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Former A-C Central band director Kim Webster knows a little bit about fishing, but not a lot about bass fishing.She wasn’t about to let a little thing like that stop her from taking on the job as head coach of the A-C Central bass fishing team.
The team needed her.
“I retired in 2015,” Webster said, “and one of the boys came to me and said, Web, we aren’t going to get to have a bass fishing team. Nobody will take it. Will you do it?”
She let out a long sigh, but it didn’t take much convincing before she agreed to do it.
“I like to go fishing,” Webster said. “And that first year — we made state tournament that first year.”
As they say, she was hooked. Over the past five years Webster has built quite a team at A-C Central. Two of her anglers, Nate Dirks and Landon Smith, won the Sangchris Lake Sectional and will participate in the Illinois High School Association State Final Bass Fishing Tournament today and Saturday at Carlyle Lake.
“We’ve got a team of 23 kids, in this little school, for bass fishing,” Webster said. “We have 23 kids. And six or seven of those are girls. So, yeah. We’ve got a nice, big team here.”
Webster was glad to see Smith and Dirks win the sectional.
“It was a joy,” she said. “The boys never tell me how much, what they catch. It’s like it’s a big secret. And they never tell me what they use (as bait). And so they just had this smile on their face when they came in. I knew that they had five (fish), but I didn’t know what they had. And they just kind of gave me that look when they went up to weigh. And then when they popped that big bass up there, and Nate looked at me — and what was it, it was 4.69 — and he just smiled.”
Smith and Dirks’ total catch weighed in at 16 pounds, 11 ounces — the second-highest total for any sectional in the state.
“We’ve never had a bag that big,” Webster said. “Those boys, they just knew what they were doing, and their boat captain really knew the lake. And they had an amazing day. They just had an amazing day.”
Not many high school bass fishing teams have a female coach. “There are some male coaches that don’t particularly like it,” Webster said. “The guys in my sectional area have accepted it. But the state tournament — a lot of the men coaches kind of look at me, like — seriously? Seriously?”
But Webster doesn’t mind.
Webster doesn’t suggest to her anglers what baits to use, or where to fish. She doesn’t ride in any of the boats. She organizes.
Webster has recruited a team of experienced, if not expert, boat captains — adults who steer the boats and are there to help whenever they’re needed. Some of Webster’s captains have been on board with her since she started coaching the team five years ago. She goes to church with one of them. Her twin brothers, Tim and Tom Devlin, are boat captains. So is Aaron Gilbrith and Rick Koch, whose son was on the team before she took over, and now fishes professionally. As their kids have graduated, some fathers have stayed on as captains to teach the next group.
“My gift is my boat captains — because I’ve got some very, very great boat captains who love to share the love of the sport with the boys,” Webster said. “And they know what they’re doing. And I’m the paper-pusher.”
Dirks credited Tim Devlin, who captained his team’s boat at sectionals. “He’s been doing this a lot longer than either of us have, and that’s for sure,” he said. “So whenever we don’t know what we’re doing, or need advice about where to go, he’s always there to help us.”
Webster laughed at the notion of giving her team any advice on how to catch bass.
“No,” she said. “I’m a little bluegill-crappie fishergirl. And they lie to me. They come in, and I say, what did you guys fish with? Oh, hot dogs. They lie to me. And they don’t tell me anything.”
There’s a lot of good-natured teasing back and forth between coach and anglers.
“We don’t like to tell her how we’re doing,” Dirks said. “If we’re having a bad day, we tell her we just brought in a 10-pound fish. If we’re having a great day — no, we haven’t got a bite. Just to get on her nerves a little bit.
“She’s always there for you when you mess up,” he said. “She’s always nagging you … it’s great — not in a bad way, in a good way.”
Webster holds everything together.
“I’m the mom that they lie to,” she said. “So, yeah. I put them in the water with their boat captains, and then they call me and say, hey, we want hamburgers. So I’ll go get hamburgers, and they’ll figure out where they’re going to pull up, and I’ll feed them. And then we go on down the road. I’m the caretaker.”
“She’s amazing,” Dirks said.
Webster called Dirks and Smith “gentlemen,” and seemed as proud of them for that as any mother would be — and not just because they made it to the state tournament.
“They’re great kids,” she said. “And they knew what they were doing, and they stuck with their plan, and down the road they went. It was an amazing day. An amazing day. I’d have been happy getting third and getting to go to Carlyle, but for them to win the sectional is just amazing.”
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