Ottawa High School freshman Brock Wadkins just made it official — Kansas has a streak going.
Wadkins is now one of two top-10 finishers from the Sunflower State in the brief history of Bill Siemantel’s Big Bass Zone Jr. Championship, which took place for just its second year last week in Idaho.
The Kansan finished sixth Oct. 3 out of 52 competitors ages 13-19, weighing a big bass of 3.16 pounds on the Pend Oreille River and marking back-to-back years that Kansas has placed a top-10 finisher at the national event. Not only that, but Wadkins even won a Humminbird 12-inch Helix SI fish finder for his efforts.
As fate would have it, Wadkins posted a nearly identical finish to last year’s top Kansas representative, placing just 0.08 pounds behind recent Shawnee Heights graduate Parker Still’s fifth-place mark in the inaugural event in 2019. Still, who got into the first tournament on a second-chance drawing, posted a slightly larger big fish of 3.24 pounds in 2019 — though his was a smallmouth while Wadkins’ was a largemouth. Wamego’s Cody Stegman was the other Kansas representative last year after winning the statewide tournament to get in.
When asked about the back-to-back top 10 finishes by Kansans, the Ottawa native had a simple, emphatic response: "Heck yeah, we’re gonna try and make it three years!"
Despite a little well-earned bravado, Wadkins was left in awe at the tournament and was impressed by the sportsmanship and positivity shown by his fellow anglers, who are partnered with complete strangers during the tournament.
"My experience ... was absolutely amazing," Wadkins said. "From getting to meet new people, meeting my sponsor, all the new friends I have made and traveling to new places. The energy that was not only put in by everyone but the positive energy that everyone put off. This tournament left such a positive impact on me and many others."
Wadkins was especially happy with his draw of boat partner for the tournament.
"We are selected a boat partner from a different state, mine just happened to be someone with lots of sportsmanship," Wadkins said. "Sam Shoemaker from Georgia, my boat partner, was focused on having fun and catching fish, as was I."
That sportsmanship, in fact, made all the difference in helping Wadkins to a top-10 finish.
"So the whole first half of the day I put him on fish I had researched. There was 15 minutes left and I still hadn't caught a bass," Wadkins said. "He offered for me to use his jig. I said, ’No, that is your jig.’ He ended up giving it to me after a five-minute conversation. The only difference is his jig had orange in it, and five casts in I catch a 3.16-pound largemouth bass."
Wadkins said he came away feeling thankful for everything he was able to experience.
"I believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and feel very fortunate I was able to win Kansas state champion and go to nationals," Wadkins said. "I would also like to thank my sponsor Yolotek, my family members and my mom and dad. None of this would have been possible without them."
He said those who would like to follow his fishing career should check out his Instagram account, @brockwadkinsfishing.
Topekan Kyle Herrman, who also made the tournament on the second-chance drawing, posted a 2.06-pound smallmouth to finish 29th for the tournament, earning an Aqua-Vu HD7i Gen 2 underwater camera for his efforts.
""It was a great experience and I feel honored to have been able to go," Herrman said. "It was a beautiful landscape, and the lake was awesome. It was once-in-a-lifetime event. I want to thank Bill Siemantel and BBZ for putting this on and all of the sponsors that helped to support the tournament."