Greg DiPalma and Jamie Hartman were East Coast anglers with the same goal in mind. What made the friendship gel even more were unrelated but similar careers and goals.
“We both came up through blue collar jobs that paid for our fishing,” said Hartman, 46, a native of western New York. “He pounded nails, I drove a truck and we did it to get where we are now.”
There were no other financial goals. Both followed the same path through the ranks of the B.A.S.S. Nation and then the Bassmaster Northern Opens. They became travel partners until that was put on hold by Hartman.
“He got there first but I never gave up,” said DiPalma, 36, of New Jersey. Never giving up was an understatement. DiPalma missed the Elite Series by one keeper bass on two occasions.
Hartman’s story of selling his home, packing up and giving it all to his 2017 rookie season is well known. DiPalma’s quest is not so known. It’s a story worth knowing.
DiPalma qualified for the Elite Series in 2006 but was unable to sign. He would keep trying, coming ever so close from 2014-16. He sealed the deal last season after a strong finish on the James River in Virginia.
Even during their hiatus as roommates the two anglers remained in nearly daily contact. Hartman checked in with DiPalma during each of his Opens tournaments.
“We bounced off ideas that could help him,” added Hartman. “We had been trying to get him qualified for so long, and I really wanted to see it happen.”
That finally happened, and they are back together again, this time as roomies and travel partners for the 2019 Elite Season. Here is how this longtime brotherhood evolved over time.
How did you meet?
DiPalma: Both of us were on the Power Team Lures pro staff, and I was set up to learn about Oneida Lake with him. It just kind of went from there with me learning from him and likewise.
Hartman: Greg came up for an Open on Oneida Lake for the first time. We shared a mutual sponsor, and I gave him a tour of the lake. That was over 10 years ago. We were both blue-collar guys trying to make it, and I had an instant connection with him.
What made you decide to be running mates?
DiPalma: It became obvious that we could play off the strengths of each other. I fish a lot of river systems, tidal rivers and he is an offshore expert. Then we both joined the Riot Baits pro staff and both companies are based in north Jersey, so it made even more sense for us.
Hartman: It’s hard to find someone who you can actually trust with your game plan. It can get dicey when sharing your information even whey there are good intentions. It’s easy to let something slip. Greg seemed very trustworthy, like me, and it was based on mutual respect and trust.
What’s he like as a roommate?
DiPalma: Jamie jokes around, is really laid back and keeps it loose. When you spend so much time together on the road it’s good to stay relaxed to keep from getting too stressed out.
Hartman: He’s one of those guys thats ready to roll soon as the alarm goes off. It takes me awhile to wake up. I have to tell him to calm down. He’s full of energy, funny. It’s nothing but laughs most of the time.
How do you work together?
DiPalma: There are no secrets because we have the same goals in mind and both want each other to get there. It’s all about combining our strengths and sharing information. We scouted Lake Lanier and St. Johns River together. One is deep and the other a river system. I took the lead there and he did the same at Lanier.
Hartman: We shared a boat at Lanier and the St Johns River and there is no way I’d do that without somebody I can trust. We kept bouncing ideas off each other as we went. That’s how we work together during practice from separate boats. We both have different styles of fishing, and it really works well. Rivers are his strength and mine is offshore.
What drives him to compete?
DiPalma: Jamie has a pure desire to win. A top 20 is not good enough. He understands the difference between a 1-ounce and 1-pound lead. It takes that level of competitiveness to compete at the top level of bass fishing. So as an Elite Series rookie it’s a good motivator for me.
Hartman: It really lit a fire under him when I qualified and had success during my rookie season. I was still in contact with him while he fished the Opens. I could detect the jealousy in a good way. When he came up short those two seasons it made him even more competitive.
What’s he like without the game face?
DiPalma: Jamie is always laid back and just a good guy to be around. He really only wears the game face on game day.
Hartman: Greg is a big dork, really silly. Always laughing.
What do you admire about him?
DiPalma: Just how he gave up everything to go all in for his rookie season. Selling his house, putting everything in storage and all that is well known. That took an incredible commitment, and it’s paid off.
Hartman: His honesty. He’ll lend a helping hand more so than most guys in the sport. He will get into complete detail about his baits, patterns. He’s a hard worker too.