So, you want to be the next Kevin Van Dam? Well as easy as it may appear on tv or the internet, that is far from the truth. Success in the fishing industry takes a robust work ethic and a drive to complete your goals that are probably detrimental to other aspects of your life. Countless hours and money on the water and continued education in the form of people, articles, and videos. Even after you check all the boxes, you are still a single fish in an ocean of people who want the same thing. In addition to the crazy amount of competition, only a very select group of people make enough money from fishing to call it a living. The best advice anyone could give you if you want to be a pro angler, besides go try it, is to get a job.
Ok, so you haven’t been deterred by the staggering odds or the hit to your social life. What are some of the steps you can do to start seeing if you have the salt to make it as a pro on the water? The first step really is getting a job (I wasn’t kidding). Fishing equipment is not cheap, and you will not walk into product sponsorship. Your plan should start with a good-paying job, that hopefully offers some free time to fish tournaments (weekends off). Business and marketing degrees cross over very well into the fishing industry because if you do make it far enough, you will probably be representing brands in some capacity.
After you have secured a job and have some cash and time to spend on fishing, you need to get out on the water and fish. Keep fishing and learn everything; be an informational sponge. Use the internet, use tv, and learn in person from others on and off the water. The best way to do the latter is to join a fishing club. Specifically joining a bass club will get you everything you need to figure out if being a pro bass fisherman is truly your goal.
Bass fishing clubs offer a ton of benefits for motivated bass fisherman trying to figure out the game. Bass clubs usually offer both boater and non-boater memberships and feature both in their tournaments. Bass clubs will be a great way to compete in several tournaments over the course of a season, and really gauge your abilities against your fishing peers. Not all club members will be helpful with learning, but if you pay attention you can better your game from all your experiences. The dialogue and comradery offered with overnight trips and boat ramp chats is both fun and valuable. By joining a club, you also have access to compete at higher levels through the club’s association (B.A.S.S. or FLW). If you perform well enough in some of the open tournaments, you can advance to a big prize pool and some bigger recognition.
Another route to pro angler status, depending on your age, is school teams and programs. Every year the bass fishing sport grows in this country, and more ages and schools are offering competitive fishing teams. College, high school, and even some youth teams all compete in similar formats as the pros and can provide vital experience, coaching, and perspective to tournament fishing life long before your life is shackled by your financial kryptonite (the latest bass gear).
The quickest way to figure out what is available in your area is to do an internet search for bass fishing clubs and or fishing teams at the schools you are interested in attending. Reach out to the clubs or programs and ask what kind of schedule (meetings, tournaments, volunteer work) is required of members. Note the cost to join, and what is included in your membership. Pay attention to the location of tournaments and dates and make sure they will fit with your schedule.
After you have done your homework, join the club. Learning and fun should be your two primary goals, especially in your first year. Fish hard and unless you have previous experience, start off as a non-boater. You can learn so much from other boaters in your club during your first year, especially if you are from another area or used to fishing different types of water. Try not to think of it as a wasted year or set back year if you have a boat and decide to fish as a non-boater. Think of it as an assimilation of knowledge that will accelerate your career in the long run if you really are driven enough to consider pursuing an advanced angler status. Regardless of your location or position in the boat, you really should still love being on the water. Keep the attitude that work pays for something you love (fishing) and then any money you end up making in tournaments is just a sweet bonus. Remember there is no substitute for hard work and time on the water, and if you do that long enough you might have a shot at being the next bass fishing star.