KNOXVILLE, Tn. — Although it wasn’t the outcome he hoped for, West Virginia bass angler Wil Dieffenbauch said the Bassmaster Classic was an amazing experience.
“It was surreal. When I was a kid I watched it from the stands. This time I was up on stage and it really hit me when I got up there,” said Dieffenbauch in a conversation for West Virginia Outdoors.
The Morgantown fisherman ended up finishing 50th in the biggest bass tournament of them all on the Tennessee River a couple of weeks back. He caught three fish the first day and admitted the conditions were rough.
“All of the practice was tough. We
had high winds, cold weather, the water was four feet low when we got there and it dropped another foot through practice. Then it started to come up when the tournament started. Then when the tournament started it became 80 degrees and sunny. I don’t think the fish really knew what to do since it hadn’t been stable long enough,” he said.
The lack of any consistent pattern led Dieffenbauch to draw comparisons to the Classic fished on the Three Rivers at Pittsburgh, which was notoriously one of the toughest Classics ever.
“If Pittsburgh had been in the spring it may have topped it,” he added.
Dieffenbauch qualified to make the Classic by finishing in the top three of the BASS Nation Championship. It was a tournament he felt certain he could have won, but on the final day he had problems with the prop on his motor. He spent the best part of the fishing day in the water with wrenches rather than moving baits. Adding to the struggles in Knoxville, the prop monster reared its head again.
“I’m going through props like nobody’s business. I threw a blade in practice on a brand new prop, it was defective. Then at takeoff Day 1 I went three miles and melted the hub on that prop and had to pull off. So I’m in the water changing a prop with all of the other guys blasting past me. It wasn’t a real good start to my first Classic, so hopefully we’ll get it figured out soon, because I’m getting tired of it,” he laughed.
All bad luck and tough fishing aside, it was an environment he enjoyed. The bright lights of the event can often be daunting and intimidating for first timers. But for Wil it wasn’t an issue.
“I was surprisingly comfortable while I was there. I really didn’t think I would be because I’ve always been kind of shy and quiet. But everybody there was really nice and friendly. I just felt at home and I felt like it was where I needed to be,” he said.
The experience was so impressive, he can’t wait to do it again.
“Oh, I’m going to get another shot. At some point I’m going to be back there,” he said.
He has an automatic berth into the BASS Nation Southeast Regional this year as a member of the West Virginia team, which is the route he took to qualify this year. He’s also fishing all nine of the BASS open events, a win in any of those is an automatic qualifier as well.
“I’m trying everything I can to get back to that tournament,” he said.