Opie Taylor led the Mayberry Minutemen to victory by snagging 4-of-5 keepers at Skokie Lagoons on Saturday. Griffith snagged a 3.86-pound pre-spawn largemouth by ripping a rattle trap off of a main river point.

“Gawwwwwly, Opie did a swell job for us today,” said Mayberry head coach Gomer Pyle. “That lil whipper-snapper was sticking fish on plastics. I do think today was a good learning experience for my guys. Although some of them didn’t catch any keepers, everyone did his job. This was a true team effort today. I wish the sheriff and Aunt Bee could have seen lil Opie reel them suckers in.”

Taylor is the returning state champ. During the off-season, he signed a letter-of-intent to compete at Notre Dame.

n

Huh?

It’s no joke. It’s bass fishing, and, in case you haven’t heard, it’s now a high school sport. On Friday, the IHSA became the first high school association to host a state bass fishing tournament. Nearly 200 teams competed in 18 sectionals at lakes across the state. The state championship will be held May 8-9 at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, about 50 miles east of St. Louis.

Fenwick was one of the teams competing on Friday. The Friars caught one fish to finish fourth at the Skokie Lagoons Sectional. The team did not advance to the state final.

The sport hasn’t caught on everywhere yet. “To date, there has been no student interest at OPRFHS in regards to bass fishing as an activity,” OPRF Athletic Director John Stelzer wrote in a recent e-mail.

Fenwick Athletic Director Mike Curtin admits he was a little skeptical that the sport would get off the ground – or into the water.

“When I first heard about it, I thought it was kind of a joke,” he recalls. “I even kidded around with [IHSA Executive Director] Marty Hickman about it. But I let the faculty know here at the school and some interest grew. We were lucky enough to find a teacher who was not only an avid fisherman, but who had a bass boat with a motor.”

Fenwick’s head bass fishing coach is Ron Stuart, also a social studies teacher. He’s taken the team, consisting of 4-6 participants, down to Peoria and other prime spots to fish. The team even has uniforms – shiny, water-proof fishing jackets that say Fenwick bass fishing. Does that make them the Fenwick Fryers?

“What started as sort of a humorous thing, has turned out to be something great for the school and the athletic department,” says Curtin. “I’m glad it’s working out. I gave them a GO FRIARS salute as they pulled out of the parking lot this morning.”

Gawwwwwly.

Contact: bspencer@wjinc

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...