For most high school students, tournaments are usually associated with a traditional sport like wrestling or volleyball. When you think of the preparation involved for a tournament—from long hours practicing to many runs of trial and error in order to perfect execution and technique—the thought may be accompanied by an image of a young athlete in uniform dribbling a ball.
However, two Wildcats went for the glory in a very different type of tournament, with just as real of high stakes and dedication required as any—and boy, did they hook the big win.
Lawson Losee is a junior at the Riceville High School and Kooper Tweite, a sophomore. The duo is currently competing in the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing World Finals tournament in Lacrosse, WI. As of Friday, June 26, they have won the title of national championships in the tournament, with World Finals slated to be held tomorrow, June 27.
“It would be huge,” said Tweite about winning the World Finals in a statement to the Student Angler Federation. “We joked about winning it but now that we’re this far, it’s coming alive that there’s a chance. We’d definitely take advantage of the opportunities.”
Jennifer Bauer, Tweite’s mother, said that he is carrying on a sort of family tradition; he is the third brother, behind older siblings Kaleb Tweite and Kyler Bauer, to take up fishing as one of his high school extracurriculars of choice. While fishing isn’t officially a Riceville school sport, the team proudly wears Wildcat gear while competing.
Bauer said that competitive fishing is a new trend in northern Iowa, and that her older boys were among the first in the area to partake.
“At first, when we started doing this about five years ago, we could only compete down south,” she recalled. “We travelled all over, from Kentucky, to Alabama […] we’re happy to finally be able to compete somewhere closer to home.”
The boys earned their spot at the World Finals last year, when they took home the title of Iowa State champs; they’re now competing against 319 other teams and had climbed to 14th place by Wednesday evening—the top 5% of over 300 teams. By Thursday, the duo was in first place, and they carried that title home on Friday afternoon.The thrill mounted for the Wildcats team when they got a call Thursday that a camera crew would be shadowing them today for a television program. The tournament will be wrapped up Saturday, June 27, where the Riceville pair hopes to catch—literally—the big World Finals first place win.
Bauer explained that, while hobby fishers may kick the dirt and shake their fists at the river when the fish aren’t biting, the boys don’t give up quite that easily. They use a wide variety of lures, poles and casting techniques to adapt to the conditions they’re fishing in.
“A lot of their success depends on the weather,” Bauer said. “It can depend on if the water is too high or too low, if it rained and the water is dirty and muddy, if there’s fog or wind. Right now, they’re fishing on the Mississippi, where the water is really high. And they have to just try to play off that.”
Even when navigating those choppy waters, Tweite and Losee have to fish the best they can in the environmental conditions they’ve been given. While practicing for a fishing tournament may not exactly include running drills and lifting weights, Tweite’s mom said that practice is still a huge part of the sport, in order to be prepared for those unpredictable conditions. The boys have been fishing since the end of winter on Lake Hendricks and a family pond to fine-tune their fishing skills.
The teams are made of two high school students and an adult boat captain; Riceville’s is Bauer’s father, Tom Howland. Each tournament match consists of each team weighing in three fish that have to be at least 14 inches long, and the team with the heaviest combined fish hooks first place.
Bauer said that the Riceville pair is excited to be competing.
“It’s such a good experience for them,” she stated. “They get to meet new people, learn new things. We are excited for them and we hope they do well, they deserve it.”
When, at the end of the day’s matches on Thursday, June 25, Tweite and Losee were sitting at first place over hundreds of competitors, the boys described it as a feeling never thought they’d have the opportunity to experience.
“They are so excited,” said Bauer on the boys’ behalf, who have to turn in early to be up in time for the fish who bite at dawn. “They both said they never thought they would make it this far, let alone be in first place!”
The Enterprise Journal will update this online version of Kooper and Lawson’s story as updates become available.