My name is Derrik Starrett. I am a senior who graduated in May. I have been on the Mckendree Bass Fishing team since it’s inaugural season in 2013. I was one of the few members who played another sport while being on the Bass Team as well. Since I played football as well as fished, my fall semesters were always very crowded so I didn’t get to participate as much as the other guys. But this last spring I have had much more time and energy to focus on the team, and it has been awesome to see how well we’ve done as a team.
This past week my partner (Austin Niggli) and I participated in the B.A.S.S. Midwestern Regional Tournament at Clinton Lake. I was looking forward to this tournament because it was my last scheduled tournament ever for the McKendree Team. To say I was nervous was an understatement! The tournament field consisted of 93 boats from around the Midwest and a couple of our “rival” schools in the school of the year standings like Murray State.
The Bassmaster Carhartt Series comes to Clinton Lake and Forsyth, Illinios.
The B.A.S.S. tournament is different from other tournaments I have fished because it has the potential to be a three-day tournament. This format makes managing your fish important. With Clinton Lake being relatively small (under 5000 acres) the pressure on everyone’s fish definitely has an impact. I was determined to fish with no holding back because I figured it would be my last college tournament.
To start the week, Austin had a doctor’s appointment on our first day of practice so we weren’t able to fish together until the second practice day. I could tell there was a shallow bite early on because shortly after we took off we had some nice hook-ups. This shallow bite gave me a sigh of relief because although I am confident I can catch deeper fish, I feel a lot more confident fishing shallow. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the feeling!
Throughout the day I tried fishing both deeper water and shallow water to see what the better option would be. After our first day of practice, I felt confident already that Austin and I could catch a decent amount of fish. But, with the lake being so small, the goal of our second day of practice was to see if we could expand our amount of spots following patterns that we found on day one, as well as to experiment to see if there was something else we could do in case of emergency.
After a hard day of fishing, the anglers enjoy a game of basketball in the pool.
The second day of practice was actually productive. Despite the amount of rain we received, Austin and I managed to add to our arsenal of spots. We managed to find more shallow bites that added to the pattern that we found the day before. We got off the water pretty early on our second day of practice because we had to start worrying about our pressure on our fish.
Coach Rinderer and Austin Chapman doing one of many interviews during the Bassmaster Midwest Regional.
Our takeoff was flighted, and of course Niggli and I were in the last flight. But, it also meant we would be in the first flight on the second day. Right out of the gate, we raced to our first spot that we found on our second day of practice. When we found the spot in practice, it was pouring down rain, and we didn’t see any boats around so we were confident that we would be able to fish our first spot without anyone around to pressure us. When we pulled up on our first spot, the cove had five boats in it… FIVE. This was the first sign that anywhere we went on the lake that week would be packed because we it was such a small body of water.
Luckily, we were able to pull up into our first spot and catch a keeper right off the bat in between all those boats. Our practice showed that we could catch fish in a variety of ways through the week. We caught most of our fish on a shakey head the first few days, and as the week went on we caught more fish on a jig and a creature bait. That was a bit odd because I would expect the finesse tactic to work later after all the pressure, but you can’t argue with what the fish want.
Back to our day. After we caught our keeper, we kept running around the lake hitting a lot of the spots that we found, and we managed to put our limit together rather early. The problem our fish were facing was they were all barely on the line to bump. We decided that instead of pounding our spots and trying to upgrade, we felt confident that we would be in a good position with our limit and decided to go to completely new places. It didn’t end up working out, but we came in with a limit of 13 lbs 4 oz, and we were sitting in 16th place after day one.
Our teammates were also were keeping the pace with 5 boats inside the top 20 after day one, including Austin Chapman and Curtis Lilly leading the way at 4th place at nearly 18 lbs.!
Brock Wilke and Trent Robinson with an awesome day one catch.
Austin Niggli and Derrik Starrett with their day one stringer
Day 2 was a critical day for the field, as the B.A.S.S. officials call it, “moving day”. After Day 2, only the top 20 boats advance to fish for day 3, and only the top 14 on day three advance to fish in the National Championship in July. Being in 16th place was definitely uneasy because we were right on the cut line, but we were confident that we could string together another limit to make day three.
After leaving so late the first day, we were now taking off in the first flight on the second day. With only 14 boats ahead of us we thought again that we could pull up to a less crowded spot than the previous day. Once again, we were wrong! When we pulled up to our first spot of the day, there were not 5, but 9 boats on one stretch…NINE! Talk about crowded, but with the hopes of a National Championship on the line, people knew that this particular spot was a community hole that had produced plenty of fish.
