(Editor’s note: Leading up to the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship – slated for April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rodgers, Ark. – CollegeFishing.com will publish weekly, in-depth features stories of each of the 25 national championship team qualifiers. At stake in the tournament is a first-place prize package that includes $30,000 in cash, a brand new, Ranger Z-117 bass boat and an automatic berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup.)
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CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing?
Ryan Radcliff: I was introduced to fishing by my father when I was very young. I was so young that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fishing. I didn’t start competing in bass tournaments until late in high school and my early college years.
Wil Dieffenbauch: I was introduced to fishing while camping with my family and grandparents. I caught my first fish when I was 1 year old and it was a largemouth. My dad and I fished local ponds and, as I grew older, we would take my grandpa’s old Starcraft Spitfire (16-foot bass boat) out on the Ohio River. I fished my first tournament with my dad when I was 7 or 8 and have been hooked on competitive fishing ever since.
CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with?
Ryan Radcliff: Well, I used to be most comfortable fishing crankbaits and just about anything you could fish fast. But as I started fishing with my partner Wil Dieffenbauch, he taught me the wonderful art of finesse fishing. Before I never thought I had the patience to be a “finesse” fishermen, but after learning from the collegiate fishing legend Wil Dieffenbauch – and of course, laying into some piles of fish – I think I can now call myself a finesse fisherman.
Wil Dieffenbauch: I can fish just about any lure, rig or style. Over the years, I’ve had to learn many different techniques because you have to be versatile in order to catch them on a daily basis in West Virginia. If you can catch fish on the Ohio River, you can catch fish anywhere. I enjoy the tournaments that are tough. That’s when I feel I have my biggest advantage – when you can’t afford to make a mistake because you won’t get a second chance. Where I live, I’m used to fishing for only five or six bites a day and praying they all keep. It makes me mentally stronger in what is really a mental sport.
CollegeFishing.com: What did it feel like to qualify for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship? How do you plan to prepare for the big event?
Ryan Radcliff: It felt unreal to qualify for the championship! I don’t want to say we never thought we could make it because that was our goal from the get go and we stayed confident no matter what was thrown at us. Our preparation for nationals will include learning as much as we can about the lake and also taking advantage of as much practice time as we can get.
Wil Dieffenbauch: It felt amazing to qualify for the National Championship again. Since I knew I was graduating in December of 2012, I didn’t want the Conference Championship to be my last collegiate tournament. I wanted one more shot at the National Championship title.
My final season of college fishing will be memorable, for sure. Fishing with a new partner, we chalked up another top 5, won the Conference Championship and qualified for a third National Championship appearance; I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
Competing in these tournaments over the past four years has been the best part of being in college. I fished 13 events in my college career, have had nine top-10 finishes, qualified for the Conference Championship all four years, have three wins including the Conference Championship victory and was named a 2012 All-American. Of the four events that were not top-10 finishes, two were 11th-place results.
I have made a lot of good friends, met a lot of great people from all over the country, and enjoyed every second of fishing these tournaments with Ryan Radcliff, Brent Dodrill and Mark Heefner. However, I want to end my college career on top with a victory at the National Championship. Ryan and I are fishing well together and I think we have a really good shot at doing just that. To prepare, we are just doing our homework on Beaver Lake and will be making a trip down there to look the place over.
CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.
Ryan Radcliff: When I am out fishing for fun and the temperatures start to get pretty warm I like to hop in the water and enjoy a nice skinny dip swim. Haha! True story.
Wil Dieffenbauch: I won four state casting championships as a child. As a junior, I won three state fishing championships and finished fourth at the 2006 National Guard TBF Junior World Championship on Lake Neely Henry. I started the club at Fairmont State University. I am from a very small town in West Virginia called Hundred. Hundred has a population of less than 350 people and there were just 26 students in my high school graduating class.