His thoughts were focused on his wife, Ashleigh, and newborn son, Dylan, both of whom he was leaving at home less than two weeks after his son's birth.
“She always supports me,” he said. “I just personally felt a little guilty leaving like a week after my son was born to go fish a tournament. Even though I was still in the same state, I don't know, it was just different. But [I] almost had a sense of urgency to do well because of it.”
That sense of urgency seems to have paid off for Schmitt, a commercial fisherman who works on the Chesapeake Bay, as he took home the EverStart Series Northern Division title with a 52-pound, 4-ounce catch.
The secret to his success, he said, was targeting bass in one particular area on the bay: a 6-foot-deep trench he called the “magic trench.”
“That's something that I was very confident about,” Schmitt said. “I found that spot, and that's something that I was pretty sure was going to work.”
The strategy paid off, as he weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 1 ounce on the last day to take the top prize of $25,000 and a Ranger Z518 motorboat.
But he won't be the one to benefit the most from that prize money — his son will. Schmitt said the money will go into the boy's college fund.
Of course, Dylan won't be looking to go to college for almost two decades, but Schmitt hopes to be able to involve his son in fishing much sooner than that. He hopes to develop in his son the fishing sense that led the father to that winning “magic trench” strategy — once the boy gets a few more years under his belt.
Schmitt, a Ravens fan, said he “absolutely” felt a connection last weekend with quarterback Joe Flacco, who also had his job get in the way of his role as a father. While preparing a little more than an hour before kickoff of last Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, he received word that his wife had given birth to their second son hours away in New Jersey. Flacco went on to play through that game and then drove to be with his family immediately after the game.
It would be understandable if the thought of their sons would be distracting for Flacco or Schmitt — Flacco said after the game that he did think about his family while on the sideline, though he focused on football while on the field — but Schmitt thinks his family will motivate him to do better than he has in the past as he moves forward in his fishing career.
“I think it's just going to be the same old, same old, but little bit more worried about my son now, taking care of my family. … But I absolutely am still going to fish, but I have that in the back of my mind, that I really have to do really well because I have a family.”