Column: Uebelhor has youth and experience on his sideMarch 7, 2018
By Larry LaGrange
Nick Uebelhor is a young man who didn’t always like to fish. Then he and his sister started vying to catch the most or biggest bluegill out of the backyard pond behind their Jasper home.
“My sister and I would sit on the dam, and she would always catch more fish,” he said. Thus was born a competitive spirit in Nick that has translated into a 2017 Indiana state bass championship.
After cutting his teeth on bluegill, Nick had an opportunity to join his scout trip on a foray into Canada where he learned that catching smallmouth bass was a lot of fun. Later he started fishing with friends around Jasper.
“Bass fishing was completely different from sitting waiting for a bobber to go down,” Nick said. “My grandpa Bill (a former barber) and I started fishing the Thursday evening Beaver Lake tournaments. Grandpa turns 80 soon but he’s still out there fishing tournaments. Those Beaver Lake guys are really competitive; they don’t like losing, especially to younger guys.”
Nick recalled one spring evening fishing a Beaver event with a friend. “It was slow until about 7:30 when some cloud cover came up. I turned to my buddy and told him I was going to catch them on a buzz bait, not something I would usually use that time of year. We ended up with our limit of five fish that totaled 15 pounds. We also won big bass money when one grabbed my bait and wrapped around a dock board. He was just dangling there. Luckily we got him into the boat. Great evening.”
After JHS, Nick went to the University of Evansville to study engineering, but he found time to start a bass fishing team.
“We went all over the place — Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina. We were fishing the college circuit through FLW (Fishing League Worldwide, a big time bass tour). When I started college it was just starting to get big, but now pretty much every college has a bass fishing team.”
Nick got an engineering job at Crane, where for nearly three years now he tests ordnance (explosives). On weekends he started fishing Indiana circuits such as the Indiana Bass Federation, the Bass Fishing League, and Hoosier Opens, a team event.
The IBF puts on a Classic in the fall, which fishermen must qualify for through points earned in the year’s events. Nick qualified and journeyed up to Lake Shafer, near Monticello north of West Lafayette, for last year’s Oct. 21-22 event.
“I had never been there. I just showed up for one day of practice. The lake’s about 1,000 acres, something like Glendale. It has a bunch of feeder creeks, but I went up the main river, the Tippecanoe. Word before the tournament was that it would take 15-20 pounds a day to win, but in practice I never saw fish that big.
“The first day I ran to a spot I had picked out and had three fish quickly, but then I never got another bite until about 12:30. Between then and 1:30 I had thrown back those three and had five bigger ones. I could catch them by throwing a 3/8 ounce finesse jig with a Rage Craw trailer up against the seawall that lined a lot of the bank. I was running around hitting several spots maybe 10 minutes at a time. Guys who were watching me thought I had spun out because they tended to fish one place a long time.
“I hit a bunch of spots and ended up in second place after the first day. Several guys were fishing this pattern but they didn’t do as well. The bait I was using must have been the right one. The guy who was ahead of me had caught two of his five fish limit right before the day’s end so I felt like I could stay with him because he had just stumbled on a spot. The guy in fourth concerned me more because he only had four fish, but they were all bigger than mine.”
Nick said he found the second day proved tough. “I had no bites until about 11:30. I missed a four-pounder but eventually got a five-fish limit. I figured somebody else would catch them big, so I really didn’t have high hopes for winning.”
Nick’s two-day total of smallmouth was 20.98 pounds, just besting second place’s 19.02. He got a check for $5,000 and a certificate for a $5,000 credit to Ranger Boats, which Nick sold. He already has a 21-foot Phoenix bass boat that he bought from Missouri tour pro and friend Chad Morgenthaler. Chad is sponsored in part by Jasper Engines.
“Being young helps in tournament fishing. I would only take breaks running around from place to place, grabbing a drink and something to eat. It’s still physically exhausting. I want to be in better shape this year.”
The week before last year’s IBF, Nick and a buddy had finished fourth in a Hoosier Open state tournament on Patoka. He had not had a good year before he won the IBF title.
“It’s kind of crazy,” he said. “You fish 40 tournaments and the last two turn your season around.”
To send questions or story ideas to Larry LaGrange, email him at email@example.com.
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