Smooth sailing for bass fishing brothers

Pictured are WHS graduates, brothers and SIUC bass fishing team members Kyle Wagner (left) and Jake Wagner competing earlier in the season. (submitted photo)

The Wagner brothers have accomplished a lot. They both graduated from Waterloo High School and were accepted into the College of Engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

The elder, Kyle, was a member of the WHS bass fishing team and finished third in the state in 2012. 

Jake fished throughout his time at WHS, as well.

There was one major accomplishment remaining, and it looked like time might be running out. But don’t count out these hard-working brothers.

“It was Kyle’s dream to get to Nationals with his brother and he managed to qualify two weeks prior to graduation,” said their mother, Julie Wagner.

Kyle will graduate from SIUC on May 12; Jake is a junior at the university.

“We are really excited to be heading to Nationals together,” Kyle said. “It has always been a dream of ours to go to the Yeti FLW National championship together.”

The National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, to be exact, will be held in 2019.

The Wagners tied for fourth place, before the tiebreaker, this past weekend on a jam-packed Kentucky Lake, qualifying them for Nationals.

“The fishing at Kentucky Lake was extremely tough last weekend and we both had to keep each other’s spirits up throughout the whole day,” Kyle recounted. 

The day of the competition, Kentucky Lake was host to multiple tournaments that packed the lake with more than 350 boats, all looking for the same prize.

“Starting off the day we knew the fishing was going to be tough because we pre-fished the lake a couple of days beforehand,” Kyle said. “We knew we could capitalize on our pattern and that we just had to keep our heads down and grind it out.”

They ended up catching four keepers weighing a total of 12 pounds, 12 ounces. 

All their catches came in the final two and-a-half hours of the day. 

“Jake and I have a blast when we are fishing together and are always joking with each other throughout the day,” Kyle said. “I really think that’s how we were able to keep focused on catching fish, because we didn’t let the stress of the tough conditions get us down.”

The Wagner boys’ work ethic extends beyond the lake to their academic pursuits. Kyle will graduate as a civil and environmental engineer. He is moving to Evansville, Ind., to work for Peabody Energy. 

Jake is studying mechanical engineering and currently carries a 4.0 GPA.

The 2019 Nationals will be the last time the brothers compete as collegiate athletes.

“Since (Kyle) qualified his senior year, he is allowed to participate in Nationals next year,” Julie Wagner explained.

Kyle previously qualified for the 2016 Nationals with teammate Steven Seiler of Mokena, but doing it again with his younger brother is extra special.

The Wagner brothers started fishing competitively while on the bass fishing team at WHS, which was coached by their father, John Wagner. 

Following a one-year hiatus, the WHS bass fishing program made a comeback this spring with Chris Sandheinrich as coach.

The IHSA bass fishing sectionals take place this weekend, with the state tournament set for May 18-19 at Carlyle Lake.

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