“Bassmaster Classic Champion, David Dudley, can I help you?”
5 year old Dudley would answer the telephone. Not everyone knows what they were born to do, but David always knew what made his heart come alive. The science, the math, the art of what happens under the water captured his mind and heart as a small boy.
Football, basketball, and baseball, man verses man, fed and nurtured his competitive nature but nothing could keep his mind off of fishing. Man verses nature, seemed to hold a special appeal for him, as the hunt for anything in season would draw him out of bed in the morning before school.
He began fishing local tournaments with his father every weekend and as a teen would put on roofs to earn the entry fees to enter on his own. He made the final trade of his bat and glove for rod and reel without hesitation when he found himself being kicked off the baseball team for skipping practice to fish a tournament.
The road to follow your dreams is hard, narrow, and requires sacrifice. The baseball team was not the only thing he loved that he had to say goodbye to. It may seem cute at 5 to want to be a fisherman as a career choice, but at 18 when all your friends are headed off to college, you’re not exactly looking so cute anymore; especially to the parents of the girls you fall for along the way.
His early success was some consolation for the snickers and scorning of the doubters he encountered.
At 19, he was the youngest ever to win a Bassmaster tournament, and the youngest ever to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
He moved to the Outer Banks of NC to start a charter business. When he wasn’t fishing tournaments, he was growing an ever increasing passion for salt water fishing. When the FLW tour was established Dave, he jumped at the opportunity to fish both that, and the Bassmaster tour. His consistent finishes near the top built his reputation as a true contender.
In 2001, he took home second on Lake St. Clair in Michigan and in 2002, he took first place and the coveted prize of $700,000 at the Ranger M1, followed by winning the 2003 FLW Tour Championship for $500,000.
By 2008, he took home his first of three Angler of the Year titles.
Then in 2009 he took home the UMF Championship belt to add to his collection of trophies. In 2011 he took home his second Angler of the Year title and another check for $100,000. In 2012, Dudley won two of the six FLW Tour major events (Beaver Lake, AR and Lake Champlain, NY) on the way to becomming the first angler to win back to back AOY awards. His third such title enabled him to join Clark Wendlandt as the only two anglers to win the title three times.
Dudley, now 44, lives back in his home town of Lynchburg, VA with his wife, Angela, of 17 years and his 5 children, Mason, Anna, Vance, Nina, and Selah.
While fishing was his passion at a young age and continues to be a life long pursuit, David has bigger things on his heart these days. As his career began at 19, there also birthed in his heart vision for something even further beyond living the American Dream. As David poured all of his hard earned money from putting on roofs into entry fees, gas, and what ever tackle he could afford, he now pours that same money into building One Body in Christ Ministries. And as a much as it thrills Dave to pull in a catch and make a check in his first few tournaments, it does the same to see OBIC begin. Hundreds of kids play on the ball fields, special needs children fish their heart out in the stocked pond, kids come alive on the horses, and families come together and make memories around the bonfires. And nearly everything is free!
Dudley looks forward to another great year with Polaris and FLW and while the riddle of the happenings under the waters still captivate him and the instincts for figuring out the fish still guide him, his drive for the paycheck is fueled by the faces of not only his wife and children but the faces of all the children and families that find healing and life as they are ushered into the arms of God, at the place he calls home.