This past weekend marked another completion of a successful tournament season for the Sam Leman EverBloom Tournament Trail with the year-end Classic held at Evergreen Lake and Lake Bloomington, respectively.
This trail is more than just the fishing and, as I have said many times, our anglers set the example as far as following the rules — both fishing and lake ones — and setting an example for other organizations to follow.
As tournament director, the balancing act between friendships and following the rules can be tough. The beauty is this line is seldom crossed as this group of some of the best anglers in the state knows the importance of having the right equipment, including Coast Guard and state mandated items. Additionally, they know both of the lakes we fish are public and understand the importance of being good citizens and sharing the water with others using it.
Before each tournament day we hold a meeting to discuss that very thing. The rules are clear and there is no gray area. I can say without hesitation that this group this year was some of the finest sportsmen I have had the pleasure to work with. They know the system and they police themselves very well.
Because Evergreen and Bloomington are entirely different fisheries — one without homeowners and one with — guidelines have to cover both and lake rules take precedent. For example, we have a no-wake rule until 7 a.m., due mainly to that rule being in place at Lake Bloomington. It levels the playing field.
We also do boat checks before each tournament to make sure safety equipment is present and boats are marked with a ribbon to signify their involvement. Park officials can easily tell if an angler is fishing our event or not by simply looking for that ribbon on their trolling motor. It indeed helps as it keeps the finger-pointing potential to a minimum.
The beauty of the Sam Leman EverBloom Trail is it’s close to home tournaments and the age group includes father and sons, college anglers and old hats as well, all in the same group. We recently have seen an influx of high quality youth anglers who not only can flat catch fish but who are also learning the ropes of rules and tournament practices from the seasoned anglers as well. The new blood shows our sport is in good hands but also makes many of us work harder too.
There is a big difference between fishing during the week and the eight hours on tournament day. Competing during a timed period with a lake full of anglers makes the cream rise to the top versus having the entire lake to yourself. It is a challenge that makes tournament fishing fun for those who love to compete.
It takes a game plan and a stick-to-itiveness mentality unlike many other sports. Many anglers look to time of day, water levels and seasonal patterns plus choosing the correct bait and water depth for success. Consistency is the key to make it to the winners’ circle and being crowned Team of the Year. This year, the team of Taylor Umland and Nick Kirkton showed that consistency and not only won Anglers of the Year but also had big fish of 8.04 pounds that they caught at the first tournament of the year.
This year’s Classic was won by another consistent tandem of Steve Volz and Rick Hoepner with a two-day total of 29.71 pounds. They also had big bass on day two of 4.58 pounds. Second-place finishers were Umland and Kirkton with 20.90 pounds. Stuart and Jake Hoselton had big bass of day two with a 5.79-pounder.
Thanks to Sam Leman Automotive, McLean County Parks and the City of Bloomington, and the Lake Bloomington Association for all the help this year. By the way, the new docks at Lake Bloomington are a welcomed and much needed addition to that lake.
This is one that I am not sure about, time will tell, but Gov. Bruce Rauner just signed legislation allowing crossbows during bow hunting season for all hunters moving forward. House Bill 2893, which amends the wildlife code to repeal restrictions of their use, became law with Rauner’s signature.
Previously, crossbows could only be used by hunters over 62 years old, youth hunters or those with disabilities.
The IDNR will now issue permits to all hunters who meet their guidelines. The 2017-18 season dates for archery deer and fall turkey archery hunting in Illinois are Oct. 1 through Jan. 14. Archery seasons will be closed Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 30-Dec. 3 during the Firearm Deer Season in those counties open to firearm deer hunting.