Expresso and Bass: A Fishing Tournament in Broadripple

WIldIndiana Pro Staff member Michael Parks fires a cast during The Classic

A well-known, yet unknown, fishing tournament takes place in one of the most 'civilized' settings in Indianapolis!

As the herd of hipsters went about their business on a beautiful fall day in Broadripple- shopping, jogging the Monon trail, sipping expensive coffee in a sidewalk café- they might have been surprised to learn that 15 boats within earshot were locked in the epic struggle of man versus fish versus man.

“The Classic” fishing tournament was underway.

On Sunday, November 1, 2015 a group of nearly 30 anglers launched their boats from the Broadripple Park boat ramp to roar up and down the White River in search of bass and possible cash.

The group was comprised of veterans from “The White River Weekly Tournament,” more popularly known as the “Wednesday Night Tournament,” a long-time organized but non-affiliated fishing competition held every Wednesday throughout the warmer months on the White River at Broadripple Park. “The Classic,” the final shootout of the season, is held around Halloween and is the yearly finale.

Home water for the event is “the Broadripple Pool” of the White River. The pool stretches from a dam 200 yards upstream from Westfield Boulevard in “downtown” Broadripple and continues until the water grows too rocky and shallow for a high-powered bass boat somewhere south of I-465.

In between is a narrow but lake-like stretch of water where both smallmouth and largemouth bass thrive. On an impeccable Sunday, people sitting at quaint cafes in “the village” could hear the faint but distinct roar of high-powered outboard motors only a few dozen feet away yet clueless as to what, where or why the noise had joined their urban soundscape.

If you aren’t familiar, Broadripple is a former small town located in northern Indianapolis that has retained its own unique identity despite years of urban sprawl surrounding and eventually enveloping it. The area is now primarily known for being chic, progressive, upscale and thoroughly hip. The White River, the main reason the village was built in that location, is essentially forgotten by most residents.

Though non-anglers seem to ignore the waterway, the White River is a great fishery according to Classic Tournament Director John Syljebeck. “Josh (tournament partner Josh McDermott) and I have been fishing this stretch of river since 1990,” Syljebeck said. “After the fish kill in 1999 (a massive 50-mile stretch of river was accidentally poisoned by Guide Corporation from Anderson to downstream of Indianapolis), the river bounced back quickly. In this area the weeds are starting to grow so it’s really improving the largemouth fishing. We’ve seen some sixes (six-pound fish) weighed in this year and plenty of fives. There are some big smallmouth, too.”

“It’s a good mixture of smallmouth and largemouth,” he continued. “In the summer months we usually weigh in a lot more largemouth but about this time of year we start seeing more smallmouth,” Syljebeck said.

All of this a few feet from one of the most urbane places in Indiana.

For the anglers, fishing was exceptionally tough. The unusually-clear 53-degree water proved to be the biggest nemesis, keeping fish inactive and easily spooked. However Syljebeck cracked the bass code as he and McDermott ultimately won the event to a chorus of good-natured jibes. Their live well weighed in at 10.76 pounds while Larry Jones placed third but brought in the biggest bass, weighing in at 4.16 pounds.

Winners: John Syljebeck (L) and Josh McDermott (R) with their winning haul

There was no trick to Syljebeck and McDermott’s magic; they simply found good holding areas and pounded away with Alabama rigged-baits. While morning was more productive, they kept casting throughout the day and finished their limit shortly before the 3:00 p.m. weigh-in.

Unlike most previous years, fish and fishing success were scarce. Only seven boats brought in bass and one team wasn’t even going to carry their catch to the weigh-in until they realized that the fifth-place prize money was still within reach. Thus, hoisting a modest-but-legal matched set of smallmouth and largemouth bass that weighed in at 4.13 pounds, Eric and Kevin at least went home with cash in their pocket.

In the end, Syljebck and McDermott split the $500 first prize. While it wasn’t a huge payday by major tournament standards, it wasn’t a bad way to end a fishing season.

In fact, the prize money would probably buy at least SIX triple-espresso-caramel-pumpkin spice-extra-whipped-soy milk-fair trade-cinnamon sprinkles-Venti-sized cups of coffee on the way home from Broadripple!

For More Info: The White River Weekly Tournament series has concluded for 2015 but will restart in spring of 2016.

For more information visit their website at or Facebook page at


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