Kansas BASS Nation youth, high school, college state champions crowned during busy weekend on Milford

Topeka native Redeker among TBF club champions at qualifier

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
From left, the Topeka Jr. Hawgs team of Laiken Emanuel and Avery Bowen hold up their Kansas BASS Nation Junior State Championship trophies after winning the title June 5-6 at Milford Reservoir.
  • Topeka Jr. Hawgs members Laiken Emanuel, Avery Bowen win Kansas BASS Nation youth state title
  • Kickback Club's Jackson Opheim, Luke Crane win high school state fishing titles
  • Kansas State's Kyle Simmons, Brett Halstead add college state title to trophy case
  • Topeka native Logan Redeker wins TBF's S.E. club championship

The Kansas BASS Nation youth program had its biggest weekend of the year June 5-6 on Milford Reservoir, with the youth, high school and college divisions all competing for state championships and a shot at national competition.

And the greater Topeka area once again had something to be proud of. Quite a bit, actually.

The Topeka Jr. Hawgs team of Laiken Emanuel and Avery Bowen captured the youth state title, posting a 10.79-pound two-day bag to top runners-up Ryder Nigh and Gavin Essex, of Kickback Club, by almost a pound (9.98 pounds) for their second state championship after winning the FLW/TBF state youth title last year. 

“When realizing we won, I was surprised, excited and exhausted,” said Bowen, a Topeka resident. “It was an accomplishment we have been working hard to achieve.”

The conditions were tough, especially with the high school and college divisions also fishing on the same days and at the same lake.

“It was really slow fishing, you just had to keep fishing and not give up,” said Emanuel, of Ozawkie. “So when we won, it felt like all of our hard work this season paid off.”

The team thanked Topeka Jr. Hawgs club president Tate Herrman, Larry Brumley and all the Flint Hills Bass Association members for their support throughout the season.

“This being the team's second season, your support, encouragement and guidance has made all the difference,” they said in a joint statement.

Kickback’s Landon Staines and Weston Barkley finished third in the youth division with 8.86 pounds, followed by Circle’s Aiden Razey and Coy Stephens in fourth with 7.07 pounds and Hanover’s Maxwell Sawin and Brandt Beikmann in fifth with 4.86.

After the win, Emanuel and Bowen qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Junior National Championship will be Oct. 8-9 on Carroll County 1,000-Acre Recreational Lake in Huntingdon, Tenn.

From left, Kickback Club's Luke Crane and Jackson Opheim hold up a limit of smallmouth bass they caught en route to securing the Kansas BASS Nation high school state title June 5-6 on Milford Reservoir.

Kickback’s Crane, Opheim take HS title

In the high school division, it was Kickback Club’s Luke Crane and Jackson Opheim who came away victorious after posting a two-day bag of 22.91 pounds, topping Cowley County’s Timber Neal and Koal Meier (21.02).

But it was a challenging affair.

“Well really with finding fish, we didn’t do to well at that prefishing,” Opheim said. “We prefished for only two hours Friday morning and then went to another small lake to kill time. It was hot out there in Milford during practice and we had no confidence. All we really did was found out what baits the fish will not eat.”

On the first day of the tournament, the pair ran into engine problems right off the bat and were unable to get the motor started up for the remainder of the day.

They used their trolling motor to get to a shallow rock point and start working down the bank.

“So we decided to put the boat in about 10-12 foot of water and used Humminbird’s Mega 360 to find the bigger, more chunk rock that was on this point,” Opheim said. “We would pinpoint that rock and cast on top of it and to the sides of it. If we were getting our Ned rigs stuck, then we knew we were in the right stuff. We ended up catching 10 to 12 keepers without leaving the launch cove.”

Definitely not how they drew it up, but it worked nonetheless.

“It was just a surprise to go out there on Day 1 just to find out our motor wouldn’t start and to fish the same point both days and win state,” Crane said. “We were catching them on a green pumpkin Ned rig.”

Their boat luck turned around on Day 2 after borrowing a boat from K-State’s Brett Halstead, though they didn’t have the best day from a fishing perspective. However, In the end they came away with a satisfying, if not frustrating, victory.

“Honestly, winning the state championship felt great,” Opheim said. “I know a lot of guys would agree with me, but us bass fisherman want more, knowing that we could have done something different to do better. Weighing in only 10.42 on Day 2, yeah it was good, but I knew we could have done better. We always have that taste in our mouth to want more and more. But all in all, I was satisfied with our performance, even though we could have touched base on a few things.”

Opheim, a Topeka Capital-Journal first-team all-state pick, rejoined his longtime teammate Crane for the KBN state championship after finishing second on April 25 at the SAF/TBF State Championship with Peyton Fore as his teammate instead, mainly due to an inability to find a boat captain. When Fore offered up a spot on his boat for the tournament, Opheim took it.

Fore, who fished alongside Sam Myers this time around, finished sixth with 16.26 pounds of fish.

Crane and Opheim, both juniors, have known each other since eighth grade and have bonded over fishing over the years, Opheim said. 

“We fished a lot together outside of the tournaments and grew a bond and the love of bass fishing together,” Opheim said.

Crane and Opheim were also first-team all-state picks together in 2020, which was the first year The Capital-Journal made all-state selections for fishing.

“It means a lot to win it with Jackson,” Crane said. “He is such a great partner.”

