BASS pro Wolak earns berth in Classic

Fishing : BASS pro Wolak earns berth in Classic Monday, April 04, 2005 By Deborah Weisberg

Pennsylvania BASS pro Dave Wolak caught Bassmaster’s Rookie of the Year title on Friday, along with a check for $10,000 and a berth at the CITGO Bassmaster Classic here in July. He placed fourth in a field of 152 for Angler of the Year, which also assures him of a Classic berth not just this year, but next year, when the Classic moves to February and will be at a permanent host-site at Disney World.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Wolak, a physical therapist turned pro who qualified for the Tour in November through three Northern Open tournaments. “I’m pumped. I’m feeling intense. This is the time I’ve been waiting for.”

Wolak, 28, doesn’t get much of a breather. He headed home yesterday from Table Rock Lake, Mo., to Warriors Run near Scranton, Pa., for a brief respite with his wife, Jessica, whom he is quick to credit for his success. He leaves again later this month for the Elite 50 Series, four-tournament invitational with guaranteed payout and no entry fees, that runs mid-April through June. Then it’s to Western Pennsylvania and the Classic.

“I didn’t have time to even think about that during the Tour,” Wolak said. “I’m starting to now. If I can just get my hands on one good picture and a map and spend a little time on the Internet.”

“He’s worked so hard for this,” said Jessica Saturday.

Wolak said he’s going to use some of his rookie prize money to treat his wife to a second honeymoon, since the couple got stuck in Aruba for 25 days in the fallout from Nov. 11 after their wedding in 2001.

“I know, there’s worse places to be stranded,” said Wolak, who laughed through his fatigue following the weigh-in at Table Rock Saturday night. “But it was stressful because there were things I needed to get back to.”

Fishing, undoubtedly, was one of them.

Wolak said he started the Tour “with horse blinders on,” and only one sponsor. “Team Wife,” he said, recognizing that is likely to soon change, since he has become a hot commodity. “I’m prepared for that. I understand about ‘trade marking’ yourself and getting an image you’re comfortable with. I’m going to only go with sponsors I’m comfortable with and not just anyone that’s selling a product.”

Like 17 other rookies, Wolak was unknown when he started on the Tour. “I did my own thing and, being the dark horse, stayed in the background, and now, it’s like, Who the heck is this guy?’ ” he said. “People I’ve never talked to before are coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, way to go.’ It’s a nice feeling after winning a lot of smaller tournaments without getting a landmark, with just breaking even. I’m happy things are rolling my way.”

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