So, You Want to be a Pro?
I get a lot of email from anglers
who have read my articles on the web. Although most all of it is
enjoyable, the ones I love the best, and that I take the most
serious, are the ones from the young anglers. They are the future
of the sport, the most eager to learn, and many times the best
students. One letter I seem to get every couple of weeks is the
one seeking advice on how to become a professional angler. I've
answered that in many parts and in many ways. I thought it might
be nice to look at the subject in this forum and summarize some
the thoughts I've had and some of the good advice I've read from
other experienced anglers on the subject.
By Paul Crawford
The first thing to consider is,
of course, if you are cut out to be a pro angler! More than
anything, you must be a people person. You have to love to
talk to people, teach people, listen to people, the kind of
person that never met a stranger. If you're not at ease with
people you haven't met, if you're not open minded, if you don't enjoy
meeting and talking to new people from all walks of life and
backgrounds, then Stop Right Here! (I promise you have no
chance to make it as a pro.) You need a cool level head in
stressful situations and be able to act in a practical manner in
an emergency. An analytical mind also helps. You probably will be
the kind of person that likes math and working with computers,
(either of which will pay much better than angling), and you
probably like doing puzzles of any type. A good head for business
is also necessary to make it. You'll be on a really tight budget
for a number of years and you can't afford to make the wrong
decision, (Business managers also make more than anglers.) You
need to be in good physical shape and able to actively work on
your feet for hours at a time without getting tired. It will also
help if you like working on things with your hands. You should
kind of like to work on your own car or maybe wood working as a
hobby, (Mechanics are also paid better than anglers.) And
probably the least important yet absolutely necessary
qualification is that you love to fish and are excellent at it.
So, we'll assume from here on out the
personality description fits you and that you kind of like
poverty. You've committed to go pro and need to know how to do
it, or at least get a pretty good clue. First realize the
business you're going into: private business owner / operator;
advertising pitch man and consultant; salesman; teacher;
financial planner; travel agent; marine rigging and repairman;
rescue worker; biologist; and last (and least) fisherman.
If you overlook any one of your jobs, you're doomed to fail. As
you might expect, nobody is particularly interested if you
catch fish. What everyone is interested in is if you can teach them
to catch fish. If you can, then clients and sponsors will beat a
track to your door, if you let them know where your door is.
Part 1. Getting Ready.
Like all small businesses, the better the preparation, the
better your chance of success. If you're serious about being a
pro, then I'd recommend starting up slow, getting your
experience, and getting a collage degree while you're at it.
There are a tremendous number of things you need to know, and a
good collage can teach you a lot of it. Depending on your
particular interest, there are several degree programs you could
major in. If it were me, I'd go with something along the lines of
Communications Major, Advertising, Business Management,
Accounting, or a combination of all of the above, (I'd try for a
few courses in all of the areas.) A minor in Biology or Fisheries
Management would help. If you're not particularly good with
computers, then a few electives in computer based accounting and
planning would be useful. It's not so much the degree, (although
that never hurts), as it is the knowledge. You're betting your
future, along with your family's, on you ability to run a smart
business, take it seriously.
While all of the course work is going, it's
time to put together the tools of the trade. Obviously a boat and
tow vehicle will be required. A computer with a good office suite
is almost as important for the professional. Then you have all of
your gear to collect. And don't forget the licenses, insurance,
and permits you'll need as well. A few bucks for a lawyer should
also be in the start up costs.
First, the boat. You can get by
initially with a 16' boat with maybe a 90 hp motor, but very
quickly you'll want to move into a 20' class probably with a 200+
hp motor. And if you make your living out of a boat, then a
reliable, well maintained boat is a must, (with a broke boat, you
may not eat.) Ranger boats have been a traditional favor brand of
the pros, not for the name, but because at least the older ones
were built like a tank. They aren't fast, and not as sexy as
some, but they will take a pounding and be back for more
tomorrow. Keep the motor absolutely, dead nuts, stock. You are
interested in reliability and keeping costs down, not going fast.
Get a full set of gauges, and use them. In particular, an hour
meter is useful to make absolutely sure the engine service is up
to date and done to manufacturer's recommendations. While you're
at it, worry about the storage of your rig a little. Having a
nice, clean, organized boat is not merely a matter of pride, it's
your work place and you need to protect it. Even if you're on a
limited budget, figure out how to put up some type of shed or
roof over your boat to protect it and get as good of boat cover
as you can find. And, please, keep it locked up. Your
customers and sponsors really won't care if you boat was stolen
before they write you off.
