Tuesday, April 16, 2024

What is a “Pro” Tournament Bass Fisherman? By Jason Houchins




What is a “Pro” Tournament Bass Fisherman?

That is a question with more answers than Jeopardy. With all the social media these days anyone can start a fishing page and claim there self a “Pro”, and who can say they are not. I know I’m going to make a bunch of people mad, but enough is enough! Please stop with the “I’m a pro”, here is my fishing page/ web site please like it and share. I’m sorry, but you’re not a pro! You may look like a pro, you may act like a pro, and you definitely dress like a pro, but you’re not.
The definition of a professional means; following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain. I guess it’s more about the perception than the actual substance of the professional bass angler in today’s world. There are guys that I personally know that have a tremendous bunch of talent and I would love to see them try to compete at or near the top level, but most likely they will never get the opportunity. There are also guys that I know who claim to be a pro, yet rarely fish what I would even consider a Triple A level event. I don’t understand it at all, why would anyone do this? When I fished the Opens many years ago, we were all called pros at every event. That really embarrassed me because I had felt like I had done nothing to earn that title. I also felt like I was taking away from someone like Gerald Beck who had been tournament fishing forever and was respected. He was way more deserving to be called a pro than me, just look at his accomplishments. I just felt like you pay your money to fish and now you become a professional? That’s pretty much the truth today at some level, or is it?
There is this total misconception of what a pro is and this glamorous, photogenic, model type person who jet sets around and catches all this fish for hundreds of thousands of dollars, that is totally false. I also know there are some guys that are busting their tale to make it and try become the real tournament pro, kudos to you. I will bet know one every talks to them about driving through the night, sleeping in the truck for a week, and living off of peanut butter. That is what some people trying to become a professional tournament angler will tell you about. Maybe not all the time but I bet there are more than a few stories about stuff like that. I slept in my truck with a camper shell in February on Alabama’s Lake Martin for seven days in 2002, which will make you rethink your dreams in a hurry. Trust me it’s much better waking up in my nice warm bed and turning the coffee pot on, verses seeing ice on the top of a camper shell from inside.
As with most things we are all to blame for most of this. We fish tournaments for each other’s money while sponsorship dollars make FLW and BASS one of Fortune 500’s most lucrative businesses. Not really but that’s how I feel. I always hear people try to compare Pro Bass Fishing with NASCAR or PGA golf, really? I’m not sure how you get that from fishing. Let’s see I’m pretty sure that whoever doesn’t make the cut at Augusta this month will not struggle to make the next event or the guy who crashes out at Talladega will most likely race next week. You see only a few can really make a living in the sport we love, while the guy who finishes out of the top ten, you may never see again. That’s just reality of fishing tournaments. I mean let’s face it when you qualify for the top level of our sports you are quickly rewarded with $4,000- $5,000 entry fees and double the travel and cost! Congratulations you are now considered Elite! That will lead me to another thing that bothers me.
The amount of money it takes to fish one season of the Elite Series, is more than most people make in a year. I’m not a math major but let’s see to fish one season of the Elite Series it’s $40,000 ($43,000 if you go on a payment plan) in entry fees for 8 events, double that cost for travel (gas, lodging, food, etc.) and yeah that’s about $80,000. Oh yeah then you need a boat and a tow vehicle to, of course if you’re a pro so you get all this for free right? Not! I’m not getting into the boat, motor, and vehicle deals, but trust me it’s not what you think. Some will say that if a guy is good enough, money will not be an issue. This is a joke in today’s world of pro tournament fishing because 99% of the guys that fish at the top level couldn’t even support their entry fees and travel off of tournament winnings. By the way it’s not because of their fishing abilities, these guys are really the best bass fisherman in the world. It’s because they continue to fish for entry fee money versus sponsorship dollars. If a guy gets a $10,000 check at each event, he’s an awesome angler, yet he has only won $80,000. How can this change?
I guess it will only change if the market bares a change. Until then guys who fish at the top levels will continue to fork out small fortunes every year to be a Pro Tournament Bass Fisherman. Maybe I see why guys have their own web sites, ask you to like them, and claim to be a professional, it’s a whole lot cheaper than actually being one. Really, who’s to say they are not? There is no criteria or model to follow to make it happen, so until there is I guess it’s open to all. All I would ask is that if you claim to be a professional tournament bass fisherman, please back it up with something other than you won your club last year.   


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