Valentine, Neb. — A record field of 20 teams competed in the Nebraska B.A.S.S. Nation High School State Championship July 21 at Merritt Reservoir.
The 20 teams consisting of two high school anglers and a boat captain surpassed the championship’s previous record of eight boats, according to Brett Kmiecik, Nebraska Nation youth director. One of the teams contending in the event was 2016 returning state champions Colton Kelle and Jarrett Kmiecik from the Star City High School Anglers club. They represented Nebraska at the 2017 Bassmaster High School National Championship on Kentucky Lake.
Last year’s state champion runner-up Draven Ray competed in this year’s championship. He and his partner Justin Barnes fished in the 2017 Bassmaster National Championship, but Haley Sporven joined Ray this year for the state championship because Barnes had moved out of state.
The Lincoln County Bassmasters team of Hunter and Jaron Cooper won the state championship with a five-bass limit weighing 16.85 pounds. They were coached by Kent Priel of North Platte. Lincoln County Bassmasters Austin Dennisse and Kadin Oettinger with their boat captain Lewis Nolda finished second with 15.06 pounds. Both teams qualified for the 2018 Bassmaster High School National Championship next summer.
“The rise in numbers (of state championship teams) has sparked interest in a team tournament trail consisting of four open tournaments next year,” Brett Kmiecik said. “The open trail would allow another team from Nebraska to qualify to compete in the national championship.”