Last year, I was the only former collegiate angler fishing in the Bassmaster Elite Series, and based on my experience fishing collegiately, I knew that more would join me soon. Two more former college anglers (Chip Porche’ and James Elam) will join me on the 2013 Elite Series. College anglers are good because they compete at a very high level for four years, and the competition is fierce.
I have said it many times, but if it was not for college bass fishing, I would not be fishing on the Bassmaster Elite Series today. The Carhart Bassmaster College Series is a great learning experience because collegiate anglers can compete at many different levels. A college angler can go from zero tournament experience to competing in the Bassmaster Classic in a matter of four years. College bass fishing offers a stair- step process that allows anglers to work their way up by qualifying for bigger tournaments as they progress as anglers.
Chip Porche’ (founder and former president of Oklahoma University Bass Team) told me that the two biggest things that college fishing did for him was that it got him out of his comfort zone and taught him the importance of networking. Before he started fishing collegiately, he only fished local tournaments. Chip said that he really noticed how much his fishing knowledge grew as he fished college tournaments both regionally and nationally. Networking is huge in professional fishing, and college fishing has allowed Chip to make some important contacts in the industry that has been invaluable as he prepares for the Elites this next year. “Putting all the pieces together in starting the OU Bass Team, has been a similar experience to preparing for the Elite Series,” said Porche’.
James Elam (former president of Oklahoma State University Bass Team) said that his team leadership role was influential in his pursuit of becoming a professional bass angler. He said that being the president of the team prepared him for the business side of bass fishing, as he got sponsors for the team and set up tournaments. Like me, James majored in landscape architecture which is a very demanding degree with projects and presentations due all the time. “Learning how to manage time to get my projects done and still find time to fish will directly relate to how I manage my time on the water during our 2.5 days of practice,” he said. Those time management skills will also come into play as he juggles time between fishing and working for sponsors.
Chip, James and I all agree that college bass fishing has given us the opportunity to pursue our dreams of fishing professionally. Who knows, in 20 years, 80 percent of the Elite Series could be former collegiate anglers. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. I wish Chip Porche’ and James Elam much success in their rookie seasons on the Elites, and good luck to all the collegiate anglers out there competing on the Carhart Bassmaster College Series.
Dare to Fail.