MORRIS — When Morris bass fishing team members Trey Budach, Will Hornsby, Grant Yurkovich, and Chaser Ellison hit the water for the IHSA state tournament last weekend at Lake Carlyle, they had no idea what was ahead of them.
All they did, though, was become just the second program in the history of the tournament, which began in 2009, to place two two-man boats in the top 11. The only other program to have such a finish is perennial power Highland, which is located just 30 minutes from Lake Carlyle and fishes it regularly.
The Morris No. 2 boat, consisting of sophomore Yurkovich and freshman Ellison and captained by Ellison's father, Jimmy, finished fourth after a big second day at the tourney. On the first day, they caught five fish that weighed a total of 6 pounds, 15 ounces. On the second day, they also caught five fish, but these combined to weigh 10 pounds, 13 ounces, giving them a two-day total of 17 pounds, 12 ounces. The two-day total was tied with Carlyle, but Morris was awarded fourth place due to having the biggest bass of the two teams over the two days at 3 pounds, 6 ounces, which was caught by Yurkovich.
The Morris No. 1 boat, which saw senior Trey Budach and junior Will Hornsby as fishermen and Curtis Lilly as the captain, caught six bass over the two days with a combined weight of 13 pounds, 5 ounces, to finish 11th, one ounce ahead of 12th-place Teutopolis.
"We didn't know we were only the second program to put two boats in the top 11," said Budach, who plans to go to McKendree University to study business administration and be a member of the top-ranked collegiate bass fishing team. "We just wanted to be sure we caught some fish."
Catch them they did, especially on Day 2.
"The first day, we were bringing our baits in pretty quick, and we weren't catching much," Ellison said. "Toward the end of the day, we were using slower baits and they worked better, so we kept doing it the second day."
"We went right back to the spot we were on the first day and just kept fishing," Yurkovich said.
It is a lifelong love of fishing that prompted all four Redskin fishermen to join the team this year, a team that saw 15 team members this year, well more than the nine that werw on the team the year before.
"One of the keys is having kids that have parents that have the boats to take out," Morris head coach Shawn Hornsby said. "If you don't have the boats, you can't have very many kids on the team. We are fortunate to have generous parents that are willing to use their boats for our program."
All four members said they have grown up fishing in just about every body of water within a 30-40 mile radius of Morris.
"Everyone is friends on the team," said Budach, who will join Morris graduate Seth Hornsby on the McKendree team next year. "It will be nice to have someone I know on the team when I get to college, but I also went fishing with their coach and had a good time. Plus, to get the chance to be on the No. 1 team in the country is hard to pass up."
When Shawn Hornsby began coaching the team two years ago, he had a goal common to many in the MCHS hallways.
"I have known [Minooka coach] Stan Tischer a long time," Hornsby said. "But when I took over, all i wanted to do was beat one Minooka boat. Then at sectionals this year, both of our boats beat all their boats. We finished 1-2 in the sectional and Minooka was third. I never thought that would happen.
"A lot of the credit goes to our boat captains. Jimmy Ellison is a great fisherman who has fished all his life and really helped the kids. Curtis Lilly just graduated from McKendree, where he was the national casting champion, so when he moved to Morris, I called him right up and asked him to help us. He has been a great help."
Also worth noting is that the bass fishing tournament is one class only. This year, there were 311 schools, with an average of three two-man boats, making 933 teams competing in one class. Compare that to football, in which there were 565 teams competing in eight classes, an average of 71 teams per class, and the Morris achievement of placing two boats in the top 11 is even more remarkable. Boys basketball has 185 teams per class and baseball has 165.