A recent De Soto High School graduate secured his second state bass fishing championship in three years last Sunday at Bone Creek Reservoir.
Dylan Nimrod — who earned his first championship fishing alongside older brother Connor in 2018 at Milford Reservoir — this time was the more experienced angler on the boat, teaming with senior Collin Stephens to post a two-day bag of 16.74 pounds for the runaway victory and a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster High School Series National Championship next month on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.
"It means a lot to me that I am a two-time state champion," Dylan Nimrod said. "To my knowledge, it’s never happened in the Kansas BASS Nation, so it’s an honor. Not only that, but to have my first one come with my older brother and my second to come with one of my best friends is really something special.
"A lot of people just get ‘stuck’ with partners in fishing, but I got to fish with people I really enjoy being around all four years of my high school career."
Joining Nimrod and Stephens on the hunt for a national title will be state runners-up Todd Crosley and Austin Curtis, of Ottawa, as well as third-place finishers Werner Brundige and Ty Neidlein, of Shawnee Mission East, and Buhler’s Nathan Fideldy and Preston Gover, who took fourth with 9.68 pounds. Fideldy and Gover, who were named the KBN’s Angler Team of the Year, had already qualified for nationals prior to the state championship.
"We were very nervous going into Bone Creek because we did not have the opportunity to pre-fish before the tournament," Curtis said. "Part of our strategy on our first day was to hit the grass flats and work our way back into the trees. We figured out after we fished both of those spots that they were not on the trees, they were sitting in the grass flats. We fished a 6th Sense C10 crankbait along the outside edge of the grass flats.
"The second day we only fished the outside grass lines hoping to find fish to gain our weight and put us at the top."
Crosley and Curtis, picked by The Topeka Capital-Journal as second-team all-state anglers this year, have finished out their first year of competitive fishing with a bang.
The Ottawans won the July 25 KBN event on Milford and finished fifth at the August qualifier on Wilson before netting the second-place state finish and a nationals berth.
"Todd and I are very excited about our opportunity to fish nationals for our first year of being a part of the high school tournaments," Curtis said. "We would also like to give credit to Brock Bila for being our boat captain. He has guided us through our first year and was a key part of reaching nationals."
Brundige and Neidlein were the big movers on Day 2 with 8.94 pounds, jumping from the ninth spot — the smallest bag of any anglers who weighed a fish on Day 1 with 1.72 pounds — to finish in the top three with more than 10 pounds.
Stephens also posted the big fish of the tournament at 4.16 pounds.
"Heading into the tournament, we really didn’t know what to expect," Nimrod said. "Bone Creek had been fishing insanely tough for the first time probably ever. Not to mention none of us had fished that lake before, so our first day of practice was our first-ever day on that lake period. Even the locals that fish jackpot tournaments down there every Thursday were having a lot of trouble catching fish to weigh in."
Nimrod said the tough bite made him decide to take a finesse approach instead.
"On our first day of practice, I caught a two-and-a-half pounder and a four-pounder on a wacky rig in about 6 feet of water, which really got my hopes up," Nimrod said. "However, I knew the fish to win the tournament were going to be more sustainable and numerous out deep in the trees."
He said he decided to throw a Flick Shake worm — basically a wacky-rigged worm with a weight on the hook — to get down to the bottom quicker.
"So four of our five fish that we weighed in the tournament came on a black-and-blue Flick Shake between 12 and 18 foot of water," Nimrod said. "The other fish, which was the big fish of the tournament, was caught by Collin on a black-and-blue, Texas-rigged beaver. All-in-all, once I caught that first fish on the black-and-blue Flick Shake, we were going to go for broke with that color scheme."
Stephens said the fact he was a champion hadn’t yet hit home.
"It doesn’t even feel real yet," Stephen said of the state title. "I keep looking at the trophy and I’m still doing double takes. Honestly, I started as a pond fisherman and never thought I would take it to the competitive level. Dylan was a good friend of mine and invited me to join him on the team. After missing state and just missing nationals last year, all we wanted was to hold up the state trophy this season and get a shot at nationals."
And now they’ll get their shot to compete on the national stage Oct. 22-24 in Tennessee.
"It’s going to take everything we’ve got," Stephens said. "This will definitely be the hardest tournament we’ve fished in together. Hopefully we get on a pattern early on in practice that continues to produce throughout the tournament.
