Bass fishing's ultimate fans

Seigo Saito
Dawn and Dick Ottman offer me some words of encouragement at the 2013 St. Lawrence River Elite event.

About the author

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz is an eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, illustrator, writer and antique tackle collector. Follow his career on the Bassmaster Elite Series and get advice from this longtime pro here on Pro-spective.

Like other professional sports, competitive fishing has its share of fans. Even if ours isn't considered a "spectator sport," there are those who watch from the sidelines, cheering on their favorite pros.

One such couple is Dick and Dawn Ottman of Bridgeport, N.Y. They follow pro fishing as closely as any diehard football or baseball fan, and they've been at it for a while too — ever since their son David first showed an interest in competitive fishing.

From Ball Sports to Bass Fishing

Although his dad served as a Great Lakes charter captain, David was more drawn to fishing in their local creeks and ponds. Like any young boy, he started out in ball sports. But once he discovered the black bass, fishing became his obsession.

Dawn recalls David, at age 10, asking for subscriptions to Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times magazines. She says he studied their pages, absorbing all he could and fantasizing of someday becoming a pro bass fisherman.

As David's interest grew, the family started attending regional tournament weigh-ins, some of which were conducted by B.A.S.S. That was fuel to the flame. Soon, young David wanted to try his hand at competition. He joined the local bass club, and his dream of becoming a tournament angler quickly became a reality.

Like any mom, Dawn wanted her son to have every opportunity to succeed. She helped by outfitting David with a good selection of tackle and eventually his first boat, which she trailered to club tournaments for him. He was off and running.

Meet the Pros

In 2000, the Ottman family attended the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in Lake Placid. That's when they met touring pro Peter Thliveros, who won the Games' fishing competition. Being the approachable guy that he is, Pete got to know the Ottmans, and they soon became close friends.

By attending other events, they met more pros, including Mark Menendez, Fish Fishburne, Mark Tucker and Kenyon Hill. Bonding with these anglers, the Ottmans began to travel to more distant events, planning their vacations around various tour stops.

Fourteen-year-old David Ottman (right) and his 9-year-old brother, Rick, out on Lake Okeechobee in 2000.Courtesy of Dawn OttmanFourteen-year-old David Ottman (right) and his 9-year-old brother, Rick, out on Lake Okeechobee in 2000.

I first met them through Pete during an Elite event on Oneida Lake, when they hosted a fish fry at their home on the lake's south shore. Since then, we've become good friends, staying in touch on a regular basis.

I call Dawn "Tour Mom", and she seems to accept the title. Even now that David is grown and on his own, she remains the driving force in much of their activities related to fishing. Just as she helped launch her son's tournament career, she continues to organize their trips to various venues on the Elite Series, as well as many FLW events. Dick serves as an Elite Series Marshal whenever the opportunity presents itself.

In 2007, back when the Elite Series had co-anglers, David Ottman took second place on Lake Erie.B.A.S.S.In 2007, back when the Elite Series had co-anglers, David Ottman took second place on Lake Erie.

Fanatical About Fishing

Now, I realize many of you consider yourselves avid fans. And I'm confident that you are. Thousands of you travel to the Bassmaster Classic each year and to some regular season events as well. But the Ottmans do that and a whole lot more — including feeding and housing some of the pros anytime the tour visits their home waters on Oneida Lake. You might say theirs is a " home for the wayward angler."

Like fans of other sports, the Ottmans collect memorabilia — including hats, T-shirts, jerseys and pro-endorsed lures. But more than anything, they collect memories of time shared with their favorite pros.

To Dick and Dawn Ottman, and all the other passionate fishing fans out there, thank you. We appreciate you guys!

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