CARLYLE — Baseball is a game of inches. Bass fishing is a game of ounces.
The West Frankfort team of Brendan Johnson and Cole Levanti saw the good and bad of that maxim while placing third in the Illinois High School Association’s state bass fishing tournament Thursday. The Redbirds had a two-day total of 10 pounds, 5 ounces.
Buffalo Grove claimed the state title with 13 pounds, 7 ounces.
Technically, the Redbirds tied with Farmington at 10 pounds, 5 ounces. However, West Frankfort owned the tiebreaker, the biggest fish from day one, to claim the third place trophy.
On the other side of the coin, West Frankfort lost a half-pound of weight Wednesday for bringing a dead fish to the scales. That extra eight ounces would have put the Redbirds ounce ahead of the second place Mahomet-Seymour team.
“That happens sometimes,” said West Frankfort coach Josh Hefner.
This is the second state fishing trophy for the Redbirds. West Frankfort won the first state tournament in 2009.
The Redbirds took the water Thursday morning with a bit of momentum. Johnson and Levanti weighed in four fish Wednesday. They caught all four in the final hour, following a nearly two-hour rain delay.
Thursday morning, they headed right back to their hot spot.
“We just couldn’t get on them again today,” Johnson said. “We started out at the place we finished. We didn’t have any bites. We went to another place we didn’t have any bites yesterday. We caught both of our fish by 8 a.m. We did not have a bite the rest of the day. Well, I did catch a catfish … but, that’s not a bass.
Levanti caught both fish early on a buzz bait. Johnson said he fished a Rat-L-Trap most of the day.
Like Wednesday, conditions were tough Thursday.
“I don’t like that lake at all,” Johnson said. “It was real tough out there being windy. It was hot yesterday. Then, it rained all night, the water was cold. It was tough.”
Conditions might actually have been tougher than the first rain-shortened day. Farmington was the only team to catch a limit Thursday. And, no one topped Wednesday’s big bass, a 4 pound, 1 ounce fish caught by Mahomet Seymour’s Brok Isaac.
The only other Southern Illinois team to finish in the top 20 was Woodlawn. Beau Bennett and Jordan Hoppa were 17th with 5 pounds, 2 ounces. Bailey Whitehead and Chase Arnold of Crab Orchard finished 23rd with 4 pounds, 10 ounces.
Corey Dahn and Kyle Kreger of Pinckneyville were 25th at 4 pounds, 7 ounces. They caught just one fish Wednesday, but brought three to the scales Thursday.
“It was a little better today, but it was still pretty rough,” Kreger said. “We changed up a lot. Yesterday we were sticking to trees, looking for some grass. Today, we spent most of our time on the rocks. Sadly, that is how you catch them here.”
Benton’s Connor Bacon and Josh Eickelman were 26th, just an ounce behind Pinckneyville. Bacon and Eickelman caught just one fish Thursday, but it weighed in at 3 pounds.
“We caught one more today,” Bacon said. “It was still a tough day like yesterday. We still had fun. We did mostly the same thing. We didn’t really have a plan. We were just going to try of little bit of everything, mostly a crank bait.”
Tanner McFeron, Jacob Kwiatkowski and Conner Wolters were 33rd with 3 pounds, 4 ounces.