Tow vehicles give you bit more latitude. A
new truck is nice, but not necessary. It does have to be
reliable, (again a stranded customer doesn't care why), and
clean. A nice looking truck can be used as a mobile billboard, a
source of valuable sponsor income. Depending on you location, you
may or may not care about 4WD but a sport utility type is usually
a better choice than a pickup. The added storage and passenger
capacity is useful in your line of work. Like your boat and
motor, make sure to keep the maintenance current and it's always
cheaper in the long run to take care of any problems as soon as
you detect them instead of waiting to get stuck somewhere.
As a small business man, the
personal computer is a Godsend. You'll need some way to keep
track of expenses, income, schedules, phone numbers, fishing
logs, orders, reservations, sponsor letters, and of course,
taxes. You are selling your time along with your fishing
knowledge, so time is valuable to you. Get a computer adequate to
run typical office applications and learn how to use it. Keep
back ups of all of your files and set aside time every day to
keep the records straight and up to date.
No job is over, (or in this case
started), before the paper work is done. Your state may require a
license to operate on public waters. You'll definitely want to
protect yourself with commercial liability insurance, and the
state may require you post a bond as well. You can do all of this
as a Sole Proprietor business, but it may be to your tax
advantage to file as a small corporation or a limited partnership
with other pros or family members. Check with a lawyer and/or tax
advisor before filing for all of permits. If you're going to be a
professional, conduct yourself as one and don't even think about
cutting corners. The penalties of trying to fly by the seat of
your pants could cost you everything you have or even land you in
jail. It's a painful, expensive thing to set up your business,
but it's absolutely necessary to do it right. I could cite any
number of tragedies I've seen over the years where something
unexpected came up totally out of the control of the pro, and
they ended up paying for it for years to come. You may find other
pros on the water that run an under the table operation, and by
cutting corners, under cut your prices or steal sponsors with
less than market value packages. It's true in any business, but
these guys are amateurs and no real threat to your business, so
ignore them and wish them well. The true pros will come out on
top in the long run every time.
One of the better ways to look at
the finances is that your banker is your first, and most
important sponsor. Unless you're of independent means, you'll
need some serious financial help getting started, (Boats and
Trucks aren't cheap.) If you're going to get the bank to go along
with this, you'll have to approach it as a business transaction.
If you just show up and say you'd like to finance a boat to open
a professional fishing service and don't have a sound plan,
you'll get thrown out on your ear just as soon as the banker can
stop laughing long enough. On the other hand, if you go in
knowing all of the expenses (with documentation), have a good
plan for a reasonable steady income, have thought out all of the
details about licenses, insurance, and such, then you'll be
pleasantly surprised just how receptive audience you might find.
If you conduct yourself as a professional, chances are good you
will be received as one. The more detailed and well thought out
the plan, the better the chances are of getting financed. Don't
approach it as someone wanting to finance a boat or truck, but
someone looking for a business loan that will put up the boat as
a capital asset for security. You've got a lot of other expenses
to worry about, so present them as a package, along with what
assets you bring to the business, and show how the business will
repay the loan and leave you enough to live on, (something your
family will also appreciate.) If you are taking some course work
on business management, a Business Plan is you definitely want to
learn and maybe have your professor help you with.
Part 2. The Plan.
At this point you must be wondering just where all this
stuff is leading. Here is the general game plan. You need some
serious experience and would like to get paid for it. The best
way I can think of is to go into the Guide Service business. This
gets you paid for being on the water. Plan on doing this off and
on most likely for the rest of your life. Assuming your idea of
"pro" is those guys you see on TV, then serious
tournament competition is in your future. There is an entire
pyramid you need to climb before you can even think of making a
living that way. You've got a ton of work to do before that pays
off, (if it ever does.) Then there is the teaching part. You'll
be involved with seminars, classes, presentations, all sorts of
things that hawk a product, an approach, or just fishing in
general. If you're one of the gifted and talented, you'll end up
making a good living teaching other people how to fish. If you
work hard, you'll at least make a good living.
