Waiting out a thunderstorm offered a chance to reflect on the work aspect of tournament angling with Jay Yelas, 2003 BASS Angler of the Year and 2002 Bassmasters Classic Champion. I asked the Team Skeeter and Yamaha Pro Team member what advice he would have for the club tournament angler who wants to become a professional.

After a moment of reflection, Jay said, “I think it is important to try to take advantage of the opportunity this country affords.” By that he meant if you have the chance to try to become a pro angler there is nothing holding you back. At least you should at least try. Jay stressed that he is always thankful to live in a place where we have the freedom to pursue such a dream.

Going on, Yelas emphasizes, “It is important to try, but one needs to be realistic.” He recommends that you give yourself a time frame to either make or break your career. Jay spoke of guys that come out and they just love the sport so much that they can’t say no. They keep fishing even though they go deep into debt and might create family problems at home. They just stay out there year after year and their lives are in ruins over it.

“I think the right way to do it is maybe give yourself three years or so,” says Yelas. His reasoning is that if you are good enough and you have a natural ability, in three years you will see the fruits of your labors. To him that is plenty of time to prove yourself.

Jay feels that it is important to be realistic in your expectations. He recommends that you give it a shot but at the same time do not just keep after it forever. It could get to a point where the effort hurts you financially or hurts your family life.

On the subject of family life, I asked Jay how he manages to balance a career in fishing and yet have a family life while on the demanding tournament trail.

“The thing that helps me,” says Yelas, “is that fishing is my full time occupation.” When I am not at a tournament, I am at home with my family.” He points out that most tournament anglers have to make a living with a regular job and then fish tournaments on the weekends. It is then that he uses all his free time away from his family. That is what he sees at the real tough part of tournament fishing.

All that time on the road gets old. It is the toughest part of being a pro fisherman according to Jay. It is especially hard for the guy with a young family. “Those are the toughest years,” laments the pro. When he first got married, Jay’s wife traveled with him all the time and they had fun. When the kids come along the angler is more tied down.

Although he does not do it, one option is home schooling. Jay’s kids attend regular school but in the summer they travel with him to every tournament. During the regular school year they come with him to one tournament per month. This means that they lose about five days of school per month. He feels it is worth it as it is a way to get as much family time together as possible.

Yelas believes that tournament anglers need to make family time a priority. He is quick to point out that you have to work at it. He is on the road about 240 days per year so if he did not bring his family along some of that time, then he is hardly ever going to get to see them.

“I have to make quality family time a huge priority with both his wife and children,” says Jay. Other wise he is convinced there could become problems in the relationships.

His success in winning the Bassmasters Classic has not only changed Jay’s professional life but also his family situation. The first thing it did was create even more demands on his time. If you are a champion everybody wants you to come speak at their event. He tells people it changes your life like getting married or having a child.

The changes include how he has to prioritize time. “It is not that your wife and kids become less of a priority,” says Jay, “it is just that you are not the classic champ all the time.” It only lasts for a year and you have to take advantage of that to do a lot of promoting for your sponsors. It is important that you try to help them capitalize on the win. It is a great time for the sponsors as it gives them a lot of credibility for their products when you win a world championship. But it is still a drain on your time available for family and other things.

As you become more successful, you also become more recognizable. The public wants part of your time too. They want to talk fishing and it is important to respect and respond to their desires. Always try to give them at least a minute of your time.


Posted 04/24/2013 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing

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