"Regardless of what happens at nationals, Dylan and I fished our hearts out this season. I can’t wait to see what nationals holds, and I hope when it’s all said and done, Dylan and I are holding up a national trophy."
Just missing the cut
Recent Shawnee Heights graduates Parker Still and Connor Brees missed a nationals berth by just 0.99 pounds, finishing fifth at 9.67 pounds.
"Going into this tournament, Connor and I knew it was gonna be tough, and we were gonna have to make every bite count," Still said. "I pre-fished it a couple weekends before and never could really get a solid pattern going into the tournament, so that being said, we went and fished new water every day and switched stuff up."
On both days, Still and Brees were kept off the board for hours until catching fish late in the day.
"It just goes to show, even if you’re having a bad day, never give up and fish hard to the last minute," Still said.
SM East’s Peyton Fore and Griffin O’Neill blanked and dropped to sixth on Day 2 after sitting in second on Day 1 with 7.98 pounds.
Rounding out the top 10 were Zakary Pegorsch and Michael Brown, of Bass Junkies Club (7.15 pounds); Blue Valley’s Tucker Bylkas and Riley’s Ian Uphoff, of Capital City Fishing Club (5.79); Colton Hutchinson and Owen Blackburn, of Basehor-Linwood (5.15); and Samuel Revel and Cole Lujano, of Buhler (4.75).
Connor Nimrod, Dylan’s older brother and a current member of the Louisiana-Monroe bass fishing team, had a pretty happy birthday while watching his younger sibling wrap up a second state title on Sunday.
He said watching Dylan win was the best birthday present he could have asked for as a brother and a proud moment as a former teammate.
"And now he’s come into his own and has proven to himself, as well as everyone else, that he has what it takes," Connor Nimrod said.
He said he hopes to watch Dylan compete at nationals in Tennessee, as well, if his class schedule allows it.
It will be a familiar spot for both.
"In 2017, my first year there, Connor and I caught 19 pounds, 14 ounces, on the first day after a really tough practice, so I know that things in fishing can change on a dime, and Kentucky Lake isn’t immune to that," Dylan Nimrod said. "This time around, I think the lake is going to play a little more to Collin and I’s strength, which really has me excited."
Travis Burch, entering his second season as youth director for the KBN, said he was pleased with how the tournament went overall, though the dropping water temps made the bite difficult for the anglers.
"It was pretty open going into Day 2," Burch said. "That lake’s capable of producing one-day bags bigger than what it took to win both days this weekend."
He said he loved the support the anglers drew from the area businesses, and even some that came all the way from Kansas City.
Among the sponsors were Albers Marine in Arma, which donated a prize bag, as well as John's Sport Center in Pittsburg, which donated apparel.
"All in all, I think we are teaching these kids how to compete and take care of our fish and fisheries better then ever," Burch said. "If we keep this up, Kansas lakes will keep becoming better and better with all the knowledge the youth is learning and will be able to pass on."
Stephens, who said he hopes to join his teammate Dylan on the Kansas State Fishing Team next fall, is one of those young anglers who has learned a lot about the sport since joining the KBN.
"Especially fishing with Dylan, since he had a couple more years of experience than me," Stephens said. "Before the KBN, I would only throw a wacky rig no matter what, so the KBN allowed me to become a better angler in every way."
Curtis said the Ottawa community has been highly supportive of Franklin County’s new high school bass fishing club, which is called the OutCast Bass Club.
"Todd and I have received a lot of support on Facebook and we also can tell that the community has been noticing our new high school bass club," Curtis said. "We are seeing some interest from other kids in the community."
Those interested in joining the OutCast Bass Club can contact Brock Bila at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheafer, Smith win youth title
In the youth division, Louisburg’s Lucas Sheafer and Steele Smith took home the top prize with a 10.37-pound bag to earn the lone available spot in the 2020 Bassmaster Junior National Championship from Oct. 19-20 at Caroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake in Huntingdon, Tenn.
They will be joined at nationals by Topekans Nick and Kyle Herrman, the KBN Youth Angler Team of the Year and automatic qualifiers.
Circle’s Aiden Razey and Coy Stephens took second with 6.56 pounds, including the big fish of 4.28 pounds, while Basehor-Linwood’s Carter Markley and Gavin Denney took third with 4 pounds even.