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Local fisherman and volunteer Steve Quinn (left) with two middle level participants Nick Perovich from Big Lake Middle School, and Bryan Oelrich from Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul. Photo by Sarah Rudlang

State high school bass championship held on Cross Lake

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Early Friday morning, June 20, thick, muggy fog shrouded the Crosslake area. For many, it was a quiet, uneventful morning, but that was not the case for a young group of avid fishermen.

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High school and middle school students competing in the Minnesota State High School Bass Championship launched from Moonlite Bay on Cross Lake. Teams representing their schools from all over Minnesota gathered early to participate in the championship, which was put on by Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.).

Each team, consisting of two members, had high hopes of becoming one of the top two finalists, who will continue on to nationals. The top two teams at nationals each will receive $20,000 in scholarships.

Beyond the scholarship opportunity, no less than 60 college recruits will attend nationals, scouting for potential students to continue on in the college level tournaments.

Each two-person team is allowed to catch up to five fish, which are then collectively weighed. The team with the top total weight moves on. There is also a prize for the biggest fish caught. There are strict catch-and-release rules that enforce severe penalties if fish are not alive.

Each team has a boat captain who observes and ensures the safety of the participants. In Crosslake, these volunteers were from all over the community, a few of whom drove from Minneapolis at 3 a.m.

"The Whitefish Chain is the perfect place to have this competition. They have a great bass population," said Steve Quinn, a local fisherman and senior editor of In-Fisherman Magazine, a volunteer captain.

Two Brainerd teams competed in the tournament. One team of freshmen included Gavin Roberts, participating in his second tournament, and Noah Peterson. The other Brainerd team included Will Stolski, a senior participating in his fifth tournament, and his younger brother, Joe Stolski, a freshman.

"The most important thing is to teach these kids a lot more about life than fish," said Paul Perovich, the marketing director of the Minnesota Bass Federation. "The life skills taught during fishing can be transferred to school, sports and life in general. We also see grade point average go up by one full point, because they learn how to manage their time. Through fishing, they learn not to rush; to take things one step at a time."

B.A.S.S. High School Nation clubs are designed to foster leadership, problem solving and public speaking skills. In addition clubs promote environmental awareness, responsibility and conservation, provide community service while educating young adults in the enjoyment of fishing. For more information, go to http://www.mnbfn.org/highschool/index.html.

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