Within fifteen minutes of being there, there were more than 20 boats that had pulled up and started fishing the same area. Austin and I started to get nervous that we may have made the wrong decision by going there to start our morning. The morning bite had been critical for us through practice and in the tournament as well. Fishing such a pressured area in our prime window could prove costly. Fortunately for us, just as we had done before, we caught a critical keeper early in the morning among a crowd of boats.
After we caught that keeper we made the decision to leave the crowded spot because we had too much confidence to catch fish elsewhere. Through our day we could tell the bite had slowed a little, we had to make an adjustment because our shakey head bite had turned off, and now the jig and creature bite had managed to be the key to our keepers. With four keepers in the boat by noon, we were a little on edge and a little relieved at the same time. We were nervous that what we had would put us right at the cut line for the national championship, but relieved that we were able to comfortably be in a position to make the third day.
With still one more keeper spot available in the boat, we really needed to fill out our limit if we wanted to make sure we were going to do be where we wanted to be in the standings. With about an hour left in our day on day two, Austin and I were pulling out of a spot that we had just fished in roughly the center of the lake. I turned to him and pretty much said, “Are we going north or south?” We had decided to go north and hit the community hole again, and right before we got on plane to take off, we decide to run south and hit a spot we had forgot about from earlier in the day. This turned out to be probably the most important decision of our entire tournament because when we pulled up, on the very first cast, we caught the big bite that had eluded us on day one!
The five pound kicker was just what we needed as it gave Austin and I 17 lbs and jumped us up into 6th place after day two! Mckendree as a whole had shown up, as we had 4 boats that made the top 20 cut (actually, we were all in the Top 10) and were getting to fish on day three.
The final day of the tournament was different than it had been all week. The bright sunny skies we had all week were gone, and the clouds and rain had come and changed the game. We felt confident that we could go catch fish in the overcast conditions with the shallow bite we had all week. In the morning it was weird to run to our first spot and not have a crowd of boats to greet us. We had now turned our eyes toward trying to win the whole tournament.
When we got to our first spot, it didn’t take more than ten minutes before we hooked into a big fish. As I was bringing her around the back of the boat, careful not to be too aggressive, she got within reach. And, just as Austin got down to net her, she made one last run away from the boat and snapped the line clean. To say this was a disappointment is an understatement. I think the loss of that fish definitely stayed with us through the day, and we only managed to come away with one keeper.
With the motor dying on us with about an hour and a half to go in the day, we definitely were discouraged headed to the scales. The final weigh-in took place 30 minutes away at a local park, so the entire ride Austin and I had a miserable time coming to grips with the fact we might have blown a huge opportunity at having the chance to fish the National Championship.
Coming into the day, we had a 7 lb lead on the cut line for the National Championship, but headed to the weigh in with only one fish, we were very upset. Once the weigh-in started, we held a collective breath because we knew we would be right on the line. As the weigh in went along and we finally realized that we had earned our birth, we were able to celebrate as a team!
Once I could finally breathe again knowing that we earned our birth, I noticed that our fellow teammates, Austin and Curtis were sitting on the hot seat for a chance to win! They brought in a monster day three bag of over 22 lbs!
Austin and Curtis enjoy the traditional Bassmaster “drive through” weigh-in on Championship Day 3, as teammates Phillip and Shane enjoy their time in the Hot Seat.
Austin Chapman and Curtis Lily with their day three “Big Bag of the Tourney”, weighing in at 22 lbs- 4 oz, and Curtis’s big fish of the day at 6-5. Austin and Curtis also had over 17 lbs on day one. Their three day total earned them 2nd place with 51.9 lbs.
Austin and Curtis ended up finishing 2nd, Shane and Phillip ended up in 5th, and the McKendree team had an awesome tournament as we had 3 boats qualify for the Bassmaster National Championship that will be held in late July on Green River Lake in Campbellsville, KY. Congrats to Shane, Phillip, Austin, and Curtis for their bids to the championship!
Team members Phillip Germagliotti, Shane Campbell, Austin Chapman, Curtis Lily, Derrik Starrett, and Austin Niggli all qualified for the Bassmaster National Championship.
In addition to the college regional qualifier, Bassmaster hosted a national high school tournament on the Sunday following the college tourney. Over 70 boats from around the US competed in the event, which was won by incoming McKendree recruits from Benton, IL.
Coach Rinderer informs the crowd of High School anglers about the two $2,500 scholarships that McKendree will be awarding the winners of their High School Bassmaster Midwest event.
Editors note: Rumor has it that Derrik is eyeing a future position with Bassmasters on the college tour as a bikini spotter, to help keep the guys focused on the water in front of them!