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From Federation To The Pros

From Federation To The Pros

How I made the jump from the Federation ranks to the pro circuit

By

 
Pro bass fishing

My change from the federation ranks to the pro circuit felt really natural and came quite easy. I think the reason it seemed so easy, is because of the fact that my entire fishing career has been a series of stair-step progressions. I never attempted to jump into a higher level of fishing before I felt I like I was ready for it. Some fisherman try and make things happen too fast. I never really did this. My stair-step progression happened as follows:

Shortly after graduating high school, I joined a local bass club. I fished small lakes and ponds with a jon boat (1992). Next, I started fishing bigger local and state federation tournaments as a rider. Then, I started to fish some national level tournaments, but I fished as an amateur (1994). I really learned a lot here! Next, I started fishing state federation tournaments and Red Man tournaments (now BFL) as a boater. This is where I started making all my own decisions. Then after succeeding at that level, I started fishing semi-professional tournaments like the B.A.S.S. Invitationals and Everstart Tournaments (1997). At about this same time I qualified to fish in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nationals. And after qualifying through the B.A.S.S. Invitationals and Everstart tournaments I started fishing the pro circuits, the Top 150's and FLW's (1999).
   In each step of my progression I learned a little more. Each step was very important. Again, I never tried to jump into a new level of fishing until I was ready. By learning things on my own and by learning them the hard way, they have had more of a lasting impression. By the time I was ready to start fishing professionally, I had learned so many things, not only about fishing but also about the other topics encountered as a pro, such as boat handling, sponsorship issues, truck driving, finances, etc.
   There are probably only two major differences I encountered when joining the professional circuit. The first was the size of the lakes and rivers I would be fishing. I went from fishing local smaller 10,000 acre lakes to fishing huge 30,000+ acre lakes all over the country. This can be intimidating. But by using the philosophy that a bass is a bass not matter where you go, things seemed easier. Bass will follow the same seasonal patterns and movements all over the country. Knowing this, I never changed my style of finding fish from when I fished in the federation ranks. I used the same methods of preparation I had used before.
   The second major difference was more of a mental issue. The names of all my fellow competitors changed. Instead of fishing against local fisherman, I was now competing against many of the pros (Clunn, Fritts, Nixon, VanDam) I grew up reading about and idolizing. I was fishing with my heroes! But, I did not let this get to me. With total respect and honor to be fishing with some of the greatest pros around, I held the simple philosophy that I was fishing against the fish not the other pros. By keeping my efforts on figuring out the fish, I was never mentally intimidated by the "names" of my competitors.

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