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Deale resident, Oakland Mills High grad Bryan Schmitt finding success as professional angler

Bryan Schmitt, a resident of Deale and an Oakland Mills High graduate pictured holding the championship trophy after winning the Fishing League Worldwide Tour on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 2017, has posted six Top 10 results and collected $196,116 in career earnings.
Bryan Schmitt, a resident of Deale and an Oakland Mills High graduate pictured holding the championship trophy after winning the Fishing League Worldwide Tour on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 2017, has posted six Top 10 results and collected $196,116 in career earnings. (Fishing League Worldwide)

Bryan Schmitt isn’t kidding when he says he’s been a fisherman his entire life. The Deale resident’s love for fishing began with his great, great grandfather, who owned a cabin on a remote lake in Ontario that served as a summer getaway for the family.

When his father, Gary, continued the family fishing legacy, Bryan was carried along.

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“I was in diapers the first time I went there,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt was speaking shortly after his record-setting win in the first Toyota Series event of 2021, held Feb. 6 at Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga) in Florida. It was the south county resident’s sixth win on the Toyota Series — most by any competitor — and 13th of a burgeoning career spanning multiple series.

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“I have been fishing like forever, it seems. My dad was taking me with him from Day 1,” said Schmitt, who grew up in Columbia and graduated from Oakland Mills High.

By the time Schmitt was 8 years old, he fished regularly with his father, grandfather and anyone who would bring him along. Then there was the time he caught his first largemouth bass.

“It might have been only a 3- or 4-pound bass, but it was the biggest thing I had ever seen on that lake. From then on, I was hooked,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt bought his first boat as a teenager — a 10-foot inflatable outfitted with an electric motor. He stepped up to an aluminum johnboat and began catching bass on small ponds and the Potomac River using lures and techniques he’d seen on television and magazines such as Bassmasters.

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Schmitt turned the corner in his fishing career at 18 when he and his then-girlfriend and now wife Ashleigh attended a fishing show in Timonium and saw a flyer for an open tournament on the Potomac River.

“I told Ashleigh I was going to fish that tournament,” said Schmitt, who turned 40 on March 3. “I called the number on the flyer and talked to the guy in charge (Joseph Scalley). He told me my boat had to have a live well and all kinds of other stuff I’d never heard of. I needed to make more upgrades to just enter events.”

Schmitt originally bought the boat for $2,000 but ended up spending another $15,000 to get it tournament ready. His next step was to join the Maryland Tri-County Hawg Hunters, a B.A.S.S. Nation-affiliated club.

Deale resident Bryan Schmitt has competed in 22 tournaments and finished in the money 17 times. He has posted six Top 10 results and collected $196,116 in career earnings.
Deale resident Bryan Schmitt has competed in 22 tournaments and finished in the money 17 times. He has posted six Top 10 results and collected $196,116 in career earnings. (Courtesy Photo)

Moving into a 16-foot boat enabled Schmitt to expand his reach. He entered more tournaments and inherently learned more about the discipline. The more he learned, the better he finished — and the more money he won.

Schmitt’s first tournament victory came at an event held on the Choptank River in Denton. He won $500.

“It was pure luck, but I was convinced I had become a professional,” Schmitt said. “Now, I’m in a dilemma. I’ve won my first tournament and now I am a professional.”

Schmitt admits he spent the first three years of his professional career “getting my butt kicked.” However, other pros were willing to help the young angler, whose passion and thirst for knowledge paid dividends.

“I was like a funnel and sucked in everything,” he said.

At 23, Schmitt competed in the Bass Fishing League and found himself competing for more prize money. Soon after he entered open tournaments with larger purses, some of which offered boats as prizes.

Schmitt became more active on the professional circuit even though he still needed to attend to the Chesapeake Bay-based charter boat business he runs with his father-in-law. Captain Frank Carver operates Loosen Up Charters out of Happy Harbor Marina in Deale, and he and Schmitt lead approximately 400 charters per season aboard separate boats measuring 50 and 42 feet.

“Running a charter boat for stripers is critical to my success as a bass fisherman,” Schmitt said in a personal profile story posted to the Bassmaster website. “I have to deal with changing conditions every day to figure out how to catch the stripers. That keeps me sharp for bass fishing.

“A good year with the charter business pays the bills. A good year bass fishing also pays the bills. If both businesses go well, we can maybe save a dollar or two.”

In 2019, Schmitt was so successful he qualified for both the Toyota and Bassmaster Elite series, where “the studs compete,” he said. Schmitt finished first in the Bassmaster Eastern Open standings and 22nd on the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour.

“Here I am today competing against the best of my sport,” Schmitt said. “It’s awesome to have qualified for the Elite Series and the FLW Tour. It’s my goal to ultimately win a Bassmasters Elite tournament.”

Schmitt entered his first Bassmasters Elite event last weekend and placed eighth. He was in 48th place after the opening round, but steadily moved up during the four-day tournament.

“I don’t know what happened that first day. Things just didn’t work out. That’s fishing,” Schmmit said. “I got better each day. That was encouraging.”

Schmitt’s Toyota Series win at Lake Toho was especially impressive because it came among tall grasses, which made the fish harder to find, catch and land. Experience fishing in grassy spots on the Potomac River helped him navigate.

“I was lucky to have fished on the Potomac,” Schmitt said. “I am so excited to have won my sixth Toyota Series event. It is something I had wanted to do. I’m tickled to have that distinction.”

Schmitt finished with a total weight of 66 pounds, 10 ounces covering 14 bass. His largest catch weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and he won $51,500. He used a Live Scope to find the bass in the tall, clumpy grasses and Missile Baits lures to hook them.

According to Schmitt’s biography on the Bassmaster website, he has competed in 22 tournaments and finished in the money 17 times. He has posted six Top 10 results and collected $196,116 in career earnings.

It appears fishing will remain a family tradition in the Schmitt family. Bryan and Ashleigh’s 7-year-old son Dylan tags along to the tournaments, and their 1-year-old daughter Olivia will soon be a spectator as well.

“Dylan is really into it. He loves it. He’s got the gear, the lures, bait, rods, reels — everything related to fishing,” Bryan said. “He’s kicking butt!”

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