Italian pro brings dream to America

JASPER, Ala. — Once you know the story, it's clear why Jacopo Gallelli says he was “born on the wrong side of the sea.”

He speaks those words in broken English punctuated by the passionate arm-waving and hand gestures of an Italian.

Gallelli is the latest of a new breed of foreign bass anglers leaving their native homeland to live the American dream of bass fishing. Others have come and succeeded. Gallelli hopes to follow in their fate.

Takahiro Omori became the first in a skilled lineup of anglers from Japan to win the Bassmaster Classic in 2004. Australian Carl Jocumsen is another dreamer on the brink of living the dream. Now there’s Gallelli.

“I have put everything I have, all my money, into having this chance to live my dream,” he said. “I want to move here to live, to be a professional angler in America.”

Gallelli is in Alabama this week as a pro at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate. He started the season at the first Open in January held in Florida.

Before that he spent time preparing for the season like anyone. He also produced a music video. Watch it and you’ll be convinced that he’s serious.

The opening scene shows the young Italian wearing running clothes while jogging through the picturesque streets of Florence in his home region of Tuscany. The video rolls through a series of fish catches showing Gallelli wearing a tournament jersey. You see him driving a wrapped bass boat while speeding across an Italian waterway. The montage ends with him registering online for the Opens.

“I was not running through the streets for show,” he said. “I know that it takes physical conditioning for the body to compete here in American professional bass fishing.”

What the video doesn’t show is what happened next. Gallelli bought a used boat online - and sight unseen - from a marine dealer in central Florida.

“It’s not new, but it’s beautiful,” he said of the rig he picked up prior to the first Open.

At the boat ramp in the morning procession of boats and trucks wrapped in the coordinated colors of sponsors, you can’t miss Gallelli’s rig. His is the only pickup truck wrapped in the logo of U-Haul. The company isn’t a sponsor. He must rent a pickup with each trip to the United States.

“It’s part of what it takes for me to live my dream.”

Look for Gallelli’s name on the B.A.S.S tournament roster and you won’t find it. What you will find is “Smash the Giant,” the name officially recognized and entered in the scoring database.

The origin of the name dates back to the 2009 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Gallelli competed as the Italian qualifier on Florida’s Lake Harris. He finished a respectable 18th and caught the biggest bass of the tournament.

“The emcee said ‘hey Jacopo, you smashed the giant’ and I decided to adopt that as my brand name,” he explained.

Google his name and it’s the first web site you see on a search return page filled with YouTube videos and everything else related to Smash the Giant.

Gallelli, 32, claims he’s already smashed the giant enough in Italy. It’s where, at age 17, he began tournament fishing. Seriously. He soon went pro and worked his way to the top of every leader board in the Italian bass fishing scene, including the emerging B.A.S.S. Nation in his home country.

Gallelli saved his tournament winnings and money earned as a professional bass guide in Italy to seed his future here. In Italy he works with Humminbird and Minn Kota. He aspires to add more to the sponsor list in his American quest.

“I know that won’t be easy, but here I can remain if I win,” he said. “This is where you come, not matter where you are from, to make it big in bass fishing.”

It will take time to smash the giant in America. But in Gallelli’s body language and excited conversation you can understand that his attitude has already carried him far.

Even if he came from the wrong side of the sea.

Page views