There is one thing that’s very different between college and the pros, and that’s the relationship between the anglers.
In college we were all on the same team, so to speak. In my case that was Auburn University. We all lived in the same places, either on campus or off campus, during most of the year. We were all friends on some level and we all rooted for the same team — Auburn — regardless of whether it was fishing, basketball, baseball or football.
I had a lot of fun in those days. We were all on the same team. In some ways I miss it.
The relationship between pro anglers is very different. Mostly, we live our own lives. Sure, we are all professional bass anglers fishing with B.A.S.S. so we have that in common, but that’s it for the most part. It’s not at all like college.
We don’t live near each other, we don’t root for the same sports teams and we don’t have the same basic lifestyle. Once a tournament or sponsor event is over we all go our separate ways to live our own lives. Some of the guys do nothing except fish, others have businesses they own and run. Some of us are young, others seasoned pros.
It’s true that there are some close friendships among our anglers. I don’t deny that. But fishing for $100,000 is serious business. Competition comes first.
I don’t want to overstate that, though. There are countless examples of one angler helping another after boat trouble, after vehicle trouble or when someone is sick or hurt. That’s a part of our culture, and it’s a good thing.
The competition for a limited number of sponsors can be fierce, as well. I haven’t said anything about that up to this point because I’m not sure what to say. There are a limited number of good sponsors available. We all want them. It’s how we earn a living.
You don’t learn much about how to deal with that in college fishing. A degree in marketing or a related field helps, but the truth is that acquiring and working with sponsors is something you learn on the job by watching others and using your common sense.
That’s about all I have to say about college programs at this point. In the future I’ll write a few columns about specific tournaments or incidents that illustrate what I’ve said in these three columns.
If there are any readers out there who have experience with, or information about, college programs I encourage you to post your thoughts. I don’t pretend to know everything and my experiences are mine. I don’t speak for anyone else.
The final thing I want to touch on is the role B.A.S.S. is playing in helping to develop high school and college programs. I said at the beginning of the first column how important that is, and I want to end this column with the same thought. They’re doing one heck of a job, and they should be commended for it.
I suspect that in 15 or 20 years we’ll all look back at this period in bass fishing with a smile. We’ll say that B.A.S.S. played a big role in advancing our sport and in keeping recreational bass fishing alive and well when it was needed.