Reminiscing about a state championship win
By Ryan Park
The 2017 Illinois Bass Nation High School State Championship win is the highlight of my bass fishing career, thus far. It didn’t just magically happen with a hook set. I learned valuable lessons and skills that propelled me to the next level, thus giving me and my partner the win at the state championship.
The high school championship was held in early May, and I remember that spring season, not because of my high finishes. Rather, I remember all those tournaments for the lessons I learned. I started having success in the fall of 2016, the start of my sophomore year. I started fishing more than I ever had before. The more I fished, the better I did in tournaments. I won’t lie, when I started fishing high school tournaments my freshman year, I didn’t do very well. I didn’t catch a keeper in my first four tournaments. I had never fished on a lake, never out of a boat, and certainly never fished in any tournaments. I started fishing as much as I could, and that’s when it started to click.
In the spring of 2017, I learned an important lesson: fish with confidence. More specifically, fish what you have confidence in. If you are someone who doesn’t have confidence fishing out deep, don’t try that on a tournament day. If you have confidence fishing shallow, flipping around wood, go do that. Even if the deep bite is on, you will succeed more in what you know best. In your free time, work on techniques you aren’t comfortable with. Personally, my strengths and confidence are with jigs, crankbaits, and drop shotting. Those are usually the first three things I try when fishing a new lake for the first time.
When I started using those three techniques, I started to catch more and bigger fish. Of course, I would adapt to the conditions and fish other things, but those lures are what I fished the majority of the time that spring, and even up until now.
Gerald Swindle once said “Keep it simple stupid.” I try to fish by that motto as much as I can. It has led me to more success than failure. That spring taught me how to fish with confidence. That ultimately led me to win the state championship and qualify for the Bassmaster High School National Championship.
Do you wanna know the secret of how I caught all the fish at the championship, including a 7.67 pounder? I caught them on a jig and a crankbait!