With the ever-increasing popularity of professional bass fishing, more and more men and women are chasing that dream job. Pursuing this career without extensive research can have nearly the same results as running through a blindfolded minefield. The constant emotional roller coaster can have potentially long-lasting effects detrimental to your health. While this article is not meant to discourage anyone from chasing their dream, it adds a little reality to it.
I think many people look at the superstars like Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Jay Yelas, and Davey Hite and think, "I can do that. All they are doing is fishing". These pros are so consistent and excellent at their job that they make it look easy. The truth is these guys worked their way up through the ranks and put in thousands of hours on the water, perfecting their skills. So I refuse to take any credit away from these master anglers.
Being consistent is probably one of the most significant attributes a person needs to have a long and healthy professional fishing career. Let me get a little more precise with that statement. You need to finish on the top of the pack consistently. You do not necessarily have to win every tournament, but you dang sure better be in the top ten or twenty for most of them. To do this, you will have to go out and work your butt off learning how to catch fish in every condition possible and probably a few that you never knew existed. It is almost mandatory that you work overtime in the studying department. If you ever stop learning, I can guarantee that you will stop winning.
Having a strong mental attitude is almost equally as important as being consistent. When going through the everyday routine of life on the road and fishing for your paycheck, you are sure to have some mental issues to deal with. You are likely to start second-guessing your abilities or tell yourself that there is no way you can beat a guy like Kevin VanDam because he is the greatest angler ever to pick up a fishing pole. Once you have thoughts in your head, it takes strong mental power to get them out. Heaven forbid you should ever have a bad finish at a tournament because that could be just a terrible blow to the old mind. The top pros know how to put these destructive thoughts out of their heads and concentrate on the business at hand. How many times do you suppose Rick Clunn has thought to himself that there is no way he could come back and have a strong finish at a tournament? Chances are, in his thirty-something years of tournament fishing, it has probably crossed his mind a couple of hundred times, but he is strong enough to block it out and come back with what he needs to get the job done.
Finances are another significant factor that most anglers have to deal with constantly. Unless you are just inherently wealthy, you will need to have a steady source of income even to cover the nearly $30,000 a year's worth of entry fees. Not to mention the fuel for the boat and truck, hotels, food, tackle, and just about any other expense you can think of. I already know what you're thinking "That's what sponsors are for." Now you're thinking that I should be working for Miss Cleo at the psychic friends' network because I just read your mind. The truth about sponsors is that they will "give" you money to fish. Sponsors are in the business of making money, not giving it away. Unless you have a way of setting yourself apart from the millions of other people that contact them regularly, they aren't giving you a dime.
Working with sponsors should be viewed almost as another full-time job. You are essentially a salesperson for the company. Your job is to promote and sell their products with hopes of giving them an increase in the market share. It would help if you were prepared to hear the word "No" quite frequently, which reverts to the earlier statements about mental toughness.
Let me give you a small example of the rejection aspect from sponsors. I am a Business Management and Marketing major, which means I was taught to market and promote products. My grade point average was pretty high, and I was on the honors list. My tournament statistics are good, with a few wins and various top-ten finishes. At one point about a year ago, I mailed out nearly one hundred sponsorship requests, and guess how many of those companies agreed to sponsor me? You guessed it, none. The first few bothered me a little, but I quickly got used to the rejection and tried to concoct a plan to get sponsors to want me.
Once you find a company that is willing to give you a shot, chances are all you will get is a couple of boxes of free lures or maybe a couple of reels or some other form of product. All of this is fine, but it is hard to pay an entry fee or put gas in the boat with a box of Crankbaits and four thousand yards of monofilament. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is only one person you should count on to have the opportunity to compete, and that is yourself.
Dealing with the fatigue you get from spending countless hours on the water and traveling from tournament to tournament can also take its toll on you. I had a stretch this year where I fished five tournaments in six weeks (none within 150 miles of my home), and it seemed like I couldn't get my energy level up to where it needed to be. I felt like it was time to hit the road again as soon as I got home. There were also times when my traveling partner and I would pack up from one tournament and jump in the truck and head straight for the next one. It would help if you were in good physical condition. The lack of sleep and getting up at 3 am can have a strange effect on your body. So eat well, get a good night's sleep whenever possible, and do not visit the local bars in every town you visit.
The weather is just a whole different ball game. Once you decide to jump to fishing professionally, you can kiss the days of being a fair-weather fisherman goodbye. You will be subject to fishing in the rain, wind, and possibly even snow. When the men are separated from the boys or the women are separated from the little girls. This year alone, I fished in just about every condition possible. Everything from 30-degree temperatures to 40 mph winds to 4-foot waves and the frequent 100 degree plus summer days. I am a firm believer that Mother Nature looks at the tournament schedules to see when she should throw some adverse conditions.
If all this hasn't deterred you from chasing your dream of being a pro angler, you may have what it takes. Just let me stress one thing, and this is mainly directed to any of the younger people that may be reading this, "Get an Education." I know you are already bright and don't need a degree to fish, but trust me when I tell you that it will tremendously help your career. Good luck to all in pursuing the most incredible career on the planet.