For the first time in the six-year history of the program, the McKendree University bass fishing team has won the race for the prestigious Bass Pro Shops School of the Year championship for the 2018-19 academic year.
The Bearcats locked up the title by placing two boats in the top 15 of the final standings Friday at the 2019 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing National Championship. McKendree, which led the School of the Year race by nearly 600 points heading into the final event, won the title by 985 points.
“This has been our dream since day one when we started this program,” said McKendree bass fishing head coach Jon Rinderer. “The guys have been absolutely awesome all the way through the season. I thought we had two really good days (at the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing National Championship) and brought in some big bags of fish. We are just incredibly blessed to have the entire McKendree community behind us from the start and we cannot wait to bring this honor back to campus.”
After having two teams sitting in the top 25 after day one of competition Thursday at the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing National Championship, McKendree hauled in some big numbers on Friday’s final day of action. The duo of Trevor McKinney (Benton, IL/Benton) and Blake Jackson (Carterville, IL/Carterville) weighed in at 19.51 pounds and briefly held the lead before finishing in fifth place overall. The tandem of Nate Doty (Decatur, IL/Sangamon Valley) and Jacob Louis (Pinckneyville, IL/Pinckneyville) tipped the scales at 17.5 pounds on Friday and placed 11th at the championship.
McKendree jumped into the top spot in the standings for the 2018-19 School of the Year race in early December and maintained its lead for the majority of the last six months of the season. The Bearcats slowly increased their lead over the final month of the spring season, aided by a strong performance in the team’s McKendree Spring Invitational at Carlyle Lake. McKendree reeled in three top-five finishes at the event. The Bearcats also added to their advantage with a victory at the Greenville Invitational last weekend.
For the season, McKendree has had boats finish in the top five of 17 different tournaments. That includes a run of 12 consecutive top-five showings. Including last week’s triumph at the Grenville Invitational, the Bearcats have registered five tournament victories in 2018-19
Since its first top-10 finish in the School of the Year standings – an eighth-place showing in 2014-15 – McKendree has become a perennial fixture at the top of the leaderboard, placing in the top 10 in each of the last five years. The Bearcats’ previous best finish came in 2015-16 when the anglers brought home fourth place for the season. After capturing fifth place in 2016-17, McKendree posted a sixth-place effort last season.