For the past several months I have received many emails from potential bass anglers from all over the world asking me what kind of steps are needed to take in becoming a professional bass angler. The average age that sends me these emails normally ranges anywhere from 17 years old to around 50 years young with even some of them being younger than 17 and older than 50. Just what really is considered as being a Bass Pro? If you were to look into the Webster's Dictionary a "pro" is described as 1. engaged in, or worthy of the standards of, a profession 2. or, engaging in some sport or in a specified occupation for pay, a professional.
A professional bass angler can mean different things to different people depending on the level of the profession the person wishes to achieve. I wouldn't consider an angler that may watch the pro bass tour on television, getting the idea in his or her head that he or she can compete with the best, joins the "pro" association to get his or her pro patch or card and puts it on their shirt or in their wallet thinking that now he or she's a pro, a true one, would you? There are many different "pro" categories one can strive for in the field of bass angling such as tournament fishing, charters (guides), teaching, lecturing, seminar instructions, product promotions, and much more.
Now, I'm sure that most of the emails I receive from the potential anglers with the questions on how to become a bass pro are primarily meant in terms of what it really takes to become a bass pro such as Shaw Grisby Jr., Bill Dance, David Dudley, etc. just to name a few. Pros like these guys have more than proven themselves and have earned their right for the title of the pro status that they hold (these fellows mentioned are a rare breed, and a greater bunch of guys you'll never find.) But I can say that these fellows have all set goals and worked to get where they are today.
The first thing you have to remember when it comes to fishing is that you can be assured that just about anybody that wishes to become a "professional" in the field of bass fishing can if they try hard enough, but you have to work for it! One of the greatest things I personally feel about the sport of bass fishing is that it doesn't matter if you are a male or female, you don't even have to be athletic in nature or muscular to become a bass pro to compete with the best. A bass pro can be a person who may be small, large, big, little, rough & tough, weak & meek, clean cut, long haired, rich, poor, black, white, brown, young or old, and yes! There are even anglers that are handicapped or disabled that are considered bass pros.. get the point? Just about anyone can become a bass pro if they set their mind to it. It's like anything else in life, it takes focus, hard work, dedication, setting goals, personal drive and ambition to become whatever you want to become in life even when it comes to the classification of being a "bass pro."
There are several different methods to get started on the right track for the ones who wish to become bass pros and hopefully I can help to steer you in the right direction. First, you must keep in mind that the bass fishing industry over the past few years has grown to be a multi billion industry which means more and more competition everyday. Now, keeping that in mind, this means that there are also many companies that manufacture enormous amounts of product designed especially for fishing, and like many different trades you need the right tools for the job. So the equipment you will need and how much one wants to spend on certain items to either get started or to get more serious all depends on how you set your goals. For example, yes, it would be nice to have a $40,000 high performance boat all decked out with the top of the line equipment that will go 80 mph (yea man!) but now stop and ask yourself, will the boat catch the fish? Will the boat tell you where to go and what technique to use to catch bass? Or, can you even set a hook in a bass going 80 mph? Of course not!
Many of my former students that have attended my 3-Day Bass Fishing School have started out with small boats with 10 hp, 25 hp, 75hp motors on them (and even some without any motors at all) and they have learned that they can catch bass just about anywhere they can get their small affordable boats to the areas they want to fish, and by using the proper equipment, baits, and understanding the right techniques to use based on water conditions, daily conditions, areas fished, water clarity, season, structured areas, and on and on.. Knowledge and understanding is the key.
Now, just a word of wise when it comes to boat sizes and horse power, I will always, always, stress SAFETY FIRST!, especially for the un-experienced boaters. I have seen over the past years several unfortunate accidents with anglers that have lacked the experience needed in different situations while on the water which has caused some of them either getting hurt, or hurting others or even causing extensive damage to their boats. So Please! ALWAYS use good judgment when applying boating operation based mostly on the weather conditions, person and weight capacity, the size of body of water to be fished, current, hazards, and especially unfamiliar waters.
Getting back to equipment for a moment, I would have to say yes again, because it would be nice to have rods and reels that cost in the neighborhood of $250.00 and up, but I can promise you that a angler with the right knowledge of using the correct techniques when fishing certain baits on a $40.00 rod and reel can catch just as much bass (if not more) than the tournament angler can with all his or her expensive equipment but lacks the knowledge of how to apply the right techniques using the same baits. Now, don't take me wrong and think that the cheap stuff is always better because it's not! Remember the old saying that "you get what you pay for?" This is a very true statement, especially when it is applied to certain equipment and baits. Now, when it comes to the learning the "how-to's" of bass fishing you'll learn to understand the differences of affordability with the equipment that is really necessary for the right job, and what brands of equipment to purchase that will meet your budget.
Probably the best way to get a good jump start towards being a bass pro is to get a mentor or an instructor to teach you. I'm quite sure most of you will agree with the following, there is no better way to learn than being personally shown how to do something (hands-on!) Several years ago before I started the Pro-Tec School of Bassin', Inc. (that was located on the Santee Cooper Lakes, in SC) I was operating a bass charter service. The reason I put the school together was to teach others the "How-To's" of bass fishing and to help potential anglers from making mistakes and spending enormous amounts of money they were spending foolishly (we've all been there right?) I got the idea about putting the bass fishing school together from two charter clients from Kentucky that had hired me for three days of fishing.
To make a long story short, after the third day of fishing with these fellows one of them stated to me that they learned more in the last three days fishing with me than they had in the past ten years of bass fishing (because I am one that likes to explain and help others.) So, the more I thought about what the fellow from Kentucky said to me, I started thinking to myself "what a great idea!" so I decided to put a bass fishing school together to help other bass anglers (or potentials) learn the "how-to's" of bass fishing.
I wish that I could have had someone to teach me when I first started bass fishing many years ago. I can remember the uncounted times that I would spend money on things that looked good on the shelves just to find myself not really knowing how to use these baits (but they looked good!) as well as years of buying gas and oil for my boat (not really knowing where I was going to fish), and buying just about everything that I could afford that I saw advertised, but still not catching but a very few bass (if any at all.)
Just like today, you normally will see the same anglers cashing in checks from bass tournaments (or placing in the top 10), but if you were to ask them where and how they caught the bass they won't tell you (in fact, most of them will tell you exactly the opposite!) it's not that they're any better or worst than you may be, but it's because they have more of a understanding or general knowledge of what, where and why they're fishing the way they do. Anyway, being the founder and President of Pro-Tec, and after putting Pro-Tec together, our first month of advertising brought a ton of inquiries of anglers (and potentials) that just wanting to learn, or gain a better knowledge of bass fishing.
But like many partnerships that has their ups and downs, the original partnership that I had put together had gone sour so I resigned and relinquished my shares back to the Pro-Tec School of Bassin', Inc. (which I understand have since closed down) and now have put together a 3-Day "On-Water" Bass Fishing School designed to give the personal instruction an angler really needs to learn properly (kind of like OJT or "on the job training", hands-on, etc..) and since my relocation back up to the Lake Champlain/Lake George area in upstate New York. I have taught many anglers (and potential anglers) how to save money, time, and even helped some of them on their way to becoming bass pros.
With teaching my students the most used methods and techniques (the "how-to's") used by today's top pros and showing my students how to apply more time where they should fish instead of areas that make no sense has made a great impact on all of my former students. Some of my former students have went on to become constant money winners fishing bass tournaments, some of them even moved on and are competing in the pro tournaments, and some have even went on to become (successful) bass charter guides.
It seems unfair to me that a handful of the average weekend anglers, some tournament anglers and charter guides keep to themselves the way they do when it comes to helping others learn how to catch bass (why all the secrets?) Bass fishing is a truly great sport for everyone, and I feel that helping anglers trying to beat the frustration of not knowing how to fish but teaching them to enjoy more of the excitement of catching bass would not only make more positive attitudes with anglers, but strengthen relationships and give bass fishing back a five star rating that it deserves.
The next time you see anglers struggling to catch fish, give them some positive helpful hints! You'll be glad you did..