For the past four years, both Seneca bass fishing coach Andy Jackson and senior fisherman Nick Stuedemann have grown with the Fighting Irish program.
After coming close to making the state cut in the past three seasons, this time the locals got the breakthrough they were looking for. At the La Salle Lake Sectional, the Irish took second place with three fish totaling 3.24 pounds. Streator won the event with four fish at 8.68 pounds.
"We've been close before so it was exciting that it all came together this year," Stuedemann said. "We figured it out and did what we needed to do."
According to Jackson, a science teacher at SHS, his team of Stuedemann, Nick Kirkton, Jimmy David and Brad Wyss went into the season with state as its goal. The Irish then backed that goal up with solid performances.
"We placed high at a lot of tournaments this year and we won a tournament in Oct. on the Des Plaines River," Jackson said.
Jackson also said that the excitement for the team this year was the whole process of getting to state.
"We have never been down there before, so the excitement to this point was the preparation and planning process," he said. "Being able to participate at the top level of the sport is unbelievable. It doesn't get better than that. It's good to know that we are being recognized as being part of the sport in our community."
Seneca's team of four will rotate into the boat at certain junctures this weekend, though Jackson was non-committal about what rotation he would use.
"We'll figure that out on the fly," he said. "It's something we will look at after practice. They are probably all going to get equal time on the water."
Both Jackson and Stuedemann and Jackson said that it was the guile of the team that got them to this point, but they also admit some of the success of any team is luck.
"It's probably 90 percent skill and 10 percent luck," Stuedemann said. "The most important thing is that you've got to know what to do."
"It's about 60 percent preparation and 40 percent intuition," Jackson said. "The big key is where to be at what time."
Which is something the whole team has gotten better at since the team's inception four years ago.
"It all comes down to what they are throwing and that they are making smarter bait choices. They've also improved with how they are handling the line. The team is 10 times better than we were three years ago."
Which has gotten the Irish a trip to Carlyle Lake.
"We're a pretty well-rounded team," Stuedemann said. "We're solid. We can all fish pretty good."