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Lemont's Jake Lepczynski and Jack Lambert pose with their winning haul at the Des Plaines Conservation Area sectional moved to Braidwood Lake Friday. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media Credit: Dale Bowman
Learning from snagging shad on his crankbaits early, junior Jake Lepczynski matched lures and led Lemont to victory in the displaced Des Plaines Conservation Area bass fishing sectional Friday at Braidwood Lake.
Historic flooding postponed the sectional, then forced it to change sites in interest of safety.
''It was pretty much a surprise when we came here,'' Lemont co-coach Pam Murray said.
By sheer chance, sophomore teammate Jack Lambert had fished it briefly on Sunday with his dad. But the catching went to Lepczynski.
He caught two big ones early (the biggest 3.02 pounds), the first on a chartreuse buzzbait, the second on a white spinner bait.
''I thought all our fish beyond that would be the same size, 3 pounds,'' Lepczynski said. ''It got progressively slower as the day got hotter.''
The team's haul weighed in at 7.17 pounds.
Lepczynski is a bit of anomaly among fishermen. He didn't get into fishing from his parents or grandparents.
''I picked it up on my own,'' he said. ''I just liked it since I was young.''
Lemont driver Dave LaBarbera said the team lost one big one and had one short fish.
Each boat could fish up to two student fishermen accompanied by an adult driver. Each boat could weigh its five heaviest bass, 12 inches or longer.
''I though we would catch a limit, but it slowed as it got warmer,'' Lambert said. ''We started on the cold side [north] and went to the hot.''
Hinsdale Central made a late run to qualify for state.
With 35 minutes to go, junior John Flaherty hooked the day's big fish, a largemouth bass of 3.65 pounds, on a Texas-rigged 8.5 inch Yum red shad worm in the rearing ponds area.
That fish and one other keeper gave the Red Devils 5.98 pounds to finish second.
''We had practically given up,'' fellow junior Brian Liss said.
Liss, making his second trip to state, had caught three other fish, including the other keeper, wacky-worming.
''That was my only bite all day,'' said Flaherty, who is making his third trip to state.
Experience at state — May 3-4 at Carlyle Lake — could help Hinsdale Central. Their driver was coach Bob Barber, who has been to state several years, too.
''We have a few spots we know,'' Flaherty said.
York (3 fish, 5.85 pounds) also advanced to the state championship May 3-4 at Carlyle Lake.