Nothing is going to be free or easy. Nothing
worthwhile ever is! Oh sure, you could get really lucky, nail a
couple of giant fish, win some big tournament somewhere, pick up
endorsements, and be happy by Tuesday. You could also win the
state lottery, and probably have a better chance at that. You can
skip some of the hard work if you're independently wealthy, but
then this is just an expensive hobby, not a profession. Assuming
you're committed, there are dues to be paid and work to do.
There will be basically three stages in your professional
career: Guide; Tournament Pro; Teacher. You don't have to do all
of them, but it's a rather logical progression. You'll do more of
one than another at different stages of your career, but will
probably get into all of them at some point. As we go on, we'll
look at each one up close and see what to expect.
Getting Geared Up. Okay, it's about
time to get to the fishing part. While you're trying to learn all
of the business elements, get everything collected, probably hold
down a full time job to pay for all this stuff you need to fish.
Every opportunity you can make, fish. You need to pick a lake and
know it better than you know your girl friend's tattoo. Fish
early, fish late, fish at night.
Don't take the lake you pick for granted.
It will be your work place so choose carefully and wisely. If
you're able, working in the deep south has the obvious advantage
of offering year round work. It is also a place people go to in
the winter for vacation, and a tourist trade is always a huge
plus. If you're planning to get serious about tournament fishing,
then choosing a lake where a lot of large tournaments are held
will give you a head start. Of course all of the other factors
about where to live also apply, (cost of living, available
shopping or entertainment, taxes, schools, etc.) You'll find a
majority of working pros in either Texas or Florida, both of
which are great places to work and live. Unfortunately, you're
about 30 years too late to get into the ground floor and have to
face some stiff competition for customers. This makes doing your
homework all the more important.
A couple of guys that I knew getting ready to open their own
business used to make tit o the lake every morning at
4:30. They'd fish until about 7:30, load up and go to work at
9:00. I saw them there every weekend and a couple of nights a
week. After a year or so, they had caught just about every bass
in that lake so many times they had each one named. By the time
they were 25 years old, they had one of the more successful guide
businesses in the area from which they both made a good living
for their families. They were the 1 in 10 that made it, largely
because of their preparation.
It won't do you much good to fish
when you want to or when the weather is right. You have to fish
in all type of conditions, and look forward to it. Rain, high
winds, cold fronts, burning hot summer days without a breath of
air, even sleet or snow. If the lake isn't frozen over, get on
it. Anyone can catch fish when they are biting on pretty days.
The true professional can find a few fish under any type of
extreme condition. The only way to learn is to do it. It's also
important to learn how to operate the boat safely in all
conditions. Your life and the life of your customers will depend
on your ability to make the safe call every time. If a thunder
storm is in the area, you had damn well better know when it's
time to get off the water and to safe shelter, (it also helps to
know where the safe shelter is.) If you get caught 20 miles from
the ramp in a 30 mph wind, you had better know how to best get
back to the ramp safely, how to get to safe harbor and then go
get the truck 20 miles away, and exactly when to make each
choice. If you're on the water every day, it won't take long to
figure out there are more windy days each year then calm ones.
You had better have a stock pile of places to safely and
comfortably fish no matter how hard wind blows or from what
Every one has visions of catching big bass.
It's always nice to do that and it can often lead to a big
tournament check or a big tip from a paying customer. But big
fish are a luxury a professional can rarely afford. You need to
reliable catch fish every time the boat hits the water. That
normally means dinks, or just barely legal fish. The small ones
are aggressive, normally relatively shallow, and need to feed
just about every day. As a professional, I'd much rather have 3
or 4 spots where I knew I could stick 1 or 2 dinks every day than
have 20 holes where I might catch a big fish.
Part 3. Getting Started.
So you've picked a lake, know it like the back of your hand,
can catch fish most every day in most every weather condition,
what do you do now? Find a guide service broker. Most of the
advertising you see in magazines, on the 'net, and other places
are by brokers. A broker takes care of the arrangements, books
the trips, sets up the guide, and takes a fee for his effort
without ever seeing the water. This may be $25 to $50 a trip,
which is cheap for you. Compared to trying running your own ads,
running up your phone bill, make your own filers, and all the
other things trying attract customers, a commission every trip
works out to money in your pocket. In the popular areas, there
are lots of brokers. In less popular areas, tackle shops, fish
camps, or other fishing related services may also act as a
broker. In these cases, you can probably pick up a part time job
around the place as well for those many days you're not on the
water. You may eventually want to take over the booking yourself,
but getting started, a broker is the way to go.
