Every year great local tournament anglers try to make it in the pros.  Some succeed and some do not.  Why?

There is a difference between a guy who can catch fish and they one who becomes a successful professional.  Both need to be able to catch fish, but the pro has something more that sets him apart for all the rest.

In interviewing professional anglers over the past 10 years in walleye, bass and crappie circuits some things just make them different.  Most of us can catch fish to one degree or another.  We are usually self-taught.  The pros study the sport, its quarry, and the ins and outs of the business of professional fishing.

We can all learn by studying the pros and perhaps accelerate the learning curve.

Professionals are students of the sport and approach it as a business.  They study markets as well as their quarry.

The tournament professional begins by taking a good hard look at his fishing.  Like other professional athletes they need to look at their overall career in the sport.  How do they measure up with those at the same level and those more accomplished than them?  No matter how good one is there will always be angler more successful.  The pro examines what they are doing and how they do it.  He takes notes and reviews them often.  He sets goals and reviews them regularly.

Successful professional anglers use motivational tools borrowed from other professions.  They use visualization in how they are going to catch fish and where.  One man had photos of his wife and son all over his boat.  If he was opening a hatch to get some tackle bait he might find a photo of his young son.  He maintains that it helps him to remember what he is doing out there and how important to do it well.

One of the staples of the professional fishing business is marketing.  This is more than just writing a letter to a tackle manufacturer and receiving sponsorship money.  Pros have had to turn to non-recreation sponsors and other companies traditionally outside of the business of fishing.  The number of anglers has increased and expenses have increased.  There is not enough sponsorship money available in the boat and tackle businesses these days to meet the needs of all the anglers trying to make it on the pro tours.

Modern pros are meeting with potential sponsors equipped with professionally prepared proposals and market plans.  Many have video and other electronic presentations.  The new proposal includes not only who the angler is, but also what he can do for the company.  They make use of power point presentations and demographic statistics.  The pro offers his time and exposure in exchange for the money support of a sponsor.

At a tournament the pro uses visualization in preparation for the weekend activities.  He knows how much time he can use to meet with the public and represent his sponsor’s customer base.  He prepares a game plan for the fishing part of the tournament.

Such preparation includes more than pre-fishing a lake.  In involves research, organization and equipment maintenance.  The Internet has become a tool of the modern angler.  It is possible to pull up articles about the lake and past tournaments.  Topographical maps are downloadable from the net.  Local fish and wildlife departments have websites that contain biological information.

He will know what area he plans to fish first and what will be next.  He knows if he will go for numbers first and then cull later with larger fish.  If the first holes do not produce, he will have an alternative plan to change patterns or tackle.  He might even have some alternative fishing holes in his trick bag.

When the tournament weigh-in arrives, the real pro will change into clean clothes so that his sponsor’s logos are on display for the media in the best condition possible.  While waiting, he might wipe down the boat and clean it up so that photos taken in the boat and the manufacturer’s product are on display in the best light.

One does hot have to go through all of this to enjoy a tournament.  But, if he is hoping to make a career out of fishing, it is something to think about.  Tournament fishing has become big business.  Tournament fishing is the number one recreational pastime for many of our 60 million anglers.  Today there are more than 12,000 tournaments held each year.

With the big purses and payback well down in the finishing list, it is possible to make a good living at professional fishing without winning any tournaments.  Sponsorship money is the key to financial success.  Winning the sponsorship challenge takes work and perseverance.



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  1. Traditional fishing tournaments take place on a confined body of water where a group of participants pursue a common goal and the fishing tournament results are kept within the host community. The internet has started a new trend giving fishing tournaments a world wide presence. The internet lets fishing tournaments take place in multiple bodies of water spanning multiple areas within a country, and even multiple countries. Now anglers who live hundreds of miles apart can participate in the same fishing tournament, pursuing the same prize while fishing in different bodies of water.

  2. With a Love for the sport and my drive for success, I’m making my effort at becoming a professional angler. With a long tough road ahead of me, I’m looking forward to meeting new people and networking with the fishing world. Remember to get kids on to the water, they are the future of our sport! God Bless.

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