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Local High School Fishing Duo Ready for National Championship

When Jerry Brumbaugh and Dalton Metzger won the Major League Fishing (MLF) qualifiers at Smith Mountain Lake, the pair knew they were on the cusp of making history. Metzger and Brumbaugh watched on the stage while their fish were weighed. When all the fish had been weighed, the five bass totaled 20 pounds and 12 ounces, blowing the rest of the competition out of the water. That's when the duo knew they had punched their ticket to the High School Fishing National Championship in Alabama.

Brumbaugh won the competition last year with teammate Hunter Klotz, who has since graduated. Brumbaugh has a chance to be the first person to win the National Championship two years in a row.

"Since I could walk, I've been fishing," Brumbaugh said. "I like figuring 'em [the fish] out."

His father had a significant role in introducing the sport.

"My dad always fished local tournaments," Brumbaugh said. "My dad used to be a professional fisher."

Getting to the championship

The MLF has pretty stringent rules and many competitions for high schoolers to compete in.

"There are Opens throughout the whole country," Brumbaugh said. "It's open to me, you, or any high school team. You can fish whatever you want out of those tournaments and the top 10 percent of teams go to the National Championship."

"We go on the MLF page and they have all these qualifiers you can fish and sign up for," Metzger said. "You have the possibility of qualifying for Nationals, but you have to get first if there are between 10-19 boats and second if there are 20 plus."

New partnership

After Klotz graduated, Brumbaugh was left without a teammate for his senior year. That's when Metzger and Brumbaugh, who were already friends, connected.

"Jerry got interviewed when he won last year," Metzger said. "And I really picked up on a lot of what he was saying. I mean Jerry and I have been friends for years now; we go golfing, fishing, and hunting together. A couple years ago I asked him, 'What are you going to do when Hunter's gone?' He jokingly asked if I was good enough to be his partner. So when we went out to the lake we were fishing pretty well, and he said "Yeah, we're gonna have to do it.'"

"We just have become best buddies the last few years," Brumbaugh said. "He's a good fisherman so I told him let's do it. We work well together in the boat and we have the same mindset in practice and the real thing."

Keep on practicing

One might wonder, what does fishing practice entail?

"Practice out on Pickwick," Brumbaugh said. Pickwick is the lake in Alabama where the High School National Championship is held.

"It's not like baseball practice where you practice your throws," Brumbaugh said. "We aren't going out there practicing our casts. We're figuring out the lake, figuring out a game plan."

"Practice is more about finding the fish than catching them." Metzger said. "It does no good to catch them in practice. We go out there to strategize and find the bites. We need to know what bait we need to use to win, we need to find spots. It is always a good thing to be over prepared."

Metzger went into the strategy that helped them win in Virginia. "We found plenty of spots that come tournament time, we didn't even fish all of our spots," Metzger said. "We fished this stretch of seven docks and they were on fire. We went through those seven docks and we kept coming back. I think at least four out of five of our keepers came from those docks."

Luck or skill

Fishing is a sport full of planning, but there is a factor of luck involved.

"I think what separates luck from skill is being able to win in tournaments consistently," Brumbaugh said. "It's not hard to throw out and catch a fish, but if you can go out there and do it consistently is another thing. A lot of the skill is finding them, knowing what bait to use, and where to find them."

Metzger had a similar response and spoke to consistency. "Go out there and try catching twenty pounds of fish," Metzger said. "You can't just throw something in the water and catch five pounds. You gotta know where to find them, and know where they move throughout the day. Having a good plan of attack to win consistently is hard."

This work ethic is a big reason why Brumbaugh continues to win and dominate the high school circuit.

"We worked for that for four years," Brumbaugh said when asked about winning the Championship last year. "You can't win if you don't qualify so once you get there you want to win it all, so that was a dream come true."

Championship strategy

With a lot at stake, what is the strategy for Alabama this year?

"He [Jerry] said they caught pretty good stuff," Metzger said. "There were a couple pro tournaments down there, so the fish have been fished pretty hard. For Jerry to say he's getting stuff, it's pretty good to hear."

Brumbaugh is down in Alabama right now preparing for the National Championship. The senior, who recently graduated, is laser focused on the National Championship. His last championship, but not his last time fishing competitively, as he has committed to Adrian University in Michigan to fish.

Metzger is still in Pennsylvania. He will be a senior next year. Metzger plays second base for the Central baseball team, who will be playing in the state championship tomorrow.

But make no mistake both Metzger and Brumbaugh are excited and ready to compete in the National Championship. The National Championship will be held between June 22 to 25 and will be televised. Brumbaugh and Metzger weren't exactly sure if they would be followed by a camera crew, but that didn't matter to them.

"Honestly," Metzger said. "I think if we stay consistent and get good numbers, and make a big jump on the final day, we will have a good chance."

"I am looking forward to seeing what we can do," Brumbaugh said. "I wanna have fun."

 

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