So what does your day look like?
It starts about 3:30 getting up, getting your breakfast and
preparing a box lunch for you and your customers for the day. Run
by the gas station and fill up and get your ice, (remember to ask
for a receipt, it's deductible), and head to the bait shop. The
majority of guides in areas that allow them will use live bait.
The reasons are simple. First, you assume your customers won't
have a clue on how to bass fish, (something you need to determine
on your courtesy call the night before), and live bait means they
really don't have to. There is also the factor you can expect a
50% discount on your daily bait, for which you charge full price,
making it an additional source of profit. It seems trivial until
you figure wild shiners retail for $1 each and on a good lake you
can use 3 dozen, ($18 for your trouble.) While you're there try
to cultivate a good relationship with other guides. Exchange
information freely. You don't have to tell them everything you
know, but never, never, lie. There is plenty of water for
everyone and you'll normally get at least as good as you get.
Welcome other guides into your areas if you think the area will
take the pressure. Areas where bass are schooling is always
valuable and appreciated information. You'll very quickly get to
know who to trust and who to take with a grain of salt.
Anyway, off to the hotel to pick
up the customers and then to the lake. Don't expect any help
getting the boat in the water and ready, (you don't want the help
from a lot of these guys.) You get the same rate for one or two
guests, so expect two at least half the time, (guides are
expensive.) Load them up, stick them in life jackets, (insurance
requirement), and unless they are experienced and say something
about it, drive slow. You can scare the hell out of someone
that's not use to a modern bass boat, and it makes a very poor
way to start the day.
As you're rigging up and get to your spot, explain in detail
everything you're doing and why. These guys are here as much to
learn as to fish. Until you're sure of the skill level of the
customers, pick easy lures to throw and give them easy rigs to
throw it with. Spinner baits, crank baits, or short leader
Carolina rigs are always favorites. Save the worms and certainly
the Slug-gos until you're sure the customer is ready to handle
it. If you're going to fish at all, throw something light and
keep away from the prime areas with your lure. It's not important
if you catch fish, it IS important the customer does. Move all
the way to the front of the boat, (a hand controlled trolling
motor is standard for this reason), and keep your live bait
moving slowly along the structure, letting the customer fish the
shallower water. Instruct the customer to throw towards the front
of the boat at an angle. This keeps him from tangling up the live
bait lines and makes sure his back cast is moving in some
direction other than at you.
Most of the tourist trade will
want spinning gear but always keep a Zebco 33 handy in case you
get a real newbie or if Dad is out with the kid for the day. I
would suggest buying about middle of line gear for guiding. There
isn't any reason to spend $400 a rig for someone just learning to
cast, but you still want good gear for those who fish regularly.
The medium priced gear holds up well to daily use and will be
suitable for even tournament level fishermen. My personal
favorite is Shimano reels because they take a lot of abuse and
don't have a lot of setting for the customers to play with all
day. I also normally prefer braided line when I can get away with
it. This stuff is fairly easy to pick out backlashes when the
reel is set right without harming the line. It will last until
the customers get hung up and break off enough to use up the
line. And changing out monofilament on 4 rods every night, (and
sometime twice each during the day), is both a time consuming
pain and expensive.
Keep a conversation going most of
the day. Tell stories about the lake, teach them about various
lures, tell them about the structure they are fishing, tell them
about your family, anything. Fishing can get boring if you're not
catching much, and chatting passes the time. The customer will
show fairly clearly if they aren't really interested in the
conversation. Remember, even for a seasoned tournament type, you
have something to teach them. Teach them the lake and local
patterns if nothing else. Only rarely will you find someone who
isn't interested in learning.
Not everyone furnishes food and drink, but it's always a good
way to get a happy customer. One of the points of local knowledge
you desperately need to have is the location of all of the public
rest rooms you can get to from the water. I've never had a female
customer that didn't appreciate that courtesy, and many of the
gentlemen also appreciate it. Even if it doesn't bother you,
putting ashore for lunch and a stretch is will earn the gratitude
of your customer after 4 or 5 hours in the boat. And ALWAYS have
sun block on board for the customers. They never remember it and
always need it. Of course you'll also need other comfort items
such as a good rain suit for each of them, (always carry at least
one XXL, it can be too big but too small doesn't help.) A jacket
or two is also nice to have on those cool morning for customers
coming shorts and a T-shirt. A light weight life jacket with good
ventilation is a great idea for customers that don't know how to
swim. On those hot summer days, run around a little just for a
nice breeze. In the winter, park it for the most part and don't
freeze your customers. For heavy weather, get to know which docks
are empty or the location of all of the low bridges to get out of
the weather. Keep an eye on the sky. The safety of everyone on
board is in your hands.
