THOMASVILLE — Two local firefighters are headed to the Super Bowl of competitive fishing after only one first year in the sport.

Lt. David Dieckmann and Lt. Mark Stephens of the Thomasville Fire Department will compete in the 2006 Crappie USA Classic Sept. 27-30 at Wilson Lake, Ala. The classic is one of the biggest fishing tournaments in the world.

Throughout the year, the two sportsmen competed in several fishing tournaments across the South and East. They were recently top finishers at a regional crappie tournament in Gadsen Ala., qualifying them for the national tournament in September.

Competitors in the tournament fish for a specified time and turn in their best seven fish. They must also adhere to fishing laws, which can vary from state to state, and have a valid fishing license for the state they’re competing in.

Like most anglers, Dieckmann and Stephens have their own particular methods of catching fish. However, when the fish weren’t biting as well as they would have liked in the Gadsen tournament, the two decided to switch to a new strategy.

“We do a lot of trolling, but up there it was a totally different kind of fishing than what we’re used to down here. We normally troll, but we couldn’t catch the quality of fish that we needed,” Dieckmann said. “So we stopped trolling and went to shooting the docks.”

Dieckmann explained that when the sun gets high in the afternoon, fish tend to gather and hide beneath docks along the waterfront. “Shooting the docks,” which involves flicking and casting under the docks, turned out to be a good move for the two.

“In the last two-and-a-half hours of the tournament we probably caught 75 fish. We just stayed with these two docks that had some really good fish on them until we ran out of time,” Dieckmann said.

Stephens, a 16-year veteran at the Thomasville Fire Department, was on duty when he found out he and Dieckmann had been invited to the Crappie Classic.

“I was excited. That’s something you fish all year for — to get a chance to fish the classic,” he said. “It makes the whole year worth it, because this is the Super Bowl. We fished hard, but we didn’t think we’d make it the first year. But we’re excited that we did and we’re going to give it our all.”

Dieckmann, who has been with the fire department for six years, said making it to the Crappie Classic has been their goal since they first started fishing together. The two are now seeking sponsorship for the week-long national tournament in September.

For more information or to sponsor the local sportsmen, call 227-7015, or email Stephens at Ltmark@rose.net.

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