Our crazy 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series season is officially done and in the books. Being one of only two sports leagues to complete a full season — the other being NASCAR— is truly a testament to the hard work and commitment from B.A.S.S. and our field of anglers to be smart and safe during this time. Now that the dust has settled, a new season is quickly approaching.
Our offseason isn’t really an offseason for most of us. Some guys do take time off and go hunting to get away from fishing for a while. But once the season ends, it’s time to pursue new partnerships for the following season as well as solidify current ones. Much of a professional angler’s job is tied to marketing and bringing value to companies looking for exposure within our market. This includes all the usual suspects within the fishing world — the endemic sponsors — as well as companies that are broader or less directly involved with fishing in general: non-endemics.
Earning a spot in the Elite Series is just the beginning. Don’t rest on your laurels because the sponsor game is just as competitive, and it is as important as catching bass is in this era. I truly believe there are many talented anglers that can compete with the best that don’t do it, or can’t. This is mostly because the sport at this level is expensive and takes a skill set far beyond setting the hook.
If you are a young angler, pay attention to the career paths of the younger guys that are already here. All of these guys can catch em’, so I don’t want to get that twisted. It is still an important part of being a professional, but many of the most successful young anglers also do a tremendous job through college (and even before) of building good relationships with the people and brands that support this sport. The better you do on the water in conjunction with promoting the companies that you believe in goes a long way towards building yourself a long-lasting career. Educate yourself and gain experience in marketing, public speaking and advertising. Every little thing you learn will help you continue to build your skills until you get to where you want to go.
I’m not saying this to scare anyone off that legitimately wants to pursue this. The reason I'm saying it, whether you are a young, up-and-coming angler or even someone further along in life with a family and a good job, is so you know what to expect and can hopefully avoid the mistakes many have made before you.
There have been many anglers over the years that ran up credit card debt, took second mortgages on their homes and added a lot of extra and unnecessary stress to their lives. I’m not chastising them either, because I know and understand the “do whatever it takes” mentality. Each situation is unique. However, just be aware that every decision you make has a long-term effect on yourself and your family or potential family — debt is no joke.
If you want to do this, I wholeheartedly encourage you to. It’s the most fun job in the world, but there is much more to it than meets the eye.
Please, take heed of this advice too — put God first, then your family and then fishing. If God wants it to be, it will be. When I got married at 29, I had a serious conversation with my wife about pursuing this dream. She always supported it, but as a husband and now a father, there are bigger things in life than fishing to consider. I haven’t always fully understood that concept. In my mind, I gave it that year to make it to the Elites, and wouldn’t you know, God provided. Now I’m heading into my sophomore season in 2021.
Believe me, dreaming is a great thing. But planning and working hard are even better. If this is something you genuinely want to do and you are willing to prepare for all aspects of it, you can achieve it. I look forward to meeting the next group of dreamers and hard workers very soon. Who knows, maybe you will be one of them.
Big bass. Big stage. Big dreams.