NRHS students fish national bass fishing championships
At the end of the third day, the pair, along with coach Pat Ehlenfeldt, finished in 20th place, which was not enough to make it to the final day of the competition, but it was more than they could have hoped for heading into the tournament.
The team could not have made it to the competition and wouldn’t have had a boat to use if not for the generosity of New Richmond community members, local businesses and companies.
“Craig Jansen from New Richmond lent us his boat, but if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the competition,” Pat Ehlenfeldt said. “That was huge. We just met him at a grad party and he is part of our bass club, but we had never really talked before. Just out of the clear blue, he knew we were looking for a boat and he said we could take his boat for the competition. It just blew us away.” In addition to being lent a boat by Jansen, Steve Weiss, a friend of Pat’s from work, lent the New Richmond team a large truck since the Ehlenfeldts did not have a vehicle big enough to pull such a large boat all the way to Tennessee.
Three days before the competition, and just before the team was about to leave for Tennessee, the boat they were borrowing for the championships began to experience problems. Luckily, Warner’s Dock was able to help make the needed repairs and get the boys on the road to the competition.
The team had from July 13-16 to pre-fish the Kentucky Lake, which was a good thing for the pair since catching the big fish on that lake would require them to try a whole new type of fishing they weren’t used to in Wisconsin.
“The national competition was a totally new way of fishing for us,” Grant Ehlenfeldt said. “You had to fish these things called ledges, which are huge drop offs, and we couldn’t figure them out at all. We tried to fish them during our prefishing time, but it just wasn’t easy to do. After Day 1, we stopped fishing there and went back to places on the lake like we were used to fishing up here.”
The team was able to find some shallower areas with weeds and tall grass that reminded them of fishing in Wisconsin and that is where they decided to try and fish for the competition.
On the first day, the group had to be up bright and early for the start of the competition. The boats were in the water at 5 a.m. and the first teams were launched at 5:30 a.m.
“The first day was pretty intimidating because of the size of the lake and the number of people who were out on the lake with us,” said L’Allier.
Despite the intimidation factor of the lake, the first morning of the competition was good to the New Richmond team. The pair caught four keepers early in the day in the first bay they went to that morning.
The team caught the daily limit of five fish and finished in 16th after weigh-in on the first day.
Even though the New Richmond team had set out to fish Day 2 like they did Day 1, their plans had to change on the fly when a cold front moved in on Day 2.
“All the spots we were on in Day 1 were flat on Day 2,” Pat Ehlenfeldt said. “We had to regroup and scramble. We didn’t have a fish until much later in the day than we would have liked.”
The group caught their one and only keeper for the day just after their first break. The goal is to catch five fish each day, but a frustrating Day 2 meant the pair was well behind where they wanted to be.
“It was a really frustrating day of fishing for us,” L’Allier said. “It was really long and not a pleasant day to be on the lake because of the weather being bad.”
Heading back to the shore for weigh-in on Day 2, the team wasn’t sure if they had caught enough fish to ensure a spot in the top 30.
The six fish the duo caught were just enough to put them in 28th place and push them through to the second round and third day of fishing. The final total weight of the team’s six fish was 13.7 pounds.
After getting done with the second day of fishing and making it into the second round, the New Richmond team had to rush to a new lake over an hour’s drive away to start scouting the lake for the next day’s event.
“On that third day, the most difficult thing was the pressure we felt since there were 30 boats in a 1,000-acre lake and it basically came down to who had the lucky cast and caught that one nice fish,” L’Allier said.
L’Allier and Ehlenfeldt ended up missing the final cut to go on to the fourth day of fishing, but they were able to finish in 20th place with a two-fish total of 2 pounds, 5 ounces.
“We kind of knew we wouldn’t be able to hang around in the top 10 on that third day, but we were happy to finish in the top 20 since that was our next goal; and we got it,” L’Allier said.
The second lake wasn’t just hard on the team from New Richmond. According to Grant Ehlenfeldt, the team that won the championship had a two-day total of just over 12 pounds, which was way below their total from the first two days of competition that saw weights of close to 40 pounds.
Next year, Ehlenfeldt, who just graduated this past spring, will be taking classes at UW-Platteville, but he plans to try out for the university bass fishing team and try to fish in some local opens when he can.
As for L’Allier, who is going to be a senior this fall, he plans to continue fishing with the high school team and try to get more members to join the team.