Chasing That Dream Career
— by Jeremiah T. Bagwell
With the ever increasing popularity of professional bass fishing, more and more men and women are chasing that dream job. Pursuing this career without doing extensive research can have nearly the same results as running through a mine field blind folded. The constant emotional roller coaster can have affects that are detrimental to your health and they are potentially long lasting. While this article is not meant to discourage anyone from chasing their dream, it is however meant to add a little reality to it. I think several people simply 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 great at their job that it looks like a job than anyone could be great at. The truth is these guys worked their way up through the ranks and put in literally 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 biggest attributes that 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 consistently finish on the top of the pack. 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. In order 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 definitely 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 certain 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 to ever pick up a fishing pole. Once you have thoughts like that in your head it takes strong mental power to get it out. Heaven forbid you should ever have a bad finish at a tournament because that could be just a horrendous blow to the old mind. The top pros know how to put these detrimental 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 crosses his mind a couple 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 to even be able to cover the nearly $30,000 a year 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 they are not going to just “give” you money to fish. Sponsors are in the business of making money not giving it away and unless you have a way of setting yourself apart from the millions of other people that contact them on a regular basis they aren’t giving you a dime. Working with sponsors should be viewed almost as another full time job. You are essentially a sales person for the company. Your job is to promote and sell their products with hopes of giving them an increase in the market share. You should be prepared to hear the word "No" quite frequently which reverts back to the earlier statements about mental toughness.
Let me give you just a little example of the rejection aspect from sponsors. I am a Business Management and Marketing major which means I was taught how to market and promote products. My grade point average was pretty high and I was on the honors list. My tournament statistics are fairly 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 kind of bothered me a little but, I quickly got used to the rejection and tried to
concoct a plan on how to get sponsors to want me. Once you do find a company that is willing to give you a shot, chances are all you will get is a couple boxes of free lures or maybe a couple reels or some other form of product. All of this is fine but it is sure 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 that you should count on in order 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 it 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 just couldn’t get my energy level up to where it needed to be. I felt like as soon as I got home it was time to hit the road again. There were also times where my traveling partner and I would pack up from one tournament and jump in the truck and head straight for the next one. It is very important for you to be in good physical condition. The lack of sleep and getting up at 3 am can have a strange affect on your body. So eat well, get a good night 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 make the jump to fishing professionally you can kiss the days of being a fair weather fisherman goodbye. You will be subject to fishing in rain, wind and yes possibly even snow. That is 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 just to see when she should through in some adverse conditions.
If all this hasn't deterred you from chasing your dream of being a pro angler then maybe you have what it takes. Just let me stress one thing and this is mostly directed to any of the younger people that may be reading this, "Get an Education". I know you are already smart and don’t need a degree to fish but, trust me when I tell you that it will help your career tremendously. Good luck to all in the pursuit of the greatest career on the planet.
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