Recent Elizabethtown High School graduate Anthony Cicero IV and rising senior Dakota Snyder last month became the first team from Lancaster County to win the Student Anglers Federation High School Fishing World Championships hosted by The Bass Federation and Fishing League Worldwide.
“Unbelievable,” said Cicero’s father, Anthony Cicero III. “It still gives me chills thinking about it.”
The big win June 22 on Alabama’s Pickwick Lake came at the end of four days of grueling competition among 389 high school teams from around the country. There also was one team from Canada and another from Zimbabwe.
The victory was a potentially life-changing event for both Cicero and Snyder.
In addition to “lots of fishing gear, TVs and trophies,” Cicero said, the team’s winnings also included their choice of scholarship offers from Bethel University in Tennessee, Simpson University in California or Kentucky Christian University – each of which has a collegiate fishing team. The scholarship offers range from $28,000 - $50,000 per angler.
Having just graduated from high school, Cicero, 18, said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next with his life.
“I was thinking about taking a year to work and just think about what to do,” he said.
Now that he’s got a scholarship offer, however, he’s considering college.
“I don’t know what I might study,” he said. “I’ve got to think about it, but I’m thinking I’d like to go to college and fish for the team.”
With one year of high school left, Snyder, 17, said he is considering joining the U.S. Marine Corps. But now he also is thinking about taking one of the scholarship offers.
“I’m not sure right now,” he said. “But maybe I’ll go to college. It gives me another option.”
Both Cicero and Snyder said fishing professionally could be in their futures.
“That would be a dream come true,” Cicero said.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Held annually in June, the High School Fishing World Championships is open to any high school team in the U.S.
The Bass Federation (TBF) is one of the nation’s oldest organized grassroots fishing organization, which has a strong focus on youth anglers.
Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization.
Cicero and Snyder have been fishing together as a team for several years. Their fathers – Anthony Cicero III and Mark Snyder – used to fish tournaments together as a team.
“That’s how we got together,” the younger Cicero said.
The team decided to fish the world championships after finishing second last summer in the Pennsylvania state championships. That qualified them for the national championship, which was held in conjunction with the world event.
THE BIG TOURNAMENT
The dual national and world championships started June 19, with nationals concluding June 21 and the worlds finishing June 22.
Each team was allowed to weigh in a three-bass limit each day of competition. The limits from the first two days were added together to cut the field for day three, when everyone started from zero.
From that day’s competition, the top 30 teams were picked to fish the fourth day for the world championships. Again, each team started the day from zero.
For the entire tournament, Cicero and Snyder fished from Cicero’s dad’s 20-foot bass boat. Anthony Cicero III drove the anglers around to wherever they wanted to fish.
“We looked at a bunch of maps and talked about it among ourselves to figure out where we wanted to go each day,” Snyder said.
The Ciceros fished Pickwick Lake last year, and Cicero and Snyder practiced on the lake for three days preceding the tournament, so they had some idea of where they might find some good largemouths.
On the fourth day, while most teams headed out to fish Pickwick’s deeper water, Cicero and Snyder stayed shallow, fishing an area with depths ranging from 8 inches to 5 feet.
They caught three good bass there, including a 7-pound, 7-ounce lunker landed by Cicero, which was the biggest bass caught by anyone that day.
The team’s limit for the final round weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces, which was nearly 2 pounds heavier than the second-place team from Gardendale High School in Alabama.
Cicero and Snyder both have been fishing competitively for several years.
“I like knowing that each fish I catch means something,” Snyder said. “Each catch is important.”
Anthony Cicero III said he’s basically had his son by his side during fishing tournaments his entire life.
“He grew up being on the boat with me and my dad as we fished tournaments,” Cicero III said.
As members of the Susquehanna River Bassmasters club, Cicero and Snyder regularly fish club and state tournaments in Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.
They both fish several days a week, all year long.
“As long as there’s no ice, I’m out there fishing,” Snyder said.
As a veteran tournament angler himself, Anthony Cicero III said his son has a gift that could propel him to bug success, if he decides to be a tournament professional.
“He just has a knack for catching fish,” he said. “He can outfish me. He just knows what to do to catch fish when he needs to.
“He’s fishing and winning tournaments where he’s fishing against adults. I know he has what it takes to be a pro.”
With the world title under their belts. Cicero and Snyder have their sights set on another achievement yet this summer.
The pair plans to compete in the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship Aug. 8-10 on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.
They won the right to compete in that event after finishing second in the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s (B.A.S.S.) Pennsylvania high school championship last summer on Raystown Lake.
“It would be great if we could get that one too,” Cicero said.