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192 miles to the All-American!!
If you’ve fished a tournament on the Mississippi River then more than likely you’ve been competing against one of the Fitzpatrick brothers. Brian and Terry are always considered a threat any time they hit the water! Brian owner of Big River Painting out of La Crosse has been competing in the Walmart Bass Fishing League since 1996 and has amassed over $78,000 in FLW Outdoors events.
Next May 28-30, Brian will take to the water to for the chance to more than double his career earnings. Brian qualified for the BFL All-American, which will be held in Davenport, Iowa and what a fitting opportunity it is being that it is on the Mississippi River!
Brian finished the year in 34th place in the Great Lakes division and only cashed one check. But all that mattered was being in the top 40, which sent him to the Regional tournament being held on Kentucky Lake. Over the course of three days Brian weighed in 41 lb. 11 oz. of bass to win a Ranger Boat and Chevy Truck.
What was the key to your success at the BFL Regional and what do you feel set yourself apart from the other anglers at the Regional?
“I think my biggest key to success in the BFL Regional was just committing to one area throughout the tournament. The first day I did start off fishing some different areas and caught two keepers, one on a buzzbait and one on a Zara Spook. Then I arrived on the grass bed that I would spend the remainder of the tournament. I caught two keepers right away on a spinnerbait, and then finished up my limit and culled a few with the frog.
Again I think my commitment to one area is what set me apart from other anglers. At the end of the first day when I started catching fish on the frog, I made my mind up that I would spend the rest of the tournament throwing a frog on that one grass bed. What made my decision easy was the weather forecast for the remainder of the tournament. The forecast called for bright sun and calm to light winds. I knew from pre-fishing that under those conditions it was going to be very tough for me to catch fish in open water on the edge of the grass. So once I discovered there were a few fish under the matted Hydrilla, I made up my mind that was how I would either live or die. Without making that commitment I don't believe I could have won the tournament.”
Have you started looking towards the All-American next spring?
“I have already started looking forward to the All-American. I've already pulled out my maps and I've started to think about what areas I might want to focus on that time of year. It will be even a longer winter than usual waiting for next year's tournament season to begin.”
Will you be fishing that section of the river, before the off-limits period?
“I will definitely get down there as much as I can this spring before the off limits period. You never know how much it will help because you could have the water level make some drastic changes by tournament time, but for a tournament of this magnitude I am surely going to put forth a 100 percent effort.”
What predictions can you make about this tournament?
“I think it will probably get down to who adapts the best to the conditions. We only get one practice day before the tournament and there is likely to be a pretty dramatic change in conditions from the fishing before the off limits period to the fishing during the tournament.”
Do you feel this is your greatest accomplishment as a tournament angler?
“I would definitely have to rank this as my greatest accomplishment in my tournament fishing career. Hopefully next year I can surpass this accomplishment with another.”
We all at FutureBass hope that you are able to surpass this accomplishment as well Brian!
What tournament plans do you have for 2009?
Brian’s main focus in 2009 will be the All-American, which is at the end of May. Besides that Brian plans on fishing the “BFL's again and I would like to try and fish some of the ABA Bass Weekend Series tournaments as well. If it works out with my schedule I will probably fish some MSBC team tournament out of La Crosse, and I may try and fish the Stren Series event in Fort Madison.”
Has the thought of ever turning pro crossed your mind?
“The thought of turning pro has crossed my mind, but I know that it would be a huge commitment on many different levels. I have a wife and two young kids as well as a painting business that I need to keep afloat. It would be fun to try it for at least a year though just to see if I could compete.”
What do you feel are your strengths as an angler and your weaknesses?
“I feel that my biggest strength as an angler is that I recognize what kind of fishermen I am. What I mean by that is that I don't try and fish beyond my limits. I grew up fishing the Mississippi River around Lansing, Iowa so I am basically a shallow water fisherman. I like to fish fast, if I can throw buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, frogs, crankbaits, and jigs then I am happy!. I don't really get caught up in fishing techniques and patterns that aren't really my strengths like finesse tactics, drop-shoting, Carolina rigging, etc. That being said I will do whatever I have to do to put a few fish in the boat. But when it comes down to it I would rather strike out fishing the way I am most comfortable fishing. I think that philosophy helped me win the Kentucky Lake regional because I made up my mind If I was going to go down it would be throwing a frog in the grass not dragging a Carolina rigged lizard in 20 ft of water.”
“My greatest strength is also my greatest weakness. I am pretty stubborn in the way that I want to fish, and I probably don't try to pick up as many new techniques as I should. I could work on being more versatile.”
How long have you been fishing competitively?
“I fished my first tournament in 1992. So I guess I have been fishing competitively for 16 years. I've probably been fishing tournaments really seriously for about 12 years.”
Who do you credit for helping you get where you are today as an angler?
“I guess I should credit my dad for taking me and my brothers fishing when we were younger because that is where I developed the love for fishing. My brother Terry is also the person who encouraged me to enter my first tournament. I fished an IN BASS team tournament with him when I was nineteen years old. Who knows if he wouldn't have persuaded me to fish with him maybe I wouldn't even be fishing tournaments today.”
Like you said Brian, this winter will be long for all of us, but for you it must seem like years, so hang in there! All of us at Future Bass wish you the best of luck and I know that you’ll represent all of the Great Lakes division anglers well.