N.C. State bass fishermen win national title

Before going to Ala., these two weren’t even the tops in Raleigh

CorrespondentJune 20, 2012 

N.C. State seniors Ethan Cox and Ben Dziwulski had a couple of really good fishing days last month, and now they want to parlay it into a career.

The duo had the biggest total catch in the Boat US Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship May 24-25 on Lake Pickwick outside Florence, Ala., giving the BassPack – N.C. State’s bass fishing club – its third national championship in the 10 years of competition.

And they didn’t even enter as State’s top team. It was only after other early entrants from other schools dropped out and they got past the waiting list that Cox and Dziwulski, the No. 3 entry from the BassPack, got to head to Florence to fish.

Teammates Paul Owens and Kevin Beverly finished 43rd while Tyler Faggart and Clint Benbow were 50th.

“We found out we were in as one of the last teams,” Dziwulski said. “They had filled up 200 boats and we were on the waiting list. We went onto the lake blind except for online research and map study.”

Cox, who had been the top-ranked angler from BassPack intra-club competitions last season, was No. 7 this year and Dziwulski No. 4.

But on Lake Pickwick they combined to catch bass totaling 20.33 lbs. on the first day and 25.57 on the second, finishing first out of 188 boats from 106 schools. “We’ve got a real good resume now,” Cox said with a smile.

The duo fished off Cox’s boat, a 19-foot Skeeter with a 200-hp Mercury engine. Ethan’s father Darrell made the trip and took care of all the essentials the anglers needed to be ready, acting as a cross between a pit crew and a caddy.

The team launched at 5:45 a.m. each day and had to weigh in at 2:30 p.m.

“(Darrell Cox) did all the little things,” said Dziwulski, from Woodbine, Md. “We could have done it all on our own, but he allowed us to focus on the fishing.”

Cox used Abu Garcia rods and reels, Seaguar lines and Strike King hard baits for his catches.

“That was our money setup,” said Cox, from West End in Moore County.

Dziwulski used JB custom rods, Abu Garcia reels and High-C fluorocarbon lines with his Strike King 6-X-D crank baits.

“JB is in Dunn and makes the best rods on the market, I think,” Dziwulski said.

As they both say, they have some sponsors and are looking for more.

Both have been fishing since their dads taught them when they were little guys, but their routes to Raleigh were hardly identical.

Cox, who grew up a Wolfpack fan, was heavily into competitive roller hockey. That changed, he said, when he was fishing in tournaments on Lake Tillery about every weekend and economics dictated he pick one sport.

Dziwulski was a basketball guard who had a scholarship offer from UMBC (Maryland-Baltimore County) and was a receiver/strong safety/return man on the football team. But he was also fishing in junior Bassmasters tournaments and won a couple of state championships, attracting the attention of then-BassPack faculty advisor Jonathan Phillips.

“He called me and said, ‘Why don’t you check out N.C. State? We have a really good fishing team,’ and so I looked into it and liked it,” Dziwulski said. “North Carolina is warmer than Maryland, there are lakes close by, and they had won the 2006 national championship. This was the only school I applied to.”

Cox has already graduated with a business administration degree, while Dziwulski will finish in December with a degree in agricultural business management.

Jeffrey Thomas, the club’s pro advisor, said Cox and Dziwulski are naturals.

“Those boys don’t need much coaching,” said Thomas, who has helped with the club since 2003. “The team has such a reputation – they’ve been the No. 1 team in the nation three times. They’re a hard-working bunch of kids, all good boys and a couple of girls who represent N.C. State University and the state of North Carolina well.

“Ethan and Ben probably spend more time on the water than anybody I know. They absolutely live and breathe fishing, and that’s what it takes to get to their level.”

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