SO YOU WANT TO GO PRO- PART 4
AFTER THE COLD SLAP IN THE FACE, WHY BOTHER?
Editors Note: Parts 1-3 in former Elite Series angler Ryan Said's series on going pro laid out the cold hard facts of the cost of big time tournament fishing and the cost to get to the "show" After reading it, even the most passionate could be discouraged. Part 4 addresses that the all important answer to the question "Why bother?"
There really is only one answer that can drive you forward- because it is your one, true burning desire. The passion you have for tournament fishing, the dream of competing at the highest level and the desire to "just do it" has to be all consuming. It should occupy most of your waking thoughts. If you just want to have fun fishing and fish some local tournaments or the occassional pro-regional here or there, then truly going pro is not for you. If that is your end goal, you can do that at whatever cost you decide to spend.
But if you want to consistently fish pro events with the end goal of competing at the highest level, it is a long journey, especially for "regular" guys who don’t come from lots of money. You will have to make significant sacrifices with your money, time, and relationships, and be willing to do so over extended periods of time. Many of the current pros chose this route. Even more have tried it and failed, some resulting in a lot of financial woes which took several years from which to dig-out.
Even if you do come from money, there is a huge commitment to time on the road, and endless hours on the water in all kinds of weather. It can be really wearing on a guy... or gal. Bottom line: You have to really love it. You have to love it even when it does not love you back. You have to be okay with extended periods of failure and not mind repeatedly "picking yourself up off your butt". Ingenuity and persistence are key personality traits because you will need to continually figure out how to keep clawing your way forward and keep improving. Lots of guys have trouble with this, get burned out and quit fishing altogether.
Not sure if this is good news, bad news or just news, but it is interesting to note that most pro anglers hit their stride later into their 30’s, even 40’s, and every once in a while their 50’s. The average age of most of the major pro sport athletes is in their mid-to late 20’s. For a pro
fishermen it is in their mid- to late 30’s. Sure, as the money flows into high school and college angling, there are some younger anglers making their mark, but the ones that are able to make a career out of it find a way to stay in it for the long haul. As many of the youngsters fine out, one day they're hoisting a trophy, the next everything can be crashing down on them. Be patient, for every Jordan Lee there are hundreds whose attempts are going pro
crash and burn.
To give yourself the best chance at becoming a pro there are steps you can start taking today. Planning and re-planning, and lots of it, to establish your "long game" is your best bet. If you can find a way to keep playing and not burn out early, financially or motivationally, you greatly increase your odds of making a full or even partial career out tournament angling. If you truly love fishing and think you want to fish pro tournaments you have to make a lot of good
decisions starting now.
It still takes a special kind of determination. You can’t just “plan” to be a pro fisherman as easily as you can other careers. It's simply too expensive and there are too many variables that often are completely out of your control. Therefore, you have to make good decisions now and set yourself up so that if opportunities and/or success comes, you are ready to capitalize on it. Likewise, if it doesn't come, you have a plan to be in it for the long haul while minimizing the risk of "disaster". I can tell you from my personal experience, it is a ton of work, long hours, and there will be some "bad weather"- meteorologically and otherwise. But I can also tell you it is a lot of fun- and a tremendous experience along the way.
Ryan Said is a tournament angler and U.S. Coast Guard licensed guide on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. He books trips through Marcels Guide Service - an affiliation that is beginning its ninth season. In 2011, after winning the Bassmaster Northern Open points championship, Ryan had the honor of fishing the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite series trail. He has fished the Bassmaster Open Series several times, as well as the Costa (now Toyota) Series. Ryan is an engineer and teaches high school math. He also coaches the Lawrence Tech college bass team.