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Great Bend fishermen head to nationals
blake streck
Great Bend's Blake Streck shows off a 9-pound bass at La Cygne Lake.


ANDERSON, S.C. — Great Bend graduate Noah Jerke and classmate Blake Streck joined boat captain Brock Bila on an 18-hour, 1,120-mile trip of a lifetime. 

Streck and Jerke will compete in the 2023 Bassmaster High School National Championship Thursday to Saturday at Lake Hartwell, S.C. Streck earned a national Bassmaster berth with a third-place Kansas state finish with 33.4 pounds of fish June 3-4 at La Cygne Lake in Linn County. 

"Blake fished solo at state, but finished third by himself to qualify for nationals," said Great Bend coach Kevin Hoff. "But you've got to compete with two fishermen at Bassmaster Nationals. Noah was happy to join the team."

Streck said, "I'm super excited to have this awesome opportunity to fish the biggest tournament in Bassmaster history with over 400 boats. It's amazing how much different the fishing is in other parts of the country, but we are slowly figuring it out." 

Jerke is equally excited.

"I’m super stoked to fish nationals," Jerke said. "It's definitely a blessing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Coming from Kansas, it's a cool experience. It’s great to be a part of the biggest high school tournament that will have more than 400 boats from across the nation." 

Streck started fishing as a youngster and started entering fishing tournaments the past few years.

"What I enjoy most about bass fishing is how peaceful it is on the lake, and also the fish coming out of the water for a top water bait," Streck said. 

Jerke said he's always enjoyed fishing.

"I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, and started fishing tournaments my junior year," he said. "I enjoy the early mornings being out on the water. Obviously the best part is when you set the hook on a nice one." 

Jerke said they're looking forward to the competition.

"We’re starting to get some things figured out at practice and hopefully we'll end the season with a bang," Jerke said. "We’re both hoping this catches some attention in the community and will grow our team."

The 14-member Panther Fishing team, a community-based group, competed in four fall and four spring tournaments.

Kevin Hoff is the club sponsor for the Panther Fishing Club, which uses fund-raisers and business sponsors Magna Dry, D&B Kuhlman Farms, Stuckey Roofing & Construction, Express Yourself with Vinyl and Temptation Tackle for support. Each tournament is designated for 2-person teams at Wilson Lake, Milford Lake, Perry Lake, Melvern Lake and Waconda Lake.

Teams are required to use artificial lures to catch five fish, which are weighed each day. Teams are required to provide their own boat and captain. 

"We've brought 40 poles, and an unimaginable amount of tackle," Streck said. "Most people don’t know how much it takes to tournament fish. I hope this experience can spark some interest in our sport and grow our club. I thank Mr. Hoff for all the work he’s put into the team." 

Jerke is thankful for Hoff's leadership.

"I appreciate everything Kevin Hoff has done for us," he said. "I hope I can come back in the future to help kids wanting to get into the sport."

The pair are prepared with plenty of equipment.

"There’s a lot more to equipment than it seems when it comes to tournament fishing,' Jerke said. "We have 40-plus rods in the boat and countless amounts of lures."

A rod and reel may cost several hundred dollars plus a collection of lures.

"It can cost several hundred dollars because you can put as much into it as you can," Hoff said.

Variables include time of year, weather and type of water.

"Fishing is definitely a trial-and-error activity," Hoff said. "You've got to constantly adjust and see what's working."

Jerke played football for four years and plans to start a work career at Northwest Lineman College, Denton, Texas. 

The tournament features 480 teams from 35 states and Canada each day at 5:20 a.m. until 1:20 p.m. Coverage will be aired at

At Lake Hartwell, the shallow-water largemouth could be around laydowns, docks or around shade lines. Most of the largemouth eat bream. Anglers must find bass in brushpiles, canepiles or standing timber.