CARLYLE—The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced on Thursday, April 28 that the 2011 IHSA Bass Fishing State Final Tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 6-7 at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, has been postponed due to dangerous water levels and will be rescheduled to unfold in Carlyle in May or June.
The IHSA Board of Directors made the decision after they met via conference call with members of the Carlyle Lake U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one day after IHSA officials visited the lake to assess the situation. The Carlyle area has received 10 inches of rain in the past 10 days and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who operate the lake anticipate that it will crest 13 feet above its normal levels by the middle of next week.
“The IHSA will crown a Bass Fishing State Champion in 2011, but in good conscience, we could not hold the tournament as scheduled on May 6th and 7th due to safety concerns,” said IHSA Associate Director and Bass Fishing administrator Kurt Gibson. “We want to make a decision on the new state final date as soon as possible so that Carlyle and the qualifying schools can plan accordingly. Yet, we also need to exercise a certain level of patience, as our colleagues in Carlyle predict and monitor how the lake will drain over the coming weeks. If that means pushing the tournament into June, we are prepared to do that.”
A portion of the Dam West Recreation Area that serves as the tournament’s boat launch and houses the stage for awards, as well as the Bass Celebration activities and vendors, is currently submerged by the overflow water.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers top priority is public safety, and high water events such as these create additional risks and hazards to lake users,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Park Ranger Doug Wasmuth. “Unfortunately, the high water levels are going to cause the lake to crest at its second highest level in history, inundating all of the boat ramps at Carlyle Lake. We look forward to hosting this event at a later date and want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience at Carlyle Lake.”
It is anticipated that Carlyle Lake could reach a sea level of 458 feet by next week. The lake’s all-time high sea level was 459.5 feet in 2002. The normal summer pool level for the lake is 445 feet, with the sea levels registering at 447.5 feet and 445.5 feet, respectively, for the 2009 and 2010 IHSA state tournaments. The lake’s high-water docks are set at 456 feet, creating the potential that all of the lake’s boat launch points will be inaccessible next week.
“Carlyle Lake’s record-setting high water levels compromise boat ramps and cause the lake to reach into areas where infrastructure and recreational assets become submerged hazards,” said Carlyle City Administrator Bill Gruen. “Postponement of the state finals is a wise decision based on safety concerns of all involved, including teams in the tournament field, local volunteers and safety personnel. The City of Carlyle supports the decision to postpone the tournament and pledges a first-class competition for Illinois youth later this spring.”
Gibson went on to comment on the possibility of moving the state finals to another lake. “The natural reaction is going to be that we should hold the state finals at another lake not affected by the precipitation or at a lake that hosted a sectional, but we felt like there were too many variables at work to make that feasible. Two successful state final tournaments and a third full year of planning have gone into putting on this event at Carlyle Lake, making it very difficult to efficiently move the event. Also, no Sectional lake hosted more than 13 boats this year, while the state finals will have in excess of 50 boats on the water.”
The IHSA conducted 19 Sectional tournaments at lakes around the state on April 21 and April 22, with three boats from each lake qualifying for the state final tournament. One Sectional lake produced a single state final qualifier, leaving 55 state final qualifying boats from 50 schools (five schools qualified two boats) ready to compete for a state title.
“When we became the first (and currently only) state high school association in the country to offer a bass fishing state championship two years ago, we knew that we would face some new and unique challenges,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “This is certainly one of those cases, but the weather is outside of everyone’s control. With the safety of the competitors and coaches at the forefront of every decision, we will work through this setback. The IHSA remains committed to Bass Fishing as an IHSA activity and Carlyle Lake as our state final host.”