With outgoing Kansas BASS Nation youth director Richard Heflin stepping away after this weekend’s high school and youth fishing tournaments on La Cygne Reservoir, the successor to that role will have big shoes to fill.

But the sole candidate for the job already has helped make impressive strides in the sport. And those strides may just help reveal what’s in the cards for the KBN moving forward.

For one, Gardner’s Travis Burch — nominated for the position in August — is a sponsor and boat coach for the Basehor-Linwood fishing club, which has been bringing a lot of teams to the tournaments as of late, if you hadn't noticed. During the youth opener, a stunning 16 of the 24 youth teams were from Basehor-Linwood — though Topekans Nick and Kyle Herrman and Laiken Emanuel/Avery Bowen finished 1-2, respectively. Another 10 teams represented the club in the high school opener the day prior. This influx of new teams may hint at Burch's ability to excite young people to try something new — a key talent for a youth director, if ever there was one.

But he's also got an ace up his sleeve.

In a unique twist, Burch said he plans to use his experience in another tournament-based sport — professional poker — to help improve the organization of the youth and high school bass tournaments.

Burch has worked as a dealer and tournament director for the World Series of Poker and even played professionally for a time in his younger years, as well as fishing in a few Bassmaster Open tournaments.

“So me being a formal tournament director in the poker world and having dealt on the biggest stage with the World Series of Poker on ESPN, I felt that I could bring what I learned from their success and what I've learned from the few BASS Opens I've fished as a co-angler to make things a little better,” Burch said. “I will be livestreaming every weigh-in once I'm officially in charge, playing the national anthem at the beginning of each event and making sure at launch we go through in single-file line for safety and livewell checks.”

Burch is also a business owner at K-Guard Heartland, making him quite familiar with the marketing and advertising side of things, as well. In fact, that’s how he got involved with the Basehor-Linwood club.

Burch said he loaned the club money to purchase team apparel to sell to their friends or family and raise money. They also put on two youth derbies to promote the club and held a Fish Days event at the local farm store, helping farmers load their fish that they ordered for ponds.

“Basically we have tried to do anything and everything to promote the statewide program, too, by helping other clubs start their programs,” Burch said. “We are helping Louisburg currently and soon we believe Lansing and Tonganoxie will be launching their teams.”

Burch said Basehor-Linwood's coach, Abraham Cilliers, has been integral to the program, as have Brian and Lori Hutchinson, who were also responsible for developing the school’s hot air balloon clubs. Between the four of them, they brainstormed and decided the next step for the team was to become more organized and continue to help other clubs grow.

“Basehor wouldn't be where they are without Coach Cilliers’ passion to help kids,” Burch said. “He just happened to find me and the Hutchinsons in the process and we are the same way. So it just blew up.”

Heflin said he has confidence his successor will continue to guide the program along the path to success.

"I think the program is going to be in good hands," Heflin said. "Travis is used to the kind of administrative type of stuff that's going to have to be done from running his own business. The one thing I learned early on is you have to take in all of the information you can gather and make a decision and stand by it. I think Travis is going to be the type of guy that will be able to do that. I think he'll understand that you're not going to be able to make everybody happy all the time, but as long as you're making the best decisions possible for the program and it being about the program and the safety of the kids, that's about all you can hope for."

Burch, meanwhile, has been learning the ropes from Heflin during this year’s first two tournament weekends and figuring out where to go next with the program.

“One thing I am for sure about is growing this program,” Burch said. “The first thing I'm going to do is get sponsors for the Kansas programs. No reason big companies wouldn't sponsor the youth. They are in other states, so why not ours? I will be looking for two-year commitments from them."

He said he is going to attend the national youth directors conference this November in South Carolina to figure out more ideas on improving the program. He’s also looking at lakes for future events, saying he’d like to push the spring tournaments back a few weeks in the future to help get more kids out in the boats and hopefully help the bite, as well.

“Been researching lakes for March and also trying to consider the west side of Kansas guys,” Burch said. “Because most of the good March lakes are out of state and south.”

Before he left, Heflin made sure Burch was on solid footing, purchasing the trailer that the youth division had been borrowing from the adult division for their tournament weigh-ins. Previously, Heflin said, he'd had to meet with Danny Barrett, the tournament director on the adult side, and exchange the trailer between tournaments. That made things difficult, he said, as Barrett lives near Hutchinson. Heflin said that the purchase couldn't have happened when he first took over, as the program wasn't self-sustaining financially at that time.

Now, it is thriving, and the potential is there for big things in the future.