LITTLE AXE, Okla. — Evan Wahpekeche is on the right track to follow in the footsteps of a fellow Native American angler who has become a Bassmaster Elite Series star.
Wahpekeche, 15, of Little Axe High School ranks Jason Christie as his favorite pro because he and the Elite Series pro have a lot in common.
“He’s a Native American,” said Wahpekeche, who is an active traditional member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. “I have met him a couple of times and I feel I fish like he does. He does whatever it takes to get to the big fish. It gives me inspiration that someone from Oklahoma and also from a smaller town can do something that great.”
Wahpekeche remembers fishing for white bass and largemouth bass when he was 4 years old. His interest in bass fishing grew a couple of years later when his family moved near Broken Bow Lake. Wahpekeche was introduced to tournament fishing during his middle school days when his father, J.R., joined a bass club and the club asked Evan to be his partner.
Evan recalls fishing his first tournament on Oklahoma’s Lake Murray with his dad in an Oklahoma Bass Anglers Association club event in which they took second place with 20 pounds.
“We did fairly well in that club,” he said. “I was definitely hooked then.”
After fishing a few open junior tournaments on Broken Bow and Lake Texoma, Wahpekeche found out about the Oklahoma City Junior Bassmasters club from his fishing buddy, Trevor Yates, who was selected for the 2015 Bassmaster High School All-American team. Wahpekeche decided to join the club last year for the opportunity to fish more tournaments and gain more experience.
“I did a whole lot better than I expected for my first year,” said Wahpekeche. The club rookie had a banner year winning two tournaments, recording three runner-up finishes and winning the club’s Angler of the Year award in the 11- to 14-year-old age division.
Even though Wahpekeche was only an eighth-grader last year, Little Axe High School allowed him to fish with Yates on the high school team. Together they won the 2015 Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation High School Team Trail Angler of the Year title and qualified for the 2015 Costa Bassmaster High School Nation Championship on Kentucky Lake where they finished 43rd.
Wahpekeche said he believes his high school fishing experience has taught him how to adapt to conditions.
“You can’t be set in your ways,” he said. “You have to do what the fish want. I do what I have to do to catch fish, whether that is finesse or power fishing through brush.”
The young angler is also a promoter of his Native American heritage. Last summer, he traveled to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and served as a cultural presenter at an exhibition titled “Shawnee: Living in Both Worlds.”