Buhler’s Nathan Fideldy and Preston Gover, who earned the C-J’s Angler Team of the Year award last week in addition to their back-to-back KBN Angler of the Year awards in 2020 and 2021, ended their KBN high school careers in typical fashion, earning yet another top-three finish with a 19.44-pound two-day bag, just barely edging out Olathe East’s Wyatt Peterson and Miguel Cooper (19.43 pounds for fourth). 

The Capital City Club team of Brock Herrman and Brooks Linnebur rounded out the top five with 17.53 pounds. Their Capital City teammates, Nick and Kyle Herrman, finished seventh with 15.93 pounds, giving the field seven teams with at least 15 pounds at the scales. No other team eclipsed nine pounds.

With the win, Crane and Opheim qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster High School National Championship, is slated for July 29-31 at Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tenn.

From left, Kansas State bass anglers Brett Halstead and Kyle Simmons hold up four bass that helped them secure the Kansas BASS Nation college state championship June 5-6 on Milford Reservoir.

K-State’s Simmons, Halstead win college title

To no one’s surprise, Kansas State continued its KBN college state title streak this past weekend on Milford.

Frankly, it’s expected, as the majority of the field comes from the Manhattan university. And after all, the program has won every state title since the tournament’s introduction in 2018.

But it’s not so often a team that won a state title together in high school goes on to do it again in college.

That was the case last Sunday as Brett Halstead and Kyle Simmons, who won the 2019 Kansas BASS Nation High School Championship while representing the Capital City Club, won the KBN’s college state crown by about 8 1/2 pounds.

The Riley County High School products weighed a total of 29.31 pounds to take the advantage over their Wildcat teammates, Zach Vielhauer and Michael Mueting (20.83), who also won the state crown in 2020.

“So for our smallmouth stuff that we were fishing, we used a Ned rig and drop shot on main lake points and secondary points,” Simmons said. “They were eating crawfish, so we’re using anything that resembled a crawfish. Then for our largemouth bite we caught them on a topwater around bushes and laydowns. Then later in the day, we were sight fishing spawning fish as the sun came up.”

K-State’s Will Andrie and Noah Schultz took third with 14.92 pounds.

Last year’s third-place team, Hunter French and Brianna Wagoner, finished fourth this year for the Wildcats with 14.45 pounds

Washburn’s Grant Huerter and Jake Brunton had a solid Day 1 effort with 10.39 pounds, but posted just one fish for 1.87 pounds on Day 2 to give them a two-day total of 11.26 pounds, good for sixth place.

Fort Hays State’s Brandon Hoffman and Logan Schulte, despite finishing last out of all the teams that weighed a fish, posted easily the biggest fish Sunday with a massive 5.08-pounder. 

It was the first state appearance by the FHSU program.

With the win, Simmons and Halstead qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster College Series National Championship, which will take place Aug. 12-14 on St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y.

Topekan among TBF club champs

Washburn Rural product Logan Redeker — the FLW/TBF Kansas State high school champion in 2020 — was among eight anglers who won club championships during The Bass Federation of Kansas' qualifier event June 5-6 on Wilson Lake.

Two champions for each club in the state — one boater and one co-angler — were awarded and are now qualified to fish the District 7 national semifinals Oct. 2-3, which will again take place on Wilson Lake.

Redeker, currently a Barton Community College student-athlete, totaled 29.62 pounds to lead all co-anglers and earn the co-angler championship in the southeast club, with Wichita's Matt Mesplay (35.33 pounds) winning as boater for that club after also posting the heaviest total bag among boaters. 

Boater Timothy Merkh, of Bennington, (33.11) and co-angler Jeff Tripe, of Basehor, (23.89) won the northeast club championship. Boater Jayce Newell, of Damar, (29.34) and co-angler Eric Ledger, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, (17.71) won the northwest club championship, while boater Chad Schmidt, of Clearwater, (28.74) and co-angler Kyle Klein, of Hutchinson, (29.40) took the southwest club title.

Also qualifying for national semifinals were boaters Dennis Maggart, Chris Brimager, Jason Benjamin, Michael Sanders, Jacob Fish, Hunter Baird and alternates Craig Wolf and Larry Stoafer and co-anglers Ray Cates, Jon Small, Noah Skolnick, Christopher Kirkley, Richard Heflin, Jeremy Jackson and alternates Jerry Benjamin and Jeremy Montgomery.

KANSAS BASS NATION

YOUTH STATE TOURNAMENT

Top five results June 5-6 at Milford Reservoir

Anglers, team ... Total weight

Emanuel/Bowen, Topeka Jr. Hawgs ... 10.79

Nigh/Essex, Kickback Club ... 9.98

Staines/Barkley, Kickback Club ... 8.86

Razey/Stephens, Circle ... 7.07

Sawin/Beikmann, Hanover ... 4.86

HIGH SCHOOL STATE TOURNAMENT

Top five results June 5-6 at Milford Reservoir

Anglers, team ... Total weight

Crane/Opheim, Kickback Club ... 22.91

Neal/Meier, Cowley County ... 21.02

Fideldy/Gover, Buhler ... 19.44

Peterson/Cooper, Olathe East ... 19.43

B. Herrman/Linnebur, Capital City ... 17.53

COLLEGE STATE TOURNAMENT

Top seven results June 5-6 at Milford Reservoir

Anglers, team ... Total weight

Simmons/Halstead, K-State ... 29.31

Vielhauer/Mueting, K-State ... 20.83

Andrie/Schultz, K-State ... 14.92

French/Wagoner, K-State ... 14.45

Hinton/Townley, K-State ... 12.76

Huerter/Brunton, Washburn ... 11.26

Hoffman/Schulte, Fort Hays State ... 10.45