Bass fishing fans with a sharp memory might recall a young angler wearing a Yankees visor and a shirt void of sponsor logos winning the Toyota Tundra Rookie of the Year title back in 2005.
But unless you had fished against him locally on Champlain, Candlewood or Cayuga you probably had no idea who Dave Wolak was. You may have also wandered why he wore a Yankees logo instead of one tied to a fishing-related sponsor.
Fact is, Dave Wolak didn’t have any sponsors during his rookie year on the Bassmaster tour, and he darn sure didn’t have the warm and fuzzy feeling of home when the schedule took him to reservoirs hundreds of miles from his roots in eastern Pennsylvania. Wolak was new to the national scene and the hat provided a comfortable subconscious connection to a team, a sport and a place that made his soul feel content.
Home was Scranton in eastern Pennsylvania, 2 hours west of the shadows of Yankee Stadium. Wolak was a 6’ tall, 210-pound multi-sport athlete for the Scranton Prep Cavaliers, but baseball was his best sport. “I had a real strong senior year in 1994. I hit .500. I had a strong arm from my third base position, and I was a good hitter, but I knew my lack of speed would limit me long term,” said Wolak, who has qualified for 4 Bassmaster Classics.
Don’t let Wolak undersell himself. He was good enough to play college ball at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania. “I stayed at third and first base in college. I wasn’t quick enough for middle infield, and while I tried to play catcher, that’s a tough, tough position to learn. And learning to play catcher once you reach college is too late. I also played baseball in a very competitive summer league, but a snow-skiing related ACL injury along with the super-tough science curriculum I was enrolled in eventually put the brakes on my baseball career,” said Wolak.
A Toyota Trucks visor has replaced the Yankees visor, but that hasn’t changed his love of the game, the Yankees, and his favorite player Hideki Matsui. If you know Wolak, you know why he likes Matsui – the two are very similar. “I’m a fan of guys that play hard, keep their mouth shut and mind their own business,” said Wolak.
And yet mid-way through his fifth successful season as a pro angler, his passion for baseball still burns. “I miss it. I loved to hit a baseball. Hitting was like an obsession to me. Just walking out on to the fresh cut field with a bat in my hand to take the photo for this article excited my passions for the game.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series on bass pros and their baseball playing backgrounds. In the weeks ahead, we’ll also talk to former ace high school pitcher Terry ‘Big Show” Scroggins.