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Reeling in the big one

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It would be a different kind of state championship, and that’s just fine with Chase Banister.

Banister, a starting cornerback for Columbus East in 2012, gave up his spot on the team his senior year to develop the school’s Bass Club, which he started his junior year with the intention of making it his senior project.

Of course, the Olympians won a state Class 4A championship in football, with Banister going a different direction.

That direction takes him to the Indiana High School State Fishing Championships on Sunday at Lake Schafer in Monticello.

The Indiana State High School Fishing Championship is presented by The Bass Federation and FLW (the world’s largest tournament fishing organization). It is a two-person, team event for students in grades 9 to 12. Fishermen begin at 6:15 a.m. and the weigh-in will be conducted at 3 p.m.

The top 10 percent of anglers with the biggest fish can advance to a national championship event that will be conducted in the spring of 2015. The high school national champions will receive a $5,000 scholarship.

Banister will team with John Weddle in the event Sunday.

“It’s just been fun to say I’m competing in a tournament of which I have a deep passion for,” Banister said. “Fishing has been my life since I was a little kid. To be able to do what I have loved my whole life and to have a shot to be the best in the state is an incredible feeling.”

The Columbus East Bass Club started with eight members Banister’s junior year and grew to 17 anglers this year. The club introduces students to the world of competitive fishing.

Weddle had talked to Banister about the idea of a bass club in middle school.

“Fishing has always been a major part of my life ever since I was old enough to pick up my first pole,” Weddle said. “We wanted to see what it would be like doing this competitively.”

Bass tournaments have been big business for quite some time.

“It’s something that a lot of people are starting to notice,” Banister said. “When the community notices that you are starting a club dedicated to fishing, they want to donate or sponsor you.”

However, being good at it takes more than luck.

“When you do it for sport, you have to choose the right bait, right-sized lures and know many detailed things like barometric pressure or water temperature,” Weddle said.

Members of the Columbus East club would put their lines into the school’s pool to check their lure’s action.

Eddie Vogel, coach of the Bass Club as well as defensive coordinator for the East football team, said subtle differences can make the difference between getting a big fish, or just telling a fish story.

“We use artificial bait,” Vogel said. “You have to know specifically what type to use in each area of a lake, and even the weight of your pole is a big factor if you want to get the biggest bass.”

Team members have had success, and that has caught the notice of 11 sponsors

“Word of mouth has gotten the club to where it is today,” Banister said. “Parents, the community and businesses all want to contribute, and it’s things like that which get us new uniforms, equipment and opportunities to compete at places we don’t normally go.”

The club competes at lakes such as Patoka and Monroe in competitions that weigh each team’s five biggest bass over an eight-hour period. It’s a lot different than a relaxing day on the lake, where the failure to get a bite might not ruin the day. No bites in a competitive environment is a disaster.

“It gives you a different vibe,” Banister said. “There’s really no excuse when you are out there, because everyone is in the same conditions as you.”

In the end, Vogel said fishing is just like any sport.

“You simply have to take what the day has given you and grind it out,” he said. “It’s a long day when you are out there competing, but just like any sport you have to tough it out.”

For people new to the sport, Vogel said competitive fishing teaches patience.

“We have kids that have no clue what they got themselves into,” Vogel said. “Teaching them the proper way to catch and bait, to picking the right lure for the right situation, are just a few things these guys have to learn.

“Once you get into the sport it’s fun, but also tough. When people notice you being successful, that’s where the fun begins.”

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