DUBUQUE, Iowa — A Christmas present from his grandpa has become the gift that keeps on giving for 21-year-old Greg Vance.
Vance recalls his grandpa, Dick Huinker, would frequently visit a nearby Cabela’s and talk to Terry Fitzpatrick, a former Bassmaster Classic qualifier who worked in the store’s fishing department.
Huinker decided before one Christmas to ask Fitzpatrick if he would take out his Vance for a day of fishing as a Christmas gift.
“Terry took me out and we had a blast,” Vance said. “Terry said I was a pretty good fisherman and asked me if I ever thought about joining a bass club. That is when I joined the Upper Miss Bassmasters club.”
Vance spent a couple of years fishing as a nonboater with the Upper Miss Bassmasters, but in 2014, he left the club and got together with some other college-age anglers to form the Dubuque Bass Club.
The Loras College senior switched over to the boater side last year and qualified for the Iowa state team to fish in his first Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Divisional.
Vance advanced all the way to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro by finishing as the top Iowa angler in the Northern Divisional and earning the top spot for the Northern Division in the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC).
Vance said he has also already made the Iowa state team that will compete in the 2016 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional.
Vance’s passion for fishing started at an early age.
“Ever since I can remember, I have been going fishing for catfish or bluegills or whatever,” Vance said. He recalls his dad, Pat Vance, and uncle, Dan Bannon, would take him bass fishing out of a johnboat on weekends at Lake Delhi. His first bass tournament was a buddy derby he fished with his dad on Lake Delhi in about 2007.
“That was barely when I first started to learn how to throw a baitcaster,” said Vance, who recalled they caught four keepers in the tournament. “It got me hooked big time.”
Making the Bassmaster Classic has been Vance’s lifelong dream.
“I had been watching it as a kid on TV, and my dad and I were joked that we should go down and watch that one day,” he said. “And now here I am going to be fishing in it, so it is a blessing. I am so excited that it’s hard to explain the feeling.”
Vance has visited the Classic waters of Grand Lake for family vacations, but the only fishing he did then was off of a dock. The Iowa angler fished the lake from a boat for the first time after the BNC, but he spent most of his time trying to learn the lake’s layout.
“If I find a pattern during the Classic, then I know I got other spots I can go to and repeat the pattern,” he said.
Although Vance found out Grand is “nothing like” the waters he fishes back home on the Mississippi River, he believes he can still use familiar techniques during the Classic. “I know how to throw a jerkbait, and that will be a key factor in the tournament, so I have been building some confidence in that,” he said. “I like throwing a jig and a crankbait, and I am pretty good throwing that kind of stuff. I think it will be in my wheelhouse.”
The cheering section for Vance at the Classic will include his parents, Pat and Wendy Vance, his girlfriend, Heather Everding, his aunt and uncle and friends from the Dubuque Bass Club. Vance said he hopes to put on a good show for them.
“I want to make the cut for the final day to the Super Six,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to swing for the fences and win the whole thing.”