Iowa holds Junior and High School State Championships on Okoboji

By Steve Weisman

After a week of 15-30 mph gusty winds, intermittent rain showers and a Friday night of severe thunderstorms, Mother Nature gave the 65 teams for the SAF/TBF High School Bass Fishing Iowa State Championships an eight-hour window without wind and rain to vie for the state title on Saturday, April 27 at the Okoboji Chain of Lakes.

With 45 teams in the high school division, and 20 in the junior division, and the chance to qualify for the opportunity to compete at the National Championships, the teams put on quite a show with 33 teams in the High School Division bringing 5-bass limits to the scales and another 11 teams in the Junior Division doing the same.

As SAF director Bob Harris began the weigh-in, he began with “Wow! That’s all I can say! What a day, what strong competition and what a fishery! We are so excited to be here. Thanks to all of our teams, boat captains, parents, the many sponsors and the volunteers. They all make this tournament the success that it is.”

This was the second consecutive year that the SAF/TBF State Championships were held on the Okobojis, and it was obvious that the returning teams had learned their lessons well on how to fish canals, the wood docks and the clear water of West Okoboji.

In the High School Division, leading the way with a five-fish weight of 20.60 pounds was the team of Nolan Ponstein/Cole Carstens of the Panorama Panthers with a 5.7-pound kicker fish. In second place with a five-fish weight of 18.68 pounds was the team of Noah Franken/Brady Boogerd of Unity Christian. Ethan Timmerman/Ty Timmerman of Cedar Falls took third place with a five-fish weight of 16.86 pounds. Fourth place with a five-fish weight of 16.69 pounds was the team of Gavin Lindstrom/Blake Schwartz of Panorama. These four teams also punched their ticket for the National Championships at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell on June 19-22, 2024.

Largest bass in the High School Division was a 7.39 pounder brought to the scales by the team of Rowen Oostra/Isaiah Van Maamen.


Junior Division (grades 3-8)

            Meanwhile, the TBF Junior Division was also a battle. The first place team of Colton Anderson/Holden DeVore of Atlantic brought a five-fish limit weight of 16.11 pounds. They also weighed in the big fish with a 5.97 pounder. Second place went to the team of Collin Nore/Grady Peterson of Southwest Iowa Fishing Team with a five-fish limit weight of 14.33 pounds, while the team of Jake DeBoer/Parker Wilson of Cedar Rapids weighed in a five-fish limit weight of 13.89 pounds. Fourth place and a weight of 12.52 pounds went to the team of Timothy Donovan/Vaniarsdol of Southwest Iowa Fishing Team.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The top two teams in the Junior Division earned their way to the National Championships.

What a fishery the Okoboji chain of lakes is, and the teams who had never fished here before were amazed at the tremendous water clarity. They also learned a lot about fishing canals and pitching around all the wood docks.

How it all works

            An important part of success in this team format is the leadership of boat captain/mentor, who provides the boat. Harris says, “These boat captains are so important for the success of this tournament circuit. It would not be possible without their investment of money, time and emotional support for our youth. They have such a positive impact on these youngsters. At the end of the day, it’s about integrity and learning to solve the fish and the changes that can occur throughout the day, just like the problem solving they do in real life.”

Harris also shares how important sponsorships and volunteers are huge keys in making this high school fishing circuit succeed. “We have over 20 sponsors both statewide and locally that have helped cover the costs for this entire tournament. I’d like to especially mention the efforts of the Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club (IGLFC). They were the boots on the ground that helped make this happen. It is obvious through their efforts that the IGLFC has a mission of investing in the youth of our state. I’d just like to thank the local community for welcoming us and helping make sure we had everything we needed!”