If you don't already know first aid, you better learn quick.
Given two inexperienced fishermen in the boat with you,
extracting hooks will be a daily occurrence. Cuts, bumps and
bruises will keep you busier than most medics. Have a fully
equipped first aid kit on board and know how use it. Maybe more
important is to know when NOT to use it. Not all hooks can be
extracted, and some medical conditions require immediate
professional help, know which ones. Know CPR, (I know several
guides that have had to use it.) The Red Cross is a good source
of information and courses. You might want to get some advise
from you doctor. I consider a cell phone or radio mandatory
safety equipment as well no matter how small the lake, (also
helps when you break down.) Keep emergency services programmed in
if the equipment is capable. And show your customers how to use
it just in case you're the one that needs help.
Okay, the day is over and you've
had a nice 8-10 hours on the water. Get your rig loaded up and
the customers back to the hotel. Remember to thank them, ask them
to remember the broker for their next trip and ask for you if
they had a good time. Many guides in the business for a while
actually develop such a referral base they won't take new
customers and are booked up a year in advance. Don't forget to
get paid. Make sure to show gratitude for any tip included,
(occasionally you make more in tips than for your base fee.)
Somehow, they will always need to write a check, (made out to the
broker), so you need to swing by on the way home, drop of the
check, pick up your check, and hurry home before the sun goes
Time for maintenance. Clean up
your rig, fix anything that broke. You'll need to clean and lube
the reels, change the line, sharpen the hooks, and pull
maintenance on the truck while you're at it. After a while you'll
get good at it and it will take about an hour.
Grab something to eat, clean up, and start the evening
business. You need to check in with the broker if you haven't
already, let them know how the trip went and get your next
client. You've got to call tomorrow's customer, find out if they
live bait or artificial only, going for trophies or numbers, etc.
If you have other referrals, make contact and work on advanced
bookings. File all of your receipts and update your books. Don't
forget to fill out the truck's mileage log. Once you have down a
system this will only take an hour or so each night. If you've
had a good day and a good tip, you'll have between $100 and $150
to show for the day's work, occasionally more, on bad days less.
Well, it should be about 9:00 by now and you've got half an
hour to spend with the family before bed time. Three thirty will
come early and tomorrow you need to do it all over again. Such is
the life of a professional guide.
Part 4. Tournaments.
Most guys trying to turn pro think of tournament fishing.
While your guiding, you might find time to fish some local gigs
and maybe a regional tournament trail like the Red Man series.
Get your experience and time on the water, but don't expect to
set the world on fire just because you're a guide.
RULE NUMBER ONE: NEVER MIX YOUR GUIDE BUSINESS WITH YOUR
TOURNAMENT FISHING. If you have any questions, see Rule Number
You need to set up a separate business for
this. Keep separate books, expenses, and split the
service of your equipment between the two. You need to play this
clean as well. Report your winnings because you'll most likely
still run at a loss most of the time, (you can use the write
off.) If you do cash a big check, you'll need all of the little
tournament losses to make up for it.
Never take a client on a
prefishing trip for a tournament. You'll want to fish different
types of water. When prefishing, you'll want to get a bite then
move on before you burn your tournament fish. When guiding,
you'll want to set on a hole until it dries up. If you ever try
to combine the two you'll end up with a wasted prefishing trip
and a very hostile customer, (and most of the time a hostile
broker as well.) Tournament fish on your own time, not your
Oddly enough, professional guides are normally poor tournament
fishermen. They get too hung up on fishing shallow water for
small fish, which they do every day, to want to spend the time to
find the advanced off shore structure and bigger fish that the
tournament types target. Plus, if you're on the water 5 days a
week working, you may not want to spend your weekends finding a
different type of water. And if you work trying to stay relaxed
and out of the way, it's hard to concentrate and fish hard come
tournament time. Never the less, guides do have all of the
experience on the water under all conditions and when they do
turn to serious competition, they are a force to be reckoned
Your path to professional
tournament angling is no different than the weekend fisherman.
You have to start local