OCEAN CITY, Md. — Delaware B.A.S.S. Nation angler Fabian Rodriguez will join fellow B.A.S.S. Nation representatives Brandon Palaniuk and Paul Mueller on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail this season, after earning his qualification last fall at the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
The 50-year-old plumber has come a long way since his days of fishing Three Pond Bass Club tournaments in his 15-foot Shakespeare Wondercraft boat.
When he saw a posting for the club in 1992, Rodriguez decided to attend the club’s meeting and he has been a member ever since.
“One of the club members took me under his wing, and we fished some buddy tournaments,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who lives in Maryland but fishes for the Delaware B.A.S.S. Nation, competed in his first state qualifier from his Shakespeare Wondercraft, which he customized with carpeting and wiring installed for an aerated livewell system. Rodriguez made the state team his first year and has since won about 100 club tournaments and qualified for 13 B.A.S.S. Nation divisionals.
Finishing 10th overall and first on the Delaware team in the 2015 Old Milwaukee Mid-Atlantic Divisional on the Monongahela River earned Rodriguez his first trip to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC). He qualified for this year’s Bassmaster Classic by finishing as the top angler of the Mid-Atlantic Division and third overall at the BNC.
“It took me about 2 1/2 weeks to really soak it in that I had made the Classic, and even now every week I will get that little jump of a feeling that I need to really put my head around this thing,” he said.
Rodriguez had never been on the Classic waters of Grand Lake until he did some pre-fishing there in early December. “I spent five days of just nothing but idling,” he said. “In about two hours of fishing, I caught one about 3 1/2 pounds.”
Grand will be different for Rodriguez because back home, he usually fishes the shallow waters of the tidal rivers along the Eastern Shore of Delaware and Maryland.
“I thought I would steer toward the upper end of Grand Lake to fish the river part of it, but with the research I have done, I am going to stay away from the upper ends of it,” he said. “I think that time of the year, it is going to be really cold up there and the fish are going to be shut down even more.”
Rodriguez lists frogging and jig fishing as his strengths, so he can rely on one of his favorite tactics during the Classic.
“I will be able to do some jigging, but I think I will be cranking a lot more,” he said. “I am pretty versatile and can throw just about anything.” He is also considering using an adjustable drop shot, which has worked well for him lately.
Another challenge for Rodriguez will be facing the stiff competition of the Elite Series pros this season. “It is going to be pretty intense,” he said. “I don’t mind telling you that the nerves are racking up week by week.”
Rodriguez said he believes the experience he has gained in Nation tournaments since those early days of fishing in his Shakespeare Wondercraft will help him during the Classic. “I thought I was a patient fisherman before, but I have learned to be even more patient,” he said. “I also learned to read the water a little bit better.”
Finishing in the top half of the Classic field is a realistic expectation, according to Rodriguez. “I think I am a better-than-decent fisherman,” he said. “I know I am representing the Nation, so I will do the best I can to do really well. I don’t see myself finishing less than halfway through the field, if not in the top portion of the field.
“I am not going to say I am going to win this thing when there is Jason Christie, KVD and Edwin Evers who have been on Grand many times.”
Cheering for Rodriguez at the Classic will be his brothers and his son, Kyle, and daughter, Ashley.