LEESBURG, Fla. — Mark Davis and Brian Snowden are two of the top pros on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and on a personal note they share a common attribute that both admit put them on the fast-track to their successful careers.
Before they turned pro Davis, of Arkansas, and Snowden, of Missouri, were professional bass guides for hire. To this day, Snowden finds time to juggle his 11-event tour schedule with between 80 and 100 bookings on Table Rock Lake for bass, and nearby Lake Taneycomo for trout. Davis made the full-time switch from guiding to the tournament trail in the late 1980s, after he quickly realized he could compete on par with the pros.
Making that transition was an easy move for Davis, who finds both careers share one key characteristic.
"Guiding is a lot like tournament fishing, if you think about it," he says. "As a guide, you are under the gun to put your clients on fish. In a tournament, you are under the gun to put fish in the livewell."
And of course, make a paycheck.
"Monetarily, in the early years it helped me stay on the water," adds Davis, who fished his first BASS event in 1986. "I figured I had one year to make it as a bass pro, and whenever I wasn't fishing in tournaments, I guided to make ends meet."
Plus, the guiding enabled Davis to keep his mind sharp, a necessary skill for either the tournament trail or guiding.
"The other similarity ... both jobs have you always making quick adjustments on the water. Guiding helped prepare me mentally for fishing on unknown water," he says."Basically a bass behaves the same in Arkansas as it does in Flo
rida, where we are now on the Harris Chain for this Elite Series event. Long ago, that guide experience helped prepare me to make decisions on where to start when I went to a strange lake, even before I put my boat in the water."
Davis' guide career began at age 14 on Lake Hamilton, Ark., where he took clients fishing for crappie, making $20 a half-day trip, not bad for a teenager. Snowden charges $350 for a full day of fishing in the Ozarks.
"I still guide because on any given day I learn something new," says Snowden, now in his seventh year as a guide and pro. "Both jobs are physically demanding, and guiding helps keep me in shape by toning the right muscles — the same ones I use to compete professionally."
The early career scorecards of both anglers validate all of their theories about why guiding can put a rookie pro on the fast track to success.
After coming home empty-handed after his first event in 1986, Davis went on to cash a check in 11 consecutive BASS events, while qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic in 1988.
Seven years, later he would win both the Classic and Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles. And to this day, is the only angler to do so in the same season.
Snowden went full-time as a pro in 2000, and to date he's bankrolled more than $373,000 in BASS winnings.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.