By Rose Crowell
As soon as he was able to stand on his own two feet, Kyle Gates was handed a fishing pole. By 2nd grade, Gates’ father Darron signed him up for his first youth tournament in Illinois.
The father and son duo spent the next handful of years fishing leisurely and competitively together. By 8th grade, Gates had won the State Youth Tournament championship and went on to compete in the Junior World Championship where he placed 9th.
“I wanted to get Kyle into fishing so we had something to bond over while he grew up,” Darron said. “I would’ve never imagined him to go this far with it.”
During Gates’ sophomore year of high school, the Illinois High School Association added bass fishing to the roster and it became a state wide sport. That year, Gates joined his friends and they brought Meridian High School to the first ever Lake Shelbyville Sectional where they won and qualified for the state tournament. Two years later, during Gates’ senior year, the team went back to win the Lake Shelbyville Sectional and finished in the top 10 at state.
“Fishing is relaxing,” says Gates. “It’s strategizing. It’s becoming one with the lake and making friends with the fish. It’s hard to explain, but it’s peaceful and exciting at the same time.”
As a freshman studying Sports Management at SAU, he helped restart the bass fishing club with Dan Butler. St. Ambrose now competes with schools nationwide, including Division 1 schools. In 2011, Ambrose qualified for the National Championship. In the spring of 2013, SAU qualified for the Conference Championship and the National Championship.
“In the three years I’ve been president of the bass finishing club, we’ve had five top 10 finishes, back to back National Championship appearances, and a Conference Championship appearance,” said Gates. “I’m so proud of myself for all I’ve accomplished while just doing something I truly enjoy.”
For now, Gates plans to continue being president of the fishing team at SAU while leisurely fishing in his free time. In the future, he hopes to travel and participate in tournaments across the nation.