Neubauer pays it forward in bass fishing

OAK LAWN, Ill. — John Neubauer has graduated and left his high school fishing days behind him, but his high school coach, Chris Kuchyt, still considers Neubauer a valuable asset to his team.

“I have been coaching high school fishing since 2008, and he is by far the best kid I have ever coached,” said Kuchyt, who coaches at Oak Lawn High School.

“The thing that really strikes me about John is how generous he is with his time and experiences,” Kuchyt continued. “We have a lot of new kids just being introduced to the sport, and John is constantly working with them. Any time we take a fishing team outing or a club outing with the beginners, John is always helping them out.”

Kuchyt noted in the school’s most recent fall tournament, Neubauer served as a boat captain for one of the club’s newcomers, and the new angler ended up finishing sixth out of 33 boats.

Neubauer says when he was a kid, he was fishing for everything — bass, crappie, walleye and northern pike — even when he was 4 years old, but he didn’t compete in a bass tournament until his freshman year of high school.

“A couple of local guys from the B.A.S.S. Nation volunteered their time and boats for us and held a high school bass tournament on the Kankakee River,” said Neubauer. “So I jumped into this big Nitro and went 60 miles an hour down the river and had the time of my life.”

He finished second in the tournament, which he said got him “hooked even more” on bass tournaments.

Since then, he and his partner, Andy Jensen, won a District 230 Tournament on the Des Plaines River and finished second in six other high school tournaments, including the District 230 Tournament Bass Classic in October 2014 and the Illinois High School Association Sectional Tournament in April 2013.

He said he considers making the Bassmaster High School All-State Team for Illinois and winning the Angler Team of the Year title for the District 230 tournament circuit as his biggest high school fishing highlights.

Neubauer, 18,  now attends Moraine Valley Community College, where he is pursuing a degree in marketing and management. He recently convinced the college’s student union and school administrators to approve Moraine Valley’s first bass club.

The Illinois teen has aspirations of becoming a pro angler after college, but he plans on pacing himself.

“I have heard that you don’t want to rush into stuff like that, so I will try to take baby steps,” he said. He plans on taking his first steps toward a pro career as a co-angler in pro events.