Fishing: From wait list to winner

Has Ben Dziwulski, a senior at North Carolina State University, got a fishing tale to tell. The 2008 Glenelg graduate is a member of NC State's fishing team — the BassPack.

Dziwulski and his fishing partner, Ethan Cox, wanted to fish in the 2012 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championships, but BassPack already had two teams entered.

"Two weeks before the tournament, we were 19th on the waiting list," said Dziwulski.

It didn't look good, but a week before the start of the tournament Dziwulski and Cox learned that they got in.

Because of the late notification, they were unable to get information about the lake they would be fishing, Lake Pickwick, in Florence, Ala. The timeframe when they could gather information had passed.

"We had to figure it out for ourselves," Dziwulski said. "We had to use our knowledge. … The key is to figure out the whole season pattern."

In the spring, bass move to the shallow areas to spawn. After the eggs hatch, they move to deeper water, which is cooler and has more oxygen.

"With summer approaching, they thought they would find the fish somewhere in between.

"Most of the people thought that the fish were out deep. That's where the other 180 boats were - out deep and in the classic areas," Dziwulski said.

The tournament, which ran from May 21-25 and is the biggest college tournament in the nation, consisted of three practice days and two tournament days.

Early in the practice sessions, Dziwulski and Cox found four really good fishing spots that followed an old creek bed.

"We found a magical little area that fortunately the other guys didn't find," Dziwulski said.

The two didn't even fish the entire first day. "When we thought we had enough fish to put us in contention, we stopped fishing," Dziwulski said. "It's rare, but it was a good move."

In the competition, fishermen can only have five fish in their boat at one time. The fish are kept in a live well, a fish tank with an aerator and at the end of the day each boat's catch is weighed and then released.

"Every single fish we caught, swam away," Dziwulski said.

On the tournament's second day, he and Cox "fished like there was no tomorrow. We unloaded on them."

Over the two-day period, the pair hauled in 45.6 pounds of bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, to win the competition by over four pounds over Tennessee Tech's second place team.

"Over 180 boats and we were able to come in first by more than four pounds, which is a lot," Dziwulski said.

Their victory gave North Carolina State its third national championship. The BassPack also won the BoatUS tournament in 2006. In 2009 they won a different national tournament.

"We're the only school that has three national championships. Florida has two and everyone else has one," Dziwulski said.

The BassPack pair won $8,000 for their efforts. Some of the money goes to the team and some they get to keep.

The victory also has Dziwulski rethinking what he wants to do after he graduates in December with a degree in agricultural business management. He has been working as a trainer at a Cross Fit gym and he figured that would be his full-time job with a little fishing on the side. Now, he's thinking of trying professional fishing.

"This tournament (victory) came at a good time. As long as I can get some paying sponsors, I might be able to make a run at fishing in the professional ranks," he said.

Dziwulski said he has been fishing since he was a toddler. "My grandfather taught my father and my father taught me," he said.

A football and basketball player at Glenelg, Dziwulski describes himself as competitive. "One day I was watching TV and I saw a professional bass tournament. I found out that you could compete and make a living fishing. ...It's always been a dream of mine. A chance opened up and God has laid it all out there for me."

The BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championships will be televised on NBC Sports in August.

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