and-under age group in the first club tournament he fished. The little guy with the big bag of bass brings back vivid memories for Shanda Heath, Reifschneider’s aunt and club adviser.

“He was carrying the bag up and it was almost as big as him,” Heath recalls.

Since his first victory, Reifschneider has won 26 club and local tournaments. He finished second twice and third once in Iowa B.A.S.S. Nation Junior Bassmaster State Championships and earned big bass honors twice in the state championships. He has also been a leader of his club serving as secretary, vice president and president.

“Hunter has been in the club longer than any of our kids in the club,” said Heath. “He has been a really strong role model to the kids. Our little ones who came into the club all looked up to him.”

Now 18, Reifschneider credits the Junior Bassmaster program with making him a better angler.

“The club is what shaped me as a fisherman,” he said. “I was learning everything I know from either other anglers or people who would come and talk to our club.”

His success and leadership in the Junior Bassmaster program has carried over for Reifschneider into the high school fishing program. He won an Iowa B.A.S.S. Nation High School State Championship as well as a TBF high school state championship and also qualified for the 2011 B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Divisional.

Reifschneider also helped Joe Bagsby, Iowa B.A.S.S. Nation youth director, promote high school fishing in his state by serving as the president of the Iowa high school fishing club.

“We were trying to make bass fishing a bigger thing and getting more kids involved,” said Reifschneider. “When I tell people I am a two-time state champion, they don’t understand it. So it is cool to bring high school fishing to places where it is not common. It provides a great opportunity for kids to get involved.”

After graduating from Marion High School in May 2015, Reifschneider enrolled at the University of Dubuque, where he joined the school’s bass club. He is majoring in environmental science with the intention of landing a Department of Natural Resources position when he graduates.

However, he still plans to compete in club and local tournaments and work his way up to become a pro someday.

“It has always been the dream of mine ever since I was 5 years old to make it to the Bassmaster Classic or fish on tour,” he said. “So I am going to try to do everything I can to make that happen.”