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Worthington bass fishing team is hooked on a new competitive sport

Worthington High School Fishing League members cast from the dock at Sunset Park on Lake Okabena. They are (from left) Andrew Benson, Blake Ahrenstorff, Austin Gundermann and Zach Ahrenstorff. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 4
Fishing league team members Blake Ahrenstorff and Alec Langerud hold up bass caught in a tournament on Washington Lake. (submitted photo)2 / 4
Many Worthington High School Bass Fishing League members met on the west shore of Lake Okabena this week. They are (from left) Coach Nathan Holt, Traeton Holt, Austin Gundermann, Jack Black, Zach Ahrenstorff, Blake Aherenstorff, Andrew Benson, Devin Kaddee and coach Kurt Ahrenstorff. Not shown are Krew Aljets, Kessie Aljets, Jake Ahrenstorff, Zayder Abdulrahman and Alec Langerud. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)3 / 4
Zach Ahrenstorff (left) and Traeton Holt display their tackle boxes. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)4 / 4

WORTHINGTON -- Fishing isn’t just a pastime. For the members of the Worthington High School Bass Fishing League, it’s a competitive sport.

Throughout the summer, local teen-age fishermen have been baiting hooks for team glory, soaking up everything they can learn on how to tackle particular Minnesota lakes, and hoping for a chance to go to the state tournament.

“I think it’s a different twist on fishing,” said one of the members, Traeton Holt. “Everybody thinks it’s just sitting out on a lake and putting bobbers in water, and just watching it. It’s more fast-paced, and it’s the hard-core side of fishing. I think it’s a lot more of a sport than people make it out to be.”

In 2018, the first year of competitive fishing in Worthington, anglers set out on lakes in two six-man teams. The Worthington squadron is made up of kids between grades 8 and 11. Tournaments typically begin at 7 a.m. and continue till 2 p.m., and anglers attempt to catch five bass which they weigh in a bag. The team with the heaviest catch wins. Also, the team with the biggest fish gets a plaque.

There can be as many as 50 boats in a tournament, say Worthington coaches Kurt Ahrenstorff and Nathan Holt.

In a typical tournament, a thousand casts a day are made.

There are approximately 1,000 Minnesota kids competing in competitive fishing. The top 100 two-man teams qualify for the state tournament Aug. 24-25 at Lake Pokegama in Grand Rapids. The top five teams in the state tourney can move on to nationals.

Traeton participated in a fishing tournament last year by himself. From that, Kurt and Nathan considered the possibility of putting a team together. So Traeton and Zach Ahrenstorff, another team member, brought an advertising poster to the school and also talked about it on Facebook. And, in time, Worthington had a team under the Minnesota Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.).

The team is not funded by the school district. There are five sponsors: The Round Lake Sportsman’s Club, Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club, Smooth Moves Seats, Crystaleyes Fishing and Worthington Tax and Business Services.

As coaches, Kurt and Nathan say they don’t need to explain a whole lot to their anglers.

“A lot of it is actually up to the individual kid. Watching YouTube videos is pretty helpful to teach them on how to catch fish,” said Kurt.

“They watch the professionals,” added Nathan. “To me, the challenging part of this is you have to fish a lake that you never fished before. So you need to learn to adapt to the lake and find fish on that lake.”

The young fishermen are hooked.

“You learn more by fishing tournaments and learn ways to catch the bass -- what baits work better than others on that specific lake, and finding the depths where the fish are at,” said Jack Black, who has fished since the age of 3.

“It gets you out fishing more often,” said Zach. “Usually around here, there’s not a lot of bass fishermen who take it seriously. There’s good competition out there. Makes it tough. It’s a challenge, but that makes it fun.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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