Reeling Them In: Wilson Off To Fast Start As Competitive Angler

Dalton Wilson has aspirations to become a professional angler.

A strong start to his career certainly has him headed that direction.

From the state championship he won his first year of competitive fishing to an endorsement with Strike King Lures, Wilson appears to be on the fast track to realizing his dream. In just three years, Wilson has won 11 events, finished 24 times in the top 10 and competed against the nation’s best at the Junior Bassmaster World Championship.

Fishing comes almost naturally for Wilson, who won this year’s Taneycomo Classic Championship and currently leads the 2007 Youth B.A.S.S. points race. He’s been fishing the Piney River and local farm ponds since he was a boy.

“I’ve pretty much been on the water every week since I could hold a pole up,” said Wilson, a junior at Houston High School. “I love being away and out there by myself doing my thing.”

His thing on the water is winning. Wilson won the first tournament he entered in 2005 en route to the state championship and has been ranked one of the top fishermen his age in the state since.

“Being the state champion was a pretty big deal to me,” Wilson said. “I think I may have set the bar a little high.”

Wilson’s career began in 2005 when he was 14. At an expo show in Springfield, he signed up for the youth club and won the first tournament he entered. Wilson went on to win the Missouri state championship and competed against 45 of the nation’s most promising young anglers at the world championships in Leesburg, Fla. He finished 24th.

Wilson’s second competitive year in 2006 wasn’t quite as good as the first, but he’s back at the top in 2007. First-place finishes at Bulls Shoals Lake and Mark Twain Lake, along with third-place finishes at Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks, have Wilson atop the Youth B.A.S.S. standings. In June, Wilson completed an 11-month points race on Taneycomo Lake. He also won the invitation only Taneycomo Classic on June 17.

Wilson’s success is no mistake. He works hard to be one of the best.

Wilson estimated he will participate in 30 tournaments this year alone. For each, he goes to the location the previous weekend to “pre-fish.” Except for holidays – even then, Wilson and his father, Jimmy, are hunting in Wyoming, Texas or northern Missouri – every weekend is consumed by fishing.

During football season, Wilson said he leaves immediately after each Friday night game for the next fishing tournament.

“It takes a big toll on me, but it’s just one of those things that I love,” he said. “It’s like football to me. You wonder why you put yourself through all of it. But once you get on the field, it’s all worth it.”

Tournaments begin at 6 or 7 a.m. and last eight hours. Except for the Taneycomo series, which he partnered with his father, Wilson fishes mostly by himself. His biggest catch has been a 9-pound large-mouth bass.

Multiple sponsors have taken notice of Wilson’s success. Strike Kings, which provides him unlimited products and a couple thousand dollars worth of lures each year, jumped onboard when Wilson won the 2005 state championship. He’s also supported by J.B. Custom Rods, Tracker/Nitro Marine Group, Air Evac Life Team and Romines Motor Company.

The more Wilson wins, the more notoriety and support he receives. He hopes it eventually leads to a professional career.

“I’d love to be able to make a living out of fishing,” Wilson said.

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