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By DUNCAN WEIGAND
Herald Intern 

Dalton Metzger, Jerry Brumbaugh Place Ninth in MLF Nationals

 

After winning the MLF Qualifiers last month, Dalton Metzger (left) and Jerry Brumbaugh (right) went to nationals.

Dalton Metzger and Jerry Brumbaugh finished at 9th place at the Major League Fishing High School Nationals. The competition, which started on June 22, lasted three days, and portions were televised.

Brumbaugh and Metzger finished 9th out of 236 boats that competed at Pickwick Lake in Alabama. Despite the feat, the win is a little bittersweet for Brumbaugh, who was looking to repeat after winning last year.

"Obviously now that I've won, ninth place isn't as big of an accomplishment for me," Brumbaugh said. "But looking back on it, it's my third top 10 finish in nationals in my high school career. I realized that we've done something very special here and we've done really well."

Metzger's first nationals at Pickwick was an eventful one. The rising senior, who also was a part of the Central Baseball team that won the state championship, joined Brumbaugh down in Alabama ready to compete.

"It was an awesome experience," Metzger said. "It's something that I will never forget. It's special to know that you're a top team in the country."

The experience didn't start out exactly how Metzger and Brumbaugh planned it. When Metzger fell ill, both were thrown into a situation neither expected.

"We fished the first day at practice," Metzger said. "When we came back to our place that we rented down there I started feeling sick. I got sick right after the Smith Mountain [Lake] tournament and it was the same deal."

Metzger had tonsillitis. After contacting his parents and a visit to the hospital, Metzger started feeling better.

"On that first day, it definitely affected me," Metzger said.

Brumbaugh worried that Metzger would not be able to compete, and if he did, that it would put his health at risk.

"He fought through it, and he fought through the heat as well," Brumbaugh said. "It was over 100 down there every day, but he did good and I couldn't have done anything like that without him."

Day one begins

Heading into day one, both knew that it would be tough especially since Pickwick is a popular tournament destination for most bass fishing circuits.

Open bass tournaments are held at Pickwick almost weekly. Major tournaments and collegiate tournaments are also held on the lake. A tournament a mere 17 days before had 236 boats descended on the lake. A collegiate tournament in May saw 185 boats fishing for bass.

This amount of fishing can put a lot of stress on the fish: "pressure," as Brumbaugh and Metzger put it. According to the World Wildlife Fund, this amount of overfishing can cause the size of fish to be altered along with changes in the maturation process. This is something that could be detrimental to the population, despite the fish being released after the weigh-ins to surrounding waters.

"When you're getting 400 boats, even one tournament can put a lot of pressure on the fish," Brumbaugh said. "My buddy from last year used to say, 'You're not fishing against the other boats. You're fishing against the fish."

Day one went well for Brumbaugh and Metzger. They both qualified for day 2, despite receiving an 8-ounce penalty when one of their bass that they weighed died. They were still able to qualify with three fish totaling 13 pounds and 1 ounce after the penalty.

"The first day was truly our best," Metzger said. "All day we had really good baits and we got some pretty big bites. We caught our three keepers that day using a crankbait."

Crankbaits are baits that mimic a bait fish's movement in its environment. They are meant to lure out predatory fish like bass.

"Day one we had a bit of a longer day to work with," Brumbaugh said. "They generate a current with the dams and usually they pull it out more towards the end of the day."

Pickwick Lake stretches 50 miles long and flows between two dams, Wilson Dam in Alabama and Pickwick Dam in Tennessee. According to "Visit Florence," the dams that Brumbaugh mentioned create a swift current that smallmouth bass love.

Moving on to two and three

Day two and day three proved to be more difficult for the duo as they barely qualified for day three.

"On day two there were no bites on the crankbait at all," Metzger said. "But I managed to catch two fish on the same cast and it was a 4 pounder and a 3 pounder. I didn't think they were going to help us at the time but they did come back and help us."

"Day two, we had a shorter day," Brumbaugh said. "Somehow we squeaked in. I was surprised because we were in between 7th and 9th all day."

Day three, the final day of nationals, Brumbaugh and Metzger gave it their all.

"Day 3 we went out there like we had nothing to lose," Brumbaugh said. "I don't have a whole lot of complaints and I wouldn't change anything. You really can't complain when you place that high with that many boats competing. It was just somebody else's turn to win."

Brumbaugh and Metzger both spoke to the Herald before they were set to compete in Nationals and their strategy at the time was to find where the bass were and look around the ledges. A ledge is where the water goes from shallow to deep in a short distance.

"It wasn't like normal," Brumbaugh said. "We really had to work to find a concentration of bass. I really thought the shallow spots were going to play for us and they didn't. I'm not one who likes to sit in one spot and stay there the entire day. I like to move around, but this year we had to."

Placing in Worlds

Since the pair placed in the top 30 in nationals, they were able to compete in worlds, a one-day event where the top 10 teams in the world, along with the top 20 teams in nationals, compete to get the biggest bag. It was a day that both anglers said they would do over, despite having no strategical regrets in nationals.

"One day I would change was the final day of worlds," Metzger said. "We made a different move than we had been doing. We went to the Wilson Dam where it flows into Pickwick right on launch. I caught a 4-pound smallmouth and Jerry caught a 2.5-pound smallmouth and then it slowed down. We should have gone to our spot at the bottom and we would have become world champions, but it would have been an hour-and-a-half boat ride."

Despite the miscalculation, the duo was still able to finish 19th in worlds out of the 415 boats competing.

With Brumbaugh moving onto college, Metzger is now left without a partner, but he still expressed a desire to fish at the high school level.

"I'm gonna continue to fish," Metzger said. "I haven't talked to anyone about being my partner just yet, but my buddy who is hauling cows with me right now is definitely an option."

Metzger is going to continue to enjoy his summer, which he plans to continue working, lifting, and golfing.

As for Brumbaugh he is looking forward to going to college and being able to get his name out there while he fishes in school.

 

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