BassWestUSA - September/October, 2009, Page 17

subscription the morning before to Bassmaster school started. magazine One provided of our dads his would first exposure drop us off tournaments to at a lake near and school, the sport’s and we piscatorial would fish superstars. out of a little boat that we had “My stashed dad always in the had woods. Fishing And Facts after magazine school, and we would I eventually often have a second subscribed to Bassmaster. tournament. I ” read about national tournaments and was Out fascinated of his peers, by them. Dave I enjoyed was the some first to the of pursue ‘How-To’ competitive articles, but fishing would beyond always the extracurricular read the tournament tourneys. stuff first. Post- I knew high school, all nearly Dave of opted the Pros to forgo names a potential even be- career fore I entered in the art high or music school, industry but I had in ex- no change idea until for my professional junior year fishing. that there He were par- ticipated or leagues as smaller a drummer local in tournaments a Christian music than other band the and tour. worked ” other odd jobs to support That year, his angling Dave’s passion. father, Frank, learned The first of an club organized he joined, bass called club the Bassmasters of in headquartered Crawford Meadeville, County, Pennsyl- was considered vania. Frank the and premiere Dave soon club thereafter within the State made the of hour-long Pennsylvania. drive to They attend were a perennial club meeting. contenders There, he for met the most B.A.S.S. of Federation the club members State Team and title, immediately regularly advanced wanted to join. members to Divisionals, and boasted many Federation tourna- MiSS AwESoME ment title holders as members. The opportunity to participate “With my personality and desire in organized fishing made the about travel to learn everything I could an easy effort. Club rules, however, bass fishing, that club was a perfect fit. Although I hated to lose, I wanted to learn from and compete against the best. I knew that was the only way that I could get better. When you are young, you don’t know how to measure yourself or judge how far you have to go to be a Pro. That club really provided a great way for me to compare myself against other fishermen.” As a rookie in the Crawford County club, Dave established a benchmark of his own. He fished out of a little 12-foot boat during practice and competed as a “rider” in club tournaments. His early success would quickly gain the respect of veteran members, many of which would turn even greater control of tournament day deci- sions to the young contender. Dave went on to win the Angler of the Year title in his first season and, with it, the honor of holding the coveted “Miss Awesome” trophy for one year. (The traveling tro- phy was named in honor of the Pennsylvania State Record Small- mouth Bass caught by a fellow Crawford County club member.) The club later awarded Dave with permanent possession of “Miss Awesome” after he won Angler of the Year four years in a row.

where he Dave finished second overall. The Championship, featuring required to graduate from high school before joining. As the he top amateur in the a country, one could not wait fishing to join, talents Dave talked group of advanced his friends into angler start- from five separate club divisions to the Classic, regardless of overall fin- ing an impromptu of their own. ish. Unfortunately, another representative from within stoked Dave’s about same “There were five or six of us that were totally division took we the title, and with tournaments it his shot at He were was fishing, and held little fake of advancing. our own. We heartbroken. so crazy about it that we would have tourna- “I at will never forget ments five o’clock in

that even though I had finished second, there were guys down in 27th Place that were going to the Classic and I wasn’t... It just burned me. That was when I decided that I had to start fishing bigger tournaments.”


PreSqUe iSle BaSSMaSterS

Dave fished local, regional and team tournaments until he joined forces with four other bass anglers from the Erie, Pennsyl- vania area. One of the members, Paul Hirosky, would go on to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series. In 1999, the group assembled a new B.A.S.S. Federation club, the Presque Isle Bassmasters, with the intent to attract industry sponsorship and to host large team tour- naments. The experience gained in recruiting club sponsors would prove to be a great asset to Dave in the future. As a member of the Presque Isle club, Dave further expanded his angling repertoire and advanced his standing among the top amateur bass fishermen in Pennsylvania. In team tournaments, he paired with longtime friend Lee Duer. The duo won numerous tournament and team of the year titles on various regional circuits. As an individual, Dave went on to earn a State Tournament title and several Divisional qualifications, and narrowly missed out on a Bassmaster Classic qualification. Dave’s Bassmaster Classic “near-miss” occurred at the B.A.S.S. Federation National Championship on the Potomac River,

The transition to higher-profile tournaments wouldn’t be an easy one, however. Dave scraped together just enough money to fish the 2000 Bassmaster Alabama Invitational on Pickwick Lake. At the time, he owned a 14-foot Troller bass boat with a 40-horse Yamaha engine. His rig was not large enough to compete in the na- tional qualifying circuits, so he elected to enter without a boat. The Invitationals paired anglers together, Pro on Pro, by random draw. Every angler competed in the same division for the same prize money. Without a boat to compete in, he was forced to fish in his partner’s rig and had to lobby to fish the spots he had found during practice. Fortunately, his power of persuasion was effective, lead- ing to a respectable 18th Place finish and a $2,000 cash prize. Dave returned home, self assured that he could compete at the national level. All he needed was the capital before he could start. “It was overwhelming. I didn’t have the money to do what I wanted to do. I knew I needed a $30,000 truck, a $30,000 boat, entry fees, and gas money, all on top of regular living expenses. When you look at it like that, you either give up or you try to stay on top locally. You just keep doing what you are doing with the hope that something will fall in your lap. For years, that’s what I had waited for. But, it never happened.” The Classic near-miss and successful Invitational perfor- mance motivated Dave to take greater control of his own destiny. He assembled a sponsorship packet and distributed it to both local businesses and national companies. “I invested my money in making a quality resume, jam-packed full of everything I had ever done, and started sending it around. Of course I got all sorts of the, ‘Sorry we can’t help you at this time,’ letters in return. I must have sent 30 of those things out to my favorite companies and kept getting turned down. I even started

September/October 2009


Photo Courtesy FLW Outdoors / Jeff Schroeder