There is little doubt we have some of the best young anglers in the state right here in Central Illinois. For the record, young is in the eye of the beholder, but under 50 is my benchmark.
It gives me a lot of pleasure to see how hungry and capable our new crop of anglers are and they sure make it tough to put a run together. Winning a couple in a row is almost unheard of and there are no longer any secrets. Anglers are better, equipment is better and keeping a bait or technique quiet is nearly impossible.
This new crop doesn’t have to know where, but more importantly how winners are catching them. From shaky heads to big swimbaits they can fish them all, and due to efficiency on the water they can narrow down location very quickly and can actually make their own locations based on depth and type of cover.
Ten feet of water on rock, shallow weed lines in 4-5 feet or deep channel swings or a new technique is quickly old with this crop. A sweet spot called the “juice” dries up quickly, and unless a spot replenishes due to shad movement areas can be “fished out." Social media has dynamically increased information dissemination and anglers are the worst at keeping secrets secret.
I always watch and part of the game is how the angler handles themselves both on and off the water. Off the water can actually be more important than wins and losses on numerous fronts.
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I always have always hesitated to do one of these list stories as someone always gets left out, and there is little doubt the young guns just continue to get better. Today’s young hammers only stay young and hammers for so long and are quickly replaced with a new batch.
Take it from a guy who used to be both. It is super hard to stay on top and it doesn’t matter if conditions are perfect or awful, someone figures them out.
I am a standings watcher and follow Central Illinois Trails religiously through the leagues and social channels. When a name pops up over and over again, I make a mental note of it and then remember and keep watching for where and how.
I have been fortunate the last couple of years to enlist a couple young anglers who know how to fish well first, but also know how to win. I might be prejudiced, but I put Taylor Umland and Keith Ringger near the top of the list. I have spent a lot of time with them in the boat and see their prowess with a rod and reel, but more importantly watch how they work off the water as well.
They are my tournament partners and have carried the load of an old guy in the boat amazingly. They are both quiet and reserved and super hungry, have an unmatched work ethic and not afraid of condition or technique. Both are proven winners and are doing their best to drag me along too.
After watching these anglers and others, I felt like it was important to give some recognition to others who are making a mark. I continue to dig and have others who are worthy of top billing, too, and hope to do more of this as the year goes on. I look to keep this list evergreen and growing and want to hear more about others I may not know about, too, so I can watch them too.
My list of 20 plus anglers to watch in no particular order and are:
1. Ty Coon; 2. Dave Whalen; 3. Brad Norris; 4. Ryan Robinson; 5. Jake Golden; 6. Jacob Bateson; 7. Clay Reeves; 8. Daniel Weikle; 9. Justin Schick; 10. Corey Bohlmann; 11. Marcus Gelsthorpe; 12. Ryan Peterson; 13. Justin Carr; 14. Austin Carr; 15. Wes Gehrt; 16. Adam Stark; 17. Trevor McKinney; 18. Trey McKinney; 19. Drew Boring; 20. Kyle Dowdy.
There is no doubt plenty more and it’s neat to watch names like Gelsthorpe, Potts, and Norris who have sons who have stepped up after being tutored by their fathers. There will be more!
Seasoned hammers include Clinton’s Travis Boley, Fisher’s Ian Estes, Morris’s Bryan Partak, Galesburg’s Dustin Taylor, Bloomington/Normal’s Andrew Veselak, Steve Volz, Jeff Morrison, and Tony Swanson. Danver's Domenic Theison and Tom Cassel are also anglers who win regularly and do very well in local events and regional events. El Paso’s Jamie and Monte Gregory will be guys to watch moving forward too.
My youth angler “pick to click” is Will Sonetz.
Since most tournaments in our area are team events, recognition should to the co-anglers too. Students need good teachers, and it’s clear that this group will continue to have good ones as their tournament life continues.
To each guy mentioned above remember you are young now, but that changes very quickly and we have an obligation to the next bunch to set an example. Knowing most of these anglers mentioned, I know tournament fishing is in good hands moving forward.
Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.