Pro anglers need to have a bigger and more formalized role in the sport.
The way I see it, there are three basic parts that make up professional bass fishing. There are the organizations, the sponsors and the anglers. The organizations and the sponsors are for-profit businesses. The anglers are for-profit, too, except that we have less input than the other two.
Does that mean we’re less important? I don’t think so.
Now, to be fair, B.A.S.S. has allowed us some input into the sport. They have an advisory panel that’s comprised of professional anglers elected by their peers. Those anglers have a fair amount of input — including reviewing the rules. B.A.S.S. also gives Elite anglers an opportunity for feedback with an annual survey.
I’ll be the first to say those are really good steps, and I commend B.A.S.S. for doing them. But we need more. We need something that’s officially sanctioned, something that has a formal role in the process. The way it is now our influence is discretionary. That puts us at an inherent disadvantage.
Understand that I’m not suggesting we take over the sport. The organizations and the sponsors have proprietary rights. We have no right to run their businesses. But we do have a right to determine our own destiny.
An angler’s organization that had the power to work with the rules and that had a meaningful role in creating a structured process for violating those rules would be good for everyone. Again, we’re back to the three parts of professional bass fishing.
Who knows better what hurts an organization than the organization itself? Who knows better what hurts a sponsor than the sponsor itself? Who knows better what affects competition than the anglers themselves?
Another thing that such an angler’s organization would do is help us with our overall careers. We have some strength in our numbers. We could use that to put together a plan for medical insurance that would cover us and our families. Other groups do that. Why should we be left out?
The same thing can be said of retirement plans. It’s a sad commentary on our sport that we have guys who have fished for decades and given bass fishing their all who are now up against it in their later years. We can do better.
We could also put together advisors who could help the newest pros with some of the common problems they’ll encounter.
The does and don’ts of dealing with sponsors is the first thing that comes to mind. How to deal with the press is another issue that needs attention. Yet another is financial management when, and if, they make a big check somewhere along the line — or if they don’t. We might also want to touch on tips for living life on the road and keeping your family together at the same time.
Of course, the elephant in the room is how to get started when you’re facing a $100,000 bill before you ever fish an Elite Series tournament. We could help with that, too.
Other sports have done this and it hasn’t hurt them one bit. Most of them are thriving, and everyone’s getting a nice slice of the pie. Why should we be any different?