How awesome would it be to get paid to fish? That’s been the dream for thousands of people over the years. For a select few, that dream has become their reality. You may have dreams yourself of one day competing on the pro fishing circuit, joining other pro anglers in tournaments and being featured on the Outdoors Channel or RFD-TV.
But getting to that point is anything but easy. Just like any other professional sportsmen, pro anglers are completely devoted to their craft. The bulk of their time is spent perfecting their form, experimenting with new equipment, or scouting out new fishing spots. Any spare time they do have is spent researching the latest news and trends happening in the fishing world. In short – they eat, sleep, and breathe fishing.
I say all that to say that you’ve got some stiff competition ahead of you. But if you think you’ve got what it takes, and want to become one of the pros in the competitive fishing world, follow these five tips:
1. Choose a Species to Focus On
Think about the athletics world for a minute. Do professional basketball players get better at their sport by playing football? No. They may be good all-around athletes who do well in many sports but they’re professionals because they devote themselves to a single sport.
Fishing is no different. Before you start training, you need to determine what species of fish you will become an expert on. This will allow you to invest all of your time towards mastering one species, rather than just being good with a few.
Choosing the Right Species
While you can focus on any species, bear in mind how many opportunities there are to go pro with each species. If there isn’t a pro circuit for your species, you may have a difficult time finding stable work. Conversely, the more popular your sport is, the more competition you’ll have to compete against. Some popular species for the professional circuit include:
2. Fish the Locations Where the Tournaments are Held
Unlike basketball or football, where the playing field is always the same, in the fishing world, where the tournaments are held plays a major role in who takes home the prize. Fortunately, most tournaments are held in public waterways, meaning competitors can check them out for themselves.
Kevin Hawke, a competitor in Bassmaster’s Elite Series, also recommends that you find two to three spots for each body of water, and fish them extensively. During tournaments, you’ll have a limited amount of time to find your preferred spot. Additionally, if another angler gets there first, you’ll have a hard time fighting their line for the fish. Having several spots to choose from can really improve your odds.
3. Learn the Ins and Outs of Every Piece of Equipment
In most sports, everyone uses the same equipment, and it all handles the same. The weight, size, and way that gear handles won’t change from game to game. Once an athlete has mastered their gear, they don’t have to worry about it changing.
But fishing is different. For anglers, two similar reels can handle it completely differently. Anytime you decide to change your rods, the bait you’re using, or even the boat you’re on, you have to get on the water and master each of them.
Angling is one of the most technically involved sports in the world. Unlike many sports, pro fishermen depend on a wide variety of gear to make the biggest catch and take home the grand prize. You need to both invest in pro-level gear and practice with it extensively.
4. Work Your Way Up Through Smaller Tournaments
Just like any other sport, you’re not going to play in the big leagues until you’ve proved your mettle in the little leagues. To gauge how your progress is going, enter smaller, open fishing tournaments whenever you can. This will be essential for your development in a number of ways.
Building a Reputation
First and foremost, by competing in smaller tournaments, you start to develop your angler’s profile. These are stats that summarize your fishing career, including:
- Number of tournaments
- Number of first through third-place finishes
- Biggest catch
- Cumulative weight caught
Before you’re invited to compete on the pro circuit, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’ve been successful in amateur and semi-pro tournaments.
Learning From Other Anglers
In smaller tournaments, you’ll meet a wide range of people. Everyone from first-time amateurs to seasoned anglers will be represented. It’s a great opportunity to network, pick up some new techniques, and develop some lasting friendships.
A Glimpse Into the Life
More than anything, tournaments will present you with the opportunity to see if this is really the life you want for yourself. If you find that you’re not willing to commit the time it takes to train for and win these tournaments, then you can’t ever hope to go pro.
5. Practice the Right Way
It would be cliché to just list “practice” as one of the pro tips. I know you’re well aware that you have to practice until you’re sick of it to go pro. Repeating that fact won’t do you any good. Instead, I’m offering a more focused viewpoint – practice what works.
Most importantly – stick to the basics. No matter what species of fish you choose, or what body of water you’re fishing on, there are some basic fundamentals that will apply. Certain fish respond to certain types of bait. Certain reels work better in certain bodies of water. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, then you can start experimenting with more advanced techniques.
There’s a great saying that sums this tip up perfectly, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”