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MARION -- Kaden Hundley and Austyn Kuder of Carterville thought they were also-rans.

They knew they had had a decent day at the sixth annual Marion Invitational. They had a five-fish limit. They had caught about 18 fish during the course of the day. But, they didn’t think they would leave the Lake of Egypt with a first place trophy.

Yet, in an amazingly tight tournament, their 13.13-pound bag was good enough for first place. Less than two pounds separated the top 10 spots.

“We thought we’d maybe place in the top 10,” Kuder said. “We thought it would take at least 18 to win it. We didn’t realize we had enough to do anything with it.

“We didn’t think we would do anything with it. We got lucky. We’ll take it.”

Consistency was the key to the duo’s success. They found a pattern that worked, fishing Shaky heads near the grass.

“There was no need to change,” Hundley said. “We kept a good rhythm all day. It was consistent.

“We had a pretty good day. We caught all our keepers right at the beginning. We were culling real early, which is good. It started getting pretty slow at the end of the day. Other than that, the bite was pretty good this morning.”

Their winning weight was just 0.17 pounds better than the second place team of Dalton Parks and Dustyn Burford of Crab Orchard. And, just over a quarter pound separated them from Zach Berner and Alec Valerius of Elverado.

The one thing the winners couldn’t do was catch that kicker fish.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Hundley said. “We tried.”

There were 50 boats in the tournament and most brought limits to the scales. On the other hand, there was just one fish over four pounds weighed in. Hayden Snyder and Gabe Wece of Carbondale claimed big bass honors with a 4.18 pounder.

“I figured there would be something over at least five pounds weighed in,” Kuder said. “There usually is every year. There wasn’t.”

Earl Sigley of Angler’s Choice conducted the weigh-in. He was impressed by the closely-packed leaderboard.

“That’s tight,” he said. “That’s really tight. They were really swarming out there to see what they were going to do. It was kind of strange today. Yesterday they were out there practicing and somebody caught a 6-15. That’s a good fish for this lake.”

Fishing sectionals will be held at Lake of Egypt and Rend Lake on May 1.

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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