I’m going to ask you a question but I don’t want you to flip when you read it. Actually, I will answer the question by the end of this article.
So are you ready? Here goes.
How could anybody possibly be crazy enough to want to become an Elite Series bass fishing pro? What could you be thinking? Are you nuts? How could you high school kids be wearing a Skeet Reese jersey with your sights set on being just like him in a few years?
And you college students are a little older, and supposedly smarter, than a high schooler, but you’re already lining up your events that help you qualify for the very top of the heap, the Elite Series angler.
And how about a guy who, when his qualifying events are going well, quit his job to “go for it.” I even knew a bass fisherman who came out of retirement when the opportunity to compete with the best jumped in his face.
Yes, there are a lot of bass anglers out there who would do anything to compete in the Elite Series, where there are very few spots available. But I say good. Let someone else make the mistake of becoming eligible, then signing up. Don’t let it be you. You’d have to be totally out of touch with reality if you’re bagging everything to go in that direction.
Let’s let someone else go to a Florida event where he doesn’t have much experience. After having a tough practice, let that person miss the cut by 16 pounds. Let that guy hold a 3 1/2-pound bag as he stands next to Chris Lane and his 22-pounder at the weigh-in tank. Let that guy say under his breath, “What the hell am I doing here?”
You don’t want to be that guy. Be thinking that as he tackles the Elite Series, or the qualifying Opens, while you can be home, sleeping in your own bed, eating home cooked meals, and holding down a good job. All the time your “Mister, I want to be a professional bass fisherman,” will be facing these situations … Rain, snow, wind, temperature changes, bad temperature changes, heat and clear skies.
Over time you’ll have many equipment problems, a flat tire on your boat trailer, dead batteries, and once a month you will break off a bass that would have changed that event in your favor. Your family will question your career choice. Your credit card will go bad, and you’ll wonder if you’ve gone too far to turn around. Please realize that every professional angler has been down this stretch, but that doesn’t stop me from saying “Why would you do this?”
OK, time to change gears. Now most folks on the outside would never understand “Why?” They would never get the “I’m going for it.”
Well, I’m not on the outside, I’m the guy writing these words, pointing out all the negatives, and I absolutely know the answer to “What was I thinking?”
Let me take a shot at it and start by saying that I am 76 years old, and if rules didn’t stand in my way, I would be the first one in line for the Bassmaster Opens registrations. I would plan on fishing these Opens for enough years to finally qualify for the Elites then fish them until I made the Bassmaster Classic. That would be my plan. I have been everywhere and done everything, but I still dream of walking across the stage at the Bassmaster Classic, and if it were possible, I would go through all the snow, dead batteries and busted credit cards you could throw at me.
You see, there comes a time in every bass fisherman’s life that he wants to know how good he is. I’m here to tell you that bass striking a lure, any lure, is a wonderful thing. When you experience it, you never forget it, and you work hard to get better at it. You try to repeat it over and over again. The rush this bass strike gives you doubles when you catch a fish during any kind of contest where you’re trying to find out how good you are.
The further you take the competitive part of this and the higher up the ladder you go, the bigger the rush is. You can finally get to the point where just knowing you might catch a bass pushes you through the most negative times. Of course the more you do all this, the more you want to learn. If you in fact do learn more, the better you become and suddenly you think you can whip Skeet Reese and Edwin Evers, and you want to prove it.
You are now becoming not just a good bass fisherman, but a good competitive bass fisherman, and you are hooked. Catching bass better than the next guy on waters you have never been to before is addictive. Finding bass where no one else has looked and knowing you can catch them when you need to is addictive.
The roadblocks for becoming a professional bass fisherman, that I reeled out earlier, are not good reasons for backing off of taking a crack at this. I encourage you to attack these roadblocks. Overcome them and become successful in the most unique sport out there.
You have so much control of how good you become. Work hard, learn everything you possibly can, practice, and did I mention work hard? Do all these things religiously, and you got a shot. I hope I’ve answered part of the question of “Why would you do this?” The big answer though is this. “Man, bass fishing is a great sport.”
Originally published October 2012