State Bass Fishing Championship

High School anglers at Lake Audubon

Taggert Nissen, left, and Jaden Beeter, center, work a bay to entice smallmouth bass during the ND State Championship Aug. 14 on Lake Audubon. The team was representing West Fargo Sheyenne High School. The boat operator is Tim Nissen. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

COLEHARBOR – At stake was a state championship and the guaranteed entry into a national event that accompanied it. The North Dakota Student Angler Federation Fishing Championship was held Aug. 14 on Lake Audubon.

Taking top honors was the brothers tandem of Logan and Ryan Bullinger who were representing Bismarck Century High School. They weighed a five-fish limit of smallmouth bass that tipped the scale at 16.47 pounds. The catch narrowly edged out Brayden Selzler and Austin Janz, Velva High School, who brought 16.10 pounds of smallmouth to the scale.

Third place went to the team of Alex Martel and Evan Hendrickson, Central Cass High School, with a bag of 15.96 pounds that included the biggest bass of the day – a four pounder caught by Martel.

By topping the 10 team field the Bullinger’s earned a spot in the 2022 National High School Bass Fishing Finals on Pickwick Lake at Florence, Alabama next June.

All of the high school anglers were fishing under the guidelines of The Bass Federation, or TBF, that has promoted high school fishing across the country. North Dakota’s high school fishing program got off to a slow start a few years ago but has since gained momentum and, by all appearances, including growing sponsor enthusiasm, will continue to progress.

Submitted Photo Logan and Ryan Bullinger, Bismarck Century High School, teamed up to capture top honors in the ND High School Bass Fishing Championship held Aug. 14 on Lake Audubon.

Upcoming changes

Because North Dakota is situated far north of what is thought of as more traditional bass fishing states, the high school tournament season usually begins only a few weeks before the yearly nationals. That means state champions crowned in August qualify for TBF nationals the following year. However, TBF has informed North Dakota that, going forward, all state champions must be determined in the same calendar year as the national event.

The ruling does not affect Team Bullinger who just captured the North Dakota title. They will still receive a spot in next year’s TBF nationals. However, the state has an opportunity to send a second team for next year’s finals.

“The national office wanted us to get back on track for holding our state championship in the same year as the national finals,” said Heather Bullinger, ND TBF Student Angler Federation. “We have a special, one-time opportunity for the 2022 national finals where we will be able to send the first place team from next summer’s state championship to the nationals.”

The change means the 2022 Student Angler Federation bass fishing tournament will have to be held much earlier next year. Current plans are to hold the event June 4, 2022 on Lake Sakakawea out of Hazen Bay, less than three weeks before the national event.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Evan Hendrickson, left, and Alex Martel, Central Cass Squirrels, show their catch at the ND High School Bass Fishing Championship. It includes the biggest bass of the tourney at 4.0 pounds, caught by Martel.

Another change involves the recognition of tour events on the ND high school bass fishing circuit. What has previously been considered “fun” tournaments will be classified as TBF “trail” events in 2022.

“They will be sanctioning our trail, we will be considered a trail,” explained Bullinger. “That enables us to award points for finishes and we will be able to send a points champion to nationals. That means we could actually have three teams invited to nationals next year.”

The World Finals are held at the same time, same lake as the TBF Student Angler Federation championship. There is no qualification criteria for the World Finals. Any Student Angler Federation member can enter the field.

2022 TBF Juniors

Starting in 2022 the Student Angler Federation in North Dakota will be attempting to put together a junior bass fishing club. Currently, 8th grade or under anglers have to pair with a 9-12th grader to compete in ND events. Junior bass fishing allows 8th graders and under to pair up and compete against others of similar age.

Junior anglers would compete in tournaments to qualify for the Junior World Championship held each July. As is the case for high school fishing events, each team would consist of two students and one boat captain that is at least 19 years of age.

A minimum of six anglers is required for a Junior circuit. Anyone interested can learn more by texting questions to 471-0013.

ND High School State Bass Championship

August 14 at Lake Audubon

1 – 16.47 lbs., Logan and Ryan Bullinger, Bismarck Century High School

2 – 16.10 lbs., Brayden Selzler and Austin Janz, Velva High School

3 – 15.96 lbs., Alex Martel and Evan Hendrickson, Central Cass High School

4 – 15.59 lbs., Hunter Acker and Carsyn Sebastian, Bismarck High School

5 – 12.72 lbs., Kane Schmidt and Jacob Webster, Jamestown High School


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