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Pursuing a Dream

A reflection of my first year competing in the FLW Bass Fishing League.

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Pursuing a Dream

Anthony Awgul, Staff Writer

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Fishing has always been my passion before I could even walk. I’ve been fishing as long as I remember and it is all I have ever wanted to do. When I was in middle school, my dad bought us a small 14 foot aluminum fishing boat for our local lake. I was beyond ecstatic with this addition! Later in the upcoming years, my dad and I entered a small local fishing club called the Bucks County Bass Chasers. I ended up winning my first tournament when I was fourteen years old with that club on Lake Nockamixon in Quakertown, PA. Ever since I started fishing tournaments with my dad, I knew that was all I have ever wanted to do for a career. Very few people make it in the career of a professional bass fisherman as it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice; but I am far too passionate and determined about my dream to give anything less than my all to achieve it.

While talking to one of my fishing buddies; Matthew Lancaster, he even mentioned; “Becoming a professional fisherman is so hard to do. It really is a job; these pro’s wake up every morning figuring out how to catch bass in diverse fisheries and travel across the nation competing in large tournaments in hopes of providing for themselves and their families. It really is work at that level.” While understanding what Matthew was saying, it made me again consider how difficult pursuing a fishing career might be. However, there is nothing I would love more than to have the opportunity to make a living doing what I love traveling across the nation and spending every day on the water. Fishing just does not get old for me, and I will continue to fish as long as God allows me to.

This year presented me with a very valuable opportunity, and that was to compete in the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Bass Fishing League (BFL) in the Northeast Division.  I have been waiting all of my life to start fishing a higher level tournament series like this, and this year I finally had the opportunity. The schedule for 2017 took us all across the Northeastern region from the Potomac River in Madbury, MD; all of the way north to the St. Lawrence River in Clayton, NY. In each tournament, you could bring back your five biggest largemouth or smallmouth bass to the scales and whoever has the heaviest bag would win. Anglers also receive Angler of the Year (AOY) Points based off of the position they finish in. The top 45 anglers in the division would qualify for the Regional Championship on the James River in Williamsburg, VA for a top prize of $45,000 and a berth in the national championship, the FLW BFL All-American!

I chose to compete this year just as a co-angler to gain knowledge and experience of this tournament format as well as the diverse fisheries we were competing on. A co-angler fishes on the back deck of their boater’s boat against all of the other co-anglers while all of the boaters operate their boats and compete against all of the other boaters. Being a co-angler this year has definitely presented it’s positives and negatives. While it was a great experience being paired with accomplished professional anglers, sometimes I got “back-seated” and left with bad positioning to target and catch the fish we were on. All in all, I had a very great year and learned a lot. After fishing all qualifying events on the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, Oneida Lake, Lake Champlain, and the St. Lawrence River, I finished the year in 6th place overall in the Northeast division! Doing so qualified me to compete in the regional championship last weekend as a co-angler!

Making the Regional Championship had been my goal throughout the entire season. Last weekend, it became a reality as I traveled south to Williamsburg, VA to the James River with 161 other anglers. There was a lot of experienced competition and pressure, but I was just happy to be there! I had a decent first day bringing back five fish to the scales for 6 lbs 7 oz, leaving me in 39th place overall. I knew I needed a very good day two if I wanted to have any chance of qualifying to fish on championship Saturday where the top 12 anglers compete for the $45,000 top prize! Fortunately for me, I was blessed with an amazing second day! During an unforgettably productive bite window, I managed to bring back a five fish limit to the scales for 10 lbs 6 oz! My great performance on the second day left me in 9th place overall with a total weight of 16 lbs 13 oz which qualified me to fish on championship Saturday and weigh in at Bass Pro Shops in Hampton, VA in front of a very large crowd.

 

Not only did I accomplish my goal of qualifying for the Regional Championship, but now I just beat out 149 other anglers to compete on championship Saturday. Regardless of how I finished on Saturday, I would be getting my best career finish (which was previously 15th place) and getting my highest paying prize yet! Day three was a nightmare however. I had a lot of fish jump out of the water and bite my top-water plug, but my boater and I failed to hook a lot of them. After a very frustrating day, I hauled 3 keepers 45 minutes away to the weigh-in at Bass Pro Shops to see how I finished.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the FLW weigh-in trailer and tent were already set up and a large crowd was anxiously gathered around waiting to see some big bags of fish and who would take home the title. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me as my 3 fish bag only weighed 6 lbs 2 oz giving me a three day total weight of 22 lbs 15 oz. Although I didn’t win the $45,000 and was just short of qualifying for the national championship, I received my first career top 10 finish and a very nice payday finishing 10th out of 161 anglers! This experience was truly once in a lifetime, and I consider myself very blessed to have accomplished this in my first year of competition on tour!

This is truly a season I will never forget, and I am so exciting to begin next year as I compete in the same division as a boater in my new Nitro 929 CDX bass boat with a 225 horsepower Mercury motor! I learned so much this year and made memories that will last a lifetime. I am so grateful for support from my mom and dad who several times traveled to these events to watch the weigh-ins and support me. They have always cheered me on and encouraged me to continue chasing my dreams. In addition, several companies stepped it up this year and generously supported my fishing career giving me financial support which allowed me to compete. These companies include; Quantum Fishing, Chick-fil-A Quakertown, Moyer’s Lake and Campground, Trigger Happy Comfort Grips, Bick Baits, JB’s Fish Sauce, Steve Tobin Studios, and my own company; Menace Baits.

I can personally testify that the hard work and sacrifices it takes to accomplish your goals and dreams are worth it. The sleepless nights of traveling and early mornings are worth it. The time off from work and school are worth it. Fishing in the freezing cold rain and bitter wind all year is worth it. The very expensive entry fees, gas money, lodging, and food expenses are all worth it. Anything to pursue this dream of mine is worth it. I still have a very long way to go to accomplishing my dream of becoming a professional fisherman, but I know that the hard work and sacrifices it will take to get there will be worth it and I consider myself very blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love; and that is tournament bass fishing!

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