By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
Woodland Fishing Club co-founder Dylan Napoleone was no stranger to earning national recognition for his fishing abilities, but his most recent honor took on special significance.
Napoleone, a soon-to-be graduate of Woodland High, was one of 49 high school anglers nationwide named last month to the 2020 Bassmaster High School All-State Fishing Team. Honorees were selected based on tournament success, academic achievements, and leadership in conservation and community service efforts.
Napoleone has already established tournament success, finishing 15th of 46 anglers at the national Big Bass Junior Championship last October in Idaho. When he returned from that tournament, he began teaching fishing seminars at libraries across Connecticut — he’s already reached more than 200 people of all ages through those seminars, which were planned as part of his senior capstone project.
Even during the pandemic shutdowns, Napoleone’s visibility in the fishing community continues to grow. He runs a Facebook group called “CT Bait Shop Stops,” which seeks to promote local bait and tackle stores, and he’s even been featured as a guest on numerous live streams on social media.
“I’ve been gaining a lot of support from people I don’t even know, and I’m just growing in the fishing industry,” said Napoleone, who was nominated for the All-State honor by a family member. “All of this has made me really happy and really grateful. I’m happy that I’ve been able to represent both (the) Connecticut and New England fishing communities in a positive way.”
Napoleone said he was happy, proud and thankful when he learned about his inclusion on Bassmaster’s list. He was one of just three New England members of the team, along with Ryan Corcoran of Cromwell and Tyler Williams of Belgrade, Maine.
“I was super excited, too, because it was just something that proved that what I’m doing on the water and in the community is working,” said Napoleone, who already has plans to visit every bait and tackle shop in the state to shoot videos with the owners when the shutdown ends.
Although Napoleone didn’t end up being named one of the top 12 anglers to the Bassmaster All-American squad, he remains proud of everything he’s accomplished — especially leaving the legacy of the Woodland Fishing Club with his co-founder, Kyle Bshara.
“The fishing program was super important to me,” said Napoleone, who pointed toward friends Tyler Lato and Michael Jeanette as ones who can keep the club moving forward. “I plan to wear the logo on all my jerseys until my fishing career comes to an end, which will definitely not be anytime soon. … I want that fishing program to live on past my lifetime. I want it to be successful and I want kids to be involved.”
Napoleone’s future will likely take him south — he plans on accepting a fishing scholarship to Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn., where he will major in marketing. It’s another step in his goal to become a professional angler alongside Naugatuck native Paul Mueller.
“He’s probably the top dog in New England,” Napoleone said of Mueller. “He competes on the highest level of tournaments, and honestly, what he’s doing is exactly what I want to do. He gets paid to fish and represent fishing companies.”
Napoleone already has some of those sponsorships for his community-service activities, including Eurotackle and Keitech, and his jersey for last October’s national competition was littered with sponsor logos.
But before he hits the big-time, the Beacon Falls native is thankful for the opportunities he’s had and the recognition he’s earned.
“Being able to represent my state and our fishing community is really awesome,” Napoleone said, “and I’m super grateful for that.”