Nobody has earned more Arkansas Master Angler awards than Roger Pyzocha.
Roger Pyzocha knows trophy fish — both as a taxidermist and a passionate angler.
The Massachusetts native now living in Arkansas has proven his fishing acumen by dominating the trophy fish-awards programs in both states.
Arkansas Game and Fish says in less than four years, Pyzocha, of Flippin, Ark., has logged more trophy fish than anyone else in the agency's Master Angler Program.
To qualify for a Master Angler Award, a fish must meet certain weight requirements for the species, submit a photo of their catch, with details about where and when it was caught on an official application form.
His 3-pound, 15-ounce white bass caught in August at Bull Shoals Lake was his 23rd Arkansas fish qualifying for the award. The catch put him ahead of Thomas Hudson Jr. of Blytheville, who has 22 Master Angler awards.
"I'm originally from Massachusetts and have probably won more awards than anyone in that state for angling," Pyzocha said in an AGFC profile of him. "I've caught more than 500 pin-size fish [Massachusetts' equivalent of the Master Angler program], and even had 16 gold pins for the largest fish in a certain species all year."
Pyzocha also is a National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame 1994 inductee and was commended by the Massachusetts legislature and governor.
It was during his time as a taxidermist when Pyzocha first considered relocating to Arkansas — after hearing where some of his clients' trophy fish were caught. One client brought in a 7-pound rainbow then a 12-pound brown a couple years later; both fish were caught on vacation from the White River. "I started look into this place," he said.
But it was Arkansas' reputation as a great hunting state the might have been what pointed Pyzocha south.
"At the time, Arkansas had the world-record brown trout and walleye, and the hunting harvest was amazing," Pyzocha said. "In Massachusetts, if you hear about 10,000 deer killed in the state, it's a good year. They may harvest 100 bears if they're lucky and maybe two to three thousand turkeys. Arkansas kills more than 200,000 deer each year."
Most of Pyzocha's trophies have come from Bull Shoals. "I fish Norfork and the White River, too, but I spend most of my time on Bull Shoals," said Pyzocha, who lives 20 minutes from the lake. "Back home, we had one reservoir that was 20,000 acres that was drinking water for the town of Boston, so it had a ton of restrictions. Other than that, the rest of the places I fished were puddles compared to Bull Shoals. I can go there every day and fish a different spot."
Q&A with AOY Brandon Palaniuk