SO YOU WANT TO GO PRO- PART 5:
Editor’s 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. After reading it, even the most passionate could be discouraged. Part 4 offered a lifeline, addressing that the all-important question "Why bother?". The final installment picks you up, dusts you off and helps you answer the question: WHAT CAN I START DOING RIGHT NOW?
If you’ve made it this far, you have taken the facts, processed them, and decided to do whatever it takes to pursue the dream. Congratulations. That’s an important start. Here are my recommendations on where to go from here to develop your personal plan to become a tournament professional.
First, if you haven’t done so already, become a member of BASS and MLF, get their magazines, and read every issue beginning to end. You need to be a sponge and soak up every tip you can whether it is on how to fish certain baits, how to read structure or how to use your electronics more effectively. Read for understanding. Create a notebook, doesn’t matter whether you do it electronically or the old-fashioned way. You need to take notes and organize them by topic for future referral. This is going to become your bible for what you’ve tried, how it turned out, under what conditions you tried it and what you need to try in the future.
Second, as part of your effort to gather info, check the Bassmaster.com, Majorleaguefishing.com, Bassfan.com and other websites and pages that post regular content on what baits are effective and what techniques pros are using to find fish and catch them. There is new content every day so make your research part of your daily routine. Focus on the pieces that teach you how to fish, how to approach certain lakes, and most importantly, how to evaluate conditions and other variables to make good fishing decisions.
Third, anytime there’s a national tournament going on you should be following it, reading the accounts from your websites, and whenever you can, following the stream. Of course you’ll be fishing a lot so that last might have to take a back seat, but you will have to read the daily results and analysis- not just the summary- at the end of the event. You need to always be looking for nuggets of knowledge.
Fourth, when you ae not fishing, you should be studying. In addition to your reading, you need to watch tournaments, old and new, especially those that occurred on waters you plan to fish and on which you will likely compete. There is nothing wrong with watching fishing YouTubers, but they’re usually trying to sell you something, and their videos are often recorded under staged conditions. So watch tournaments. Take notes, go back and watch old Bassmaster Elite events and MLF/Pro Circuit/FLW events and learn. I still watch these and take notes. You can find them on YouTube and on the websites.
Fifth, sign up BFL and other regional events as a co-angler. These are opportunities to get in the
boat with someone, even if they are not the best of sticks, and learn something.
Sixth, this might sound “preachy”, but make sure you make a good decision about your post high school education. I think I made it pretty clear that you will need to get a job that you enjoy, and you will also need to set yourself up for financial success to achieve your fishing goals and aspirations. If you think you just want to fish locally with some trips here and there or a big tournament here and there, then just about any degree will do provided it has a good job forecast track record. If you want to fish at a higher level, you will need to look at something like engineering, business or medical tech or if you have the inclination, you can pursue a high demand skilled trade because whether it is carpentry, electrician, plumbing, auto mechanic or something along those lines, there is steady money in those trades.
Seventh, it may sound strange, but you will need to also make good decisions about your personal relationships (boyfriend / girlfriend / marriage / kids). The professional track requires sacrifice and can be difficult on those you love. You have to decide how bad you want it. You may have to put off decisions like marriage, and kids for a time or make sure your partner knows EXACTLY what your priorities are and fully understands the time and monetary commitment you plan to make to your dream. My experience was that most folks outside of tournament fishing did not have a clue of the sacrifice and commitment required for success. Tournament fishing is unlike any other professional sport. You may not be able to make the marriage commitment, or, if you are married already, the commitment to starting a family at the start. This if your life, your career, these decisions are big, and relative to your career dreams, you will need to make good decisions.
Finally, all this being said, you need to be patient. A guy from New Jersey just won the first Bassmaster Open he ever entered as a co-angler. He got a boat and a nice check. Don’t count on that. Happening to you! Have a plan, put in the work, be patient and make good decisions with your career choice, your spending, your savings, your time, and your relationships. Good luck. Hope your plan ends with a trophy in your hands and a few nice checks in the bank! Live the Passion!.
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.