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Morgantown angler qualifies for bass fishing’s biggest event

FLORENCE, Ala. — Angler Will Dieffenbauch will become only the fourth West Virginian in history to fish bass fishing’s most heralded event. With a second place finish in last week’s B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Pickwick Lake in Alabama, the Morgantown angler secured a berth in the 2023 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“Everybody that bass fishes it’s their dream to walk across that stage. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. It’s in Knoxville again and I’m pretty sure that was the biggest crowd they ever had for a Bassmaster Classic, so it’s going to be insane. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

Dieffenbauch qualified into the National Championship as West Virginia’s representative as a boater. He got a good start after a rather questionable practice round.

“Practice was a little rough because it’s just a bad time of year and it hadn’t cooled down enough. The little bit I figured out in practice, I just rolled with it and it turned out there were more fish there than I originally thought,” he said in an appearance on West Virginia Outdoors.

Dieffenbauch led the field the first two days. His Day one stringer of five bass weighed 15 pounds 4 ounces. He was a full two pounds better than the second place finisher as he started Day2. The second day he brought another quality limit to the scale at 14 pounds 2 ounces. Headed into the final day oft he tournament, the field was narrowed to 10 fishermen, and  he had a nearly three pound lead over the second place competitor who was from Alabama.

“It worked out the first couple of days and I think I could have gotten them the last day too, but it was just a little bit of bad luck,” he said.

Day 3 saw a change in the weather. Rain was pouring as the field left the dock. Dieffenbauch headed to his top spot only to find two local anglers fishing there.  He headed of to his backup location, but suddenly lost power in his engine.

“I felt the engine slip and went a little further and it spun out. I pulled the prop off and found out I had spun out the hub,” he said.

The tournament director allowed a spare prop to be delivered to Will in the field by a member of the West Virginia Bass Nation. He spent a couple of hours making the repairs and lost some valuable fishing time.

“They just bit the last day in the morning while that was happening. It slacked off about 10 o’clock or so and the sun came out. It was the right conditions for them to bite in the morning and by the time I got the prop switched out it was 9:00. I went over to a little spot and caught three of them really quick,” he said.

Those three would be the only bass he would bring to the scales for the final day, and he fell five pounds shy of the win. Although disappointed he didn’t bring home he Bryan Kerchel  Memorial Trophy for the National Championship, Dieffenbauch looked on the bright side.

“Chase Sansom who was running the camera boat from West Virginia ran that prop out to me. I lost a couple of hours of fishing, but without it I wouldn’t have made the Classic,” he said.

Dieffenbauch caught his fish on a ledge which was several hundred yards long. The ledge went from two feet to about seven feet and was covered in grass. He ran a bladed jib up and down the drop to get his bites.

When asked about the upcoming Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville on the Tennessee River and Fort Loudon Lake, Dieffenbauch said was there for a B.A.S.S. College Championship event a few years ago. It was a tournament he’d rather forget, but admitted it does at least give him a starting point for preparation.

“I was there for the very first college national championship I fished many years ago and it was about that same time of the year. So I at least know what I’m getting into and I kind of know my way around that lake or river. Hopefully I can find them better than I did in college,” he laughed.

Dieffenbauch has been around bass fishing a long time and before he was winning fishing tournaments he all but owned the old Casting Kids competitions at B.A.S.S. events in West Virginia. He as West Virginia’s representative in the National Kids Casting Championship for many years and won some of them.

He joins elite company as only the fourth West Virginian to qualify to fish the Bassmaster Classic. Frank Haught of Lumberport fished the 1989 Classic on the James River in Virginia, Russ Smarr of Charleston fished the 2000 Classic on Lake Michigan in Chicago, and Jeremy Starks fished the 2013 Classic on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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