Try and try again, and even then you might not succeed. That's the brutal reality of pro fishing. But Millville, N.J., pro Greg DiPalma would have none of that, and 2019 marked the culmination of his lifelong quest to finally fish the Bassmaster Elite Series.
"I began fishing the Bassmaster Opens in 2005, and I came really close to qualifying for the Elite Series a lot of years in a row — finishing 10th, ninth, eighth, 14th in the points," DiPalma said "And I actually qualified for the Elites in 2006, but at the time, I couldn't financially handle it. That really hurt me — to lose out on my lifelong dream. Then in 2018 I had one bad day that dropped me out of qualification. That was tough to take, but with all the changes to the sport in 2018, an opportunity arose with B.A.S.S. to fish the Elite Series and I took it.
"The Elite Series had been my goal since I started, and I'd finally achieved it."
DiPalma's love of fishing started earlier than most. His father would constantly take him hunting at fishing at a very young age, but his love of fishing quickly overtook hunting and became "a religious thing to me," DiPalma said. And that genuine passion for fishing took root when he was just 6 or 7 years old, and throughout elementary school and then on through high school, he'd fish every day he could immediately after the bell.
He does remember his first bass. "We were on vacation in Pennsylvania with the family, at Raystown Lake. I was probably 4 or 5 years old and I was walking down a riprap bank and looking down at the water. I saw a fish swim out of the rocks, then go back in, so I stuck my rodtip into the water, with the worm reeled up tight against it, and the fish came out and ate it. To this day, it's my most memorable fish."
His youthful stomping grounds included the Maurice River, which marked the property boundary of his back yard and offered fishing for perch, catfish and of course black bass. "After that first bass at Raystown, I really started to grow to love bass fishing the most. Then, when I was a little older, I found out there were tournaments, and I fished my first one when I was 14 or 15 years old. It was on Union Lake here in Millville and my brother and I caught a 4-12 and took lunker. It was the first time I tasted money, and that drove me even further. I was beyond addicted to the sport we call bass fishing."
DiPalma spent so much time on the water he began to dominate club events, and quickly stepped up his entries to the Midwest Bassin' buddy circuit. That's where he met his current fishing partner.
"My partner in Midwest Bassin' was Mike Simms. And to this day, he's the only other guy I fish with. We were in the same club together, it's called Tidewater Bassin', and there were three or four of us who were winning most of the club tournaments. Mike and I instantly gravitated to each other — it's almost like we didn't need to talk to each other, because we always knew what the other's thinking. We instinctively fish the same way. And that's why we had so much success in Southern New Jersey together, and I was able to move up and start fishing the Bassmaster Opens."
DiPalma worked a day job for ED Builders until about two years ago. It's a family business, and it allowed him the flexibility to fish, but in 2016 he'd had enough. He secured a captain's license and started his own guide service on the Chesapeake called Upper Bay Guide Service out of North East, Md. It helps him stay on the water for an entire fishing season, he said, because he's not bouncing between construction and competition.
"I thought to myself, 'If I get a captain's license, not only can I fish tournaments on weekends, but I can start guiding here and there. That captain's license has got me on the water all day, every day, so now when a tournament comes around, I'm ready. All my tackle is already prepped and packed, and I'm ready to go."
DiPalma's a lot like his two New Jersey heroes Mike Iaconelli and Pete Gluszek, because of his versatility. Within a 20-mile radius of his home, and now his guide service, DiPalma can fish about 20 different bodies of water of all different types. They're only 50 to 100 acres, he said, but they're all very different. And that's allowed him to train with different techniques and tackle that ranges from 6-pound to 60.
That's why he doesn't have a single specialty, strength or favorite technique.
"There's not one bait or technique that I don't have confidence in," DiPalma says. "Here in South Jersey I've seen it all and thrown it all. It's allowed me to see how the fish change day by day in different environments. I'd say I'm pretty equal in finesse fishing and power fishing. I don't prefer one over the other."
His title sponsor is Superior Walls, which sells pre-fabricated concrete foundation walls. Other sponsors include Power-Pole, Phoenix Boats, Susquehanna Fishing Tackle, Riot Baits, Shimano, Mako Polarized, Hi-Seas, VFX Wraps, AFTCO, Hayabusa hooks, Vineland Auto Electric, OT Wear, South Jersey Boat Works and Mare Marine.