There’s been some buzz on the internet lately about the ways professional anglers support ourselves and our families, the partnerships we have with sponsors and the money we as Bassmaster Elite Series anglers make — or as seems to be the topic of the day — don’t make.
What I’d really like to say on this topic — it doesn’t seem like everyone fully understands what our jobs are as “Pro Anglers.” I know I’m young in the sport, but I have always tried to learn as much as I can from people around me. I’ve paid attention to how the best in the business do their jobs. What I can promise you is they spend more time working for their partners than they do fishing.
I got into the Elite Series four years ago, and I had a few partnerships already from my FLW Tour and Bassmaster Opens days, but the ones that have become my biggest supporters were those I’ve spent the most time working with off the water. I went to events like the Bassmaster Classic and ICAST and without Ark, AFTCO, Skeeter/Yamaha asking me, I was in their booth working, doing videos and talking to customers.
It’s not that I was super comfortable doing it. I didn’t know everybody at the companies, and there was definitely some anxiety about what I was doing. I did it anyway because I had seen the right guys making their daily schedules and spending the time in the booths, and I knew I had to do it to be taken seriously.
Because I did that, I built relationships with those companies and have been able to establish connections to new ones where I give the same type of effort. Those partnerships allow me to sign up to fish the Elite Series and provide for Riley and myself.
That’s the correct order of things. Do the work, build the relationships that provide the foundation and go fishing. I’m an outdoorsman, I love to fish and I love to deer hunt. I’d love to spend every day of my life on the water or in the woods without a care in the world, but that’s not our business.
To be honest, that’s really a better description of what we are anyway: a business. Yes, we are “professional athletes,” but as I see it, we are individual businesses that operate on an income and expense basis, and we have to handle our businesses in order to do the fun parts of the job.
A buddy of mine in the industry said something to me that makes sense. He said we as anglers need to think of ourselves differently. Instead of thinking of ourselves as professional anglers, we need to change the term to “promotional anglers” who get to fish as a part of our jobs. I think that is a better perspective to have about our jobs.
We are different than any other professional athlete because our sport is different than any other sport. We are a “pay for play” sport. It always has been and most likely always will be. Our sponsors are blessings to us, and we should feel privileged to represent them and grateful for their participation in our business.
When we handle things like we should, we have a chance to be rewarded for that effort and gained trust, and we get to “fish” for a living. But there are responsibilities and a lot of time commitments that go with living this life. And the off-the-water stuff is really the most important part.