March 6, 2013 by Gary Mortenson
(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.)
Club Web site: http://iufishing.com/
CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing?
Steve Bressler: I grew up fishing in northern Indiana where my father and both of my grandfathers taught me how to fish. I never really ventured out to different bodies of water until I attended Indiana University. However, since I came to Indiana I have been able to fish all across the country, learning new tips and tricks every time out. I am a sponge when it comes to seeing new techniques, but sticking to my roots usually pays off.
Dustin Vaal: I was introduced to fishing at a very young age. My dad used to take me bluegill fishing when I was still in diapers. When I finally became old enough, he began taking me out with him in our Ranger boat fishing for bass. At the age of 11, I fished in my first bass fishing tournament and ever since then I have been hooked. I remember the experience pretty well because the whole boat was frosted over and it was snowing. Unfortunately, I caught the only keeper we had that day. Ever since then my dad and I have fished about 20 to 30 team bass tournaments every year, and now with college fishing being so popular, I have had the opportunity to travel the country fishing everywhere.
CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with?
Steve Bressler: I have grown up fishing clear water lakes and feel very strongly about that style of fishing. But when it comes down to it, I do pretty well throwing a Team Supreme 50/50 spinnerbait or a Texas-rig in dirty water.
Dustin Vaal: Over the past four years I have made myself comfortable with every type of fishing. I used to be strictly a jig and worm angler, but now I feel like I am very capable and productive doing almost anything. Whether it's fishing a crankbait or drop-shotting, I now know that in order to succeed you have to be able to do it all and be confident doing it. Give me a shallow bite in the bushes and I am in absolute heaven. Give me a bite on a ledge in 15 to 20 feet of water and I will be ecstatic. Or let me find the big ol' girls on the beds and I'll find a way to get them in the boat. Fishing is all about confidence, versatility and knowing when and where to be and what to use when you are given certain conditions. It's a huge puzzle that can be really difficult to put together at times, but when all the pieces fit together there is not a better feeling in the world. The only thing you can do to prepare yourself is being able to use every weapon in the book to get the little green monsters in the boat.
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?
Steve Bressler: It felt pretty awesome to qualify for my second National Championship. This is going to be out team's last college tournament together and we want to go out with a bang. We have had several top-five finishes and feel that this would be the tournament to finally finish first. There is going to be some very tough competition in this tournament, but that doesn't scare us as we feed off of it.
Dustin Vaal: To qualify for the National Championship all four years of my college career feels absolutely amazing. I feel very blessed. I am also humbled by the experiences and opportunities that FLW and the National Guard have given me over the past four years, and I am extremely excited for this event on Beaver Lake. Since it takes place in April, I will probably be making two trips to Beaver Lake and most likely will be practicing for a total of about 10 days. I plan on doing whatever it takes to make Indiana a contender this year. This is by far one of my most favorite times of the year to fish and I can normally get something figured out in mid April. Some people spend a bunch of time looking a maps, but I feel the best way to prepare myself is to get on-the-water experience. Every opportunity I get to be on Beaver Lake I will be dissecting as many breaks, creeks, and bays as possible. If I figure them out in practice or the tournament days, I want to know the other areas of the lake where I can duplicate the pattern. I want to learn how the lake fluctuates in the spring and how the fish react to the conditions of the area. Every lake is different and every lake has its secrets to success. I want to prepare myself for anything the lake throws at us during those three days of competition.
CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn't know.
Steve Bressler: In college, I went my whole freshman year not weighing in a single fish at any tournament I fished at. My friends still harass me about it and probably always will. I am proud of it because I was able to become angler of the year during my senior year of college, beating out, yes, the Dustin Vaal. Since college, I have been working for State Farm Insurance. I love being in the insurance business, especially when people come to me wanting to get their brand new Ranger bass boat covered. I hope to fish professionally one day and represent State Farm at the Forest Wood Cup.
Dustin Vaal: I made the dean's list in the spring of 2011. I don't really get embarrassed. And I find humor in everything. I've also fished all four years at Indiana and accomplished many things over that time period. I also have 11 top-10 finishes out of 13 tournaments fished in my college career, was selected as a two-time FLW ALL-American, I'm a two-time FLW Central Regional winner, made four National Championship appearances, made five television appearances, made five appearances in FLW Magazine and netted $170,000 in tournament winnings.