An inside look at the profession

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James Overstreet

Everyone who reads the columns on this site has an interest in catching bass and in professional bass fishing. I thought this month we’d take a look at the inside of the sport from a full-time professional’s point of view.

By the time you read this we’ll be fishing, or maybe we’re finished with, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake.

Right now, I’m in 24th place in the AOY race. Unless I totally bomb at the Championship I’ll get in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods on Lake Hartwell. At the same time, it’s impossible for me to win the AOY title.

I’m not bragging, and I’m not complaining. It’s just a matter of simple math under B.A.S.S. rules.

Given my situation you might think I intend to just show up, catch a few keepers and go home to await the Classic. But nothing would be further from the truth. Here’s how I see things as a professional bass angler.

First and foremost, my performance in any tournament, and especially in an AOY Championship, is a matter of pride. I don’t fish to show up. I fish to do my best every time I’m out on the water regardless of what’s at stake. If I approach tournament bass fishing any other way, I’m disrespecting myself, my family and the sport itself.

The last thing I want to do is limp into a Classic. It’s the pinnacle of bass fishing. We all want to make a showing and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. I won’t feel that pride unless I know I’ve given my best every single day.

The pride aspect of things is especially meaningful to me this year. I haven’t fished a Top 12 in any tournament, and I haven’t had a day with a camera in my boat all year. I can’t complain about my season. It is what it is. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have to have fished a Sunday and to have tripped over a cameraman once or twice. 

And then there’s the matter of money. Depending upon where I finish I can earn anywhere between $20,000 on the top end and $11,000 on the low end at Mille Lacs. That’s a $9,000 spread. As professionals in bass fishing we aren’t guaranteed a salary other than our sponsor contracts, and they won’t be guaranteed very long if we don’t do our best every time out. I want the $20,000.

Any job or career has a financial consideration to it. Everyone needs money to survive in our country. We don’t live off the land anymore. We buy what we need for our families and ourselves. If you deny that, you’re denying reality.

I wanted to write this because I think it’s important for our fans to see things as they really exist. You have a right to know what’s going on from the inside out. That makes you an informed fan, and an informed fan is a better fan.