EVELETH — The Eveleth-Gilbert fishing team is in just its first year of existence and has already qualified two of its members for the state tournament.
State qualifiers Kyle Jarvi and Tommy Schlotec will be heading to Alexandria’s Lake Le Homme Dieu Aug. 24-25 to see if they can win a championship after just getting into bass fishing.
“It’s very exciting for them,’’ head coach Rob Hinrichs said. “It’s nice to have that success early.’’
Hinrichs, a physical education and health teacher at E-G, pursued the idea of a fishing team at the school.
“My little cousin fishes on a team down in the Cities and I thought it would be a great opportunity for the kids up here to competitively fish but also for people that wanted to learn about fishing as well.’’
Eleven students came out for the team, which now competes in the Greater North Conference. North Woods, Grand Rapids, Duluth, Wrenshall, Hermantown, and Northwestern also field teams in the conference.
“A lot of kids hunt and fish so I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce kids to fishing that might not fish a lot’’ and get them involved in competitive fishing, too, Hinrichs said.
With the team formed, Hinrichs said they competed in three tournaments this summer. The first came at Island Lake in Duluth, followed by Lake Minnewawa in McGregor and then Lake Vermilion on July 21. All events are in the Junior Bass League, which Hinrichs and the team decided to join.
Jarvi and Schlotec fish as one of the two-person teams and had a good deal of success. They were sixth at Island Lake, 15th at Lake Minnewawa and won the Lake Vermilion tournament.
“That was fun,’’ Jarvi said. “I thought it would be one of the harder ones.’’
However, the duo pre-fished the lake several days before the event and it paid off when they found the sweet spots.
“We found a nice spot and got into them on the tournament day,’’ according to Schlotec, who said they used wacky rigs to catch the bass. Also, in the pre-fishing, he said he hauled in a five-pound small mouth bass, which is his largest to date.
For Jarvi and Schlotec, their tournament finishes put them in fifth place, which qualified them for state.
To qualify, Hinrichs added, the two-person teams needed to finish in the top 10.
Both Schlotec, 17, and Jarvi, 17, thought joining the fishing team was a good opportunity.
Schlotec said he always goes fishing and “thought it would be a great summer hobby to do. It’s really fun also.’’ He had experience fishing with his father and grandfather on Crane Lake, but they mostly went after walleye.
“This is actually my first year getting into bass fishing. I really like that. I enjoy it because they’re more aggressive and fight better.’’
Jarvi stated he “always fished and then saw the fishing team and I thought it was a good opportunity.’’ He also fished mostly for walleye with his dad and friends, but now likes going after bass.
“I think they’re fun to catch. I like the fight.’’
As far as the team itself, Hinrichs said tournaments usually run from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and the two-person teams keep five fish (each a minimum of 12 inches. The total weight reeled in is used to determine the placements.
“Hopefully you catch some nice ones,’’ he added.
The two-person teams are accompanied by a boat captain (a person 18 years of age or older with a boat, liability insurance, navigation lights and a teathered kill switch).
Looking back on the season and the three tournaments E-G took part in, Hinrichs said most everyone liked it. The team members had a wide range of experience, “but I think everybody learned something so that was nice. It was a good first summer. I think everybody enjoyed fishing the tournaments and learning a lot.’’
Being the coach, Hinrichs stated, “it was surprising how many other schools brought teams to these tournaments and how serious guys are about it.’’
E-G stuck to three tournaments on the bass trail this summer, he added, but may do some others next year. There is also a tournament in the fall, the E-G team might take part in.
Jarvi added he has “learned a lot since I’ve started’’ going for bass. That includes different ways to work a lure.
Coach Hinrichs also helped the kids with new techniques and tips before tournaments.
However, both boys said they researched YouTube for videos on the different lakes and what the fish are biting on.
Both are looking to the state tournament, as well.
“I think it’s going to be a good experience,’’ Jarvi said. “It’s going to be really tough though’’ because there will be about 100 teams in the two-day tournament.
To increase their chances, they will be pre-fishing Lake Le Homme Dieu for two days before the event.
“I think we should do pretty good,’’ Schlotec said. Pre-fishing should help determine “where the fish are.’’
“Hopefully we can find them,’’ Jarvi added.