Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 12/06/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos courtesy of Dean Sylvester

Moore, OK -  Even though the field for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic next March on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina has been nearly determined since the last Bassmaster Open of the 2017 season in early October, one angler has had two cracks at qualifying for the Classic in the past two months.

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia’s Dean Silvester qualified for the 2017 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship this past October (where three Classic spots were up for grabs) on Lake Hartwell.  He also qualified for the 2017 Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship on Norfork Lake in Mountain Home, Arkansas (December 6-8) with his team partner Mark Ferguson, where the top angler will earn a spot in the Classic.     

Silvester qualified for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in October by winning the Australian B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Boondooma (in Australia).  He made the most of his opportunity, finishing the 2017 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Hartwell in 7th place with a three day total weight of 29 pounds, 8 ounces.  When it was all said and done, he was one of just nine anglers in the 62 boat field to bring in a five bass limit all three days, and he missed qualifying for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic by just 3 pounds, 2 ounces.  

Perhaps what is most impressive about Silvester’s Top 10 finish at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship is the fact that prior to his week on Hartwell Sylvester had caught less than a dozen largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass in his entire life.  He had also never competed in a bass tournament in the United States.    

Australia does not have largemouth, spotted, or smallmouth bass, so the Australia BASS Nation competitors fish for Australian bass in order to qualify for the BASS Nation Championship in the United States.  Australian bass are best described as a cross between a spotted bass and a white bass.  

The only experience that Silvester (who is sponsored by Quantum) had with bass in America came during two previous trips to America to take part in media events on Table Rock Lake.  Even then, he didn’t exactly get the chance to study the species.  

“Gerald (Swindle) and I just basically trash talked each other the whole time and I filmed videos with Kevin VanDam, so I really didn’t even get a chance to fish that much,” recalled Silvester.  Amazingly, the first bass in the United States that Silvester landed came while he was fishing with Kevin VanDam several years ago. “I caught a smallmouth on a swimbait while I was in the boat with him during the first media event, so that was my first bass ever.”  

In preparation for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Silvester contacted Bob Bagby, VP of Marketing for Zebco Brands.  “We don’t fish with baitcasters much at all,” said Silvester.  “We pretty much finesse fish with spinning gear, and when we do use baitcasters, they’re a lot lighter because we are casting smaller lures with smaller hooks.  I explained all this to Bob and he got me hooked up with the right stuff.”  

Silvester also talked briefly with several pros about Lake Hartwell prior to the official cut off, but he intentionally stayed away from getting any GPS marks.  “I was looking for a recipe and not an already baked cake,” he explained.  “Because I’d never fished for largemouth and spotted bass in a tournament before, I knew that I needed to spend my practice trying to understand why the fish were located where they were and not spend my time running GPS marks and not learning anything.”  

On the third day of practice, Silvester returned to check some of the most productive areas he found during the first two days of practice and discovered how quickly bass move on blueback herring lakes.  “There were heaps of fish there the first two days, but they completely moved on the third day of practice,” he explained.  “That’s when I realized that I needed to learn a technique that could help me fill a limit.”  

Silvester had read about the effectiveness of a drop shot on Hartwell, but had never actually fished the technique.  Prior to the fourth and final day of practice, he took it upon himself to learn everything he could about the finesse tactic.   “I spent the entire evening watching YouTube videos of Aaron Martens talking about how to fish a drop shot,” he said with a chuckle. “On that last day of practice, my only goal was to fish a drop shot and get confidence in the technique. I held the rod exactly how he holds his rod and rigged my bait the same way.  I still have zero confidence in chucking a 6” pink worm far away from the boat, but we use our electronics a lot in Australia so it didn’t take me long to gain confidence fishing the drop shot vertically.”    

Overall, the fact that Silvester came so close to qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic through the B.A.S.S. Nation in his first bass tournament in America is quite impressive.  “I don’t know how to describe the feeling that I had making the final day cut, because that was my main goal going into the tournament,” he stated.  “By the end of it, I was so excited and happy but at the same time I was disappointed that I came so close to making the Classic.”

Regardless of what happens this week at the Team Championship on Norfork, Silvester said that the past two months have only strengthened his desire to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a full-time tournament bass angler in America.    

He is planning on returning to the United States in March to attend the Bassmaster Classic and ICAST in July.  He has already registered to compete as a boater in a Bassmaster Open in 2018.  Silvester pans on moving to the United States at the end of 2018 to compete in the 2019 Bassmaster Opens with the goal of qualifying for the Elite Series.