It is extremely hard to compete in tournament bass fishing at any level. West Virginia’s Dylan Fitzgerald is off to a very successful start in his competitive fishing career. Dylan finished with his partner as 2016-17 West Virginia High School Points Champions. He then went on to have a solid tournament in the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship. Dylan shares about all of his experiences in High School fishing and his future goals. He also name drops some of his favorite bass lakes and rivers.
Your Instagram profile says you were the 2016-17 West Virginia BASS High School Points Champion. Congrats! Explain that accomplishment to those of us not that familiar with High School bass fishing.
High school bass fishing has truly changed my life! It’s growing at great amounts. Last year was my first year fishing the high school tournament trail in West Virginia. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went out with the mind set of just fish your hardest and your best.
There were 4 tournaments in the trail and then the State qualifier. My partner and I fished hard every tournament! We ended the year with finishing 2nd in two tournaments and 5th and 7th in the other two.
We finished on top in the points! We finished the year 1st in points and secured our ticket to the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship.
The Championship was on Barkley Lake. How did that tournament go for you?
The High School National Championship was a life changing experience! I had never fished a tournament of that caliber before. We struggled to find good fish in practice and finally pieced together a game plan for tournament day on the last day of practice.
The 1st day went pretty good. We weighed in 14-4 and were sitting in 61st. But a tropical storm blew in Friday causing to cancel day 2 of the tournament.
This changed everything. Instead of the field getting cut, everybody fished Saturday. Our fish had completely moved, and we struggled to find them again. We changed everything and went to a shallow creek and only ended up weighing in 6-6 and falling down to 99th out of 231. We couldn’t complain for our first year of fishing High School tournaments. We felt very accomplished.
What year are you now in High School?
I am currently a junior in High School.
How is this year’s season going for you?
This year is going great! We have fished 2 out of 4 trail tournaments. And we finished 2nd in the 1st tournament and 4th in the 2nd tournament. We are currently 1st in points!
When did you start fishing?
I started fishing as a kid but never really got into it until I was about 13. I was thrown in tournament fishing right away. My dad and I would go around fishing local tournaments almost every weekend. He taught me everything I know, and I can’t thank him enough! I fell so in love with fishing that I wanted to do it everyday, and Dad would have to drag me away from the lake every time we went.
What got you involved in your High School team?
I really got involved in High School fishing through social media. I noticed people posting stuff on Instagram about High School fishing in their State’s. So I looked into it in West Virginia and found out that it was growing at a huge rate, so I joined a team and went from there. Best decision of my life!
Will you be looking for a college that also has a fishing team?
Absolutely! I would do anything to go to a college with a fishing team and fish for them. I have a few schools in mind such as Bethel University, West Virginia University, and University of Alabama. I have a few other in mind but those are the main schools. It’s important to me because I want to try to advance my fishing career in any way possible. And college fishing is a awesome way to do that! I think it would also be an awesome experience getting to fish for a big school like that and represent them.
Do you have the dream of fishing professionally some day?
Fishing Pro is the biggest dream of my life! Ever since I really got into fishing, I’ve been dreaming of it. I’m gonna fish my hardest and try with everything in me to fish professionally.
Who are the Pro’s you currently look up to?
Brandon Palaniuk is the man that I look up to the most. Just to see the way that he dominated the Elite series this year and to win the Angler of the Year championship…it was awesome! I look up to him everyday. His BMP series on YouTube is a great thing for anyone to watch to see the journey he took this year. It’s amazing!
Whether you are fishing in tournament or just for fun, what are your favorite West Virginia largemouth bass waters to fish?
West Virginia has some awesome largemouth lakes. Probably the best and most well know is Stonewall Jackson Lake. It produces some giant bass. 6 to 8 pounders are very common. Some fish over 10 pounds have been caught!
Another great largemouth lake is Bluestone Lake, a little smaller, but produces some giant bass. It usually takes good stringers to win tournaments. A few other good lakes would be Burnsville Lake, Cheat Lake, Sutton Lake, and of course ponds always hold some nice largemouth.
How about when fishing for West Virginia smallmouth?
West Virginia is a awesome place to come smallmouth fishing! With our tons of streams holding big smallies, who could resist?
The most popular definitely being New River bass fishing. People often have over 50 fish days and catching big smallies on top of that makes it even better! Also the Greenbrier River, Little Kanawha River, Kanawha River, Gauley River are some great river for smallies!
We also have some great lakes for smallmouth fishing! Summersville Lake is the biggest lake in the State, and it’s a lake that’ll take your breath away every time you fish it because it’s so beautiful! It has some great smallmouth fishing. A another great smallmouth lake is Tygart Lake.! Both produce plenty of bites and some great size fish!
What do you consider your strongest fishing techniques?
Defiantly finesse fishing is my strongest fishing. My dad is a plastics guy so that’s all I grew up throwing. I’m working on expanding out of my comfort zone and trying new things! I’ve been putting in a lot of time with new baits and expanding my confidence in baits.
I have said it a lot and hopefully will say it a lot more…the future of fishing is so bright! Dylan is a great example. This young man loves to fish and has a great outlook on the future. I am impressed and have become a big Dylan Fitzgerald fan!