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Professionalism matters in the Elites

In my last blog, I discussed the realities of professional tournament fishing and offered tips to newcomers to the Bassmaster Elite Series.

I discussed the business side that is critical to making it work on the pro side of fishing. A big part of that is acting and looking professional.

When I began my career, I traveled with Charlie Campbell, arguably the classiest gentleman in bass fishing at that time. If you traveled with Charlie, you were expected to walk the line, act and look professional.

He reminded us that — while at tournaments — we were representing B.A.S.S., professional bass fishing as a whole and our sponsors, regardless of whether we were on the water or off it.

Charlie felt it was important to dress accordingly. He always wore khakis with a clean, pressed tournament shirt. I think those principles of dressing appropriate hold true today.

I usually wear golf slacks or a nice pair of shorts. I love wearing jeans, but I never do during tournament days.

Remember, when you arrive in a town for a tournament, the public knows you’re there. They have eyes on you, even when you don’t know it.

They are watching as you move through the community, when you stop for gas or go out to dinner as well as when you’re on the water.

We’re guests in their community and need to remember to be friendly and courteous, even when someone wants to talk or seeks an autograph when we’re in a hurry.

When you come off the weigh-in stage, there may be fans waiting for your autograph; take time to provide it and talk to them.

You may not be happy with the day you just had, but you are fishing at the highest level in the sport and thousands of anglers would love to trade places with you.

When in restaurants or talking to other anglers, be mindful of the fact that people will be eavesdropping so be careful with language or what you say. There’s nothing wrong with having an alcoholic beverage at dinner, but remember you are being watched.

The same goes for when we’re on the water. When I encounter local anglers or come up to a bridge or narrow spot, I try to slow down and idle past. It only takes a few seconds but it will be noticed. I often get a friendly wave for doing that.

And finally, never lose sight of the fact this is the era of cellphone cameras and social media. One recorded mistake can find its way on the internet quickly and be a black mark on your brand and your sponsors.

We all want to do well in tournaments and that’s our focus. But with the Elites come an added responsibility to carry ourselves as true professionals.

The public is watching. And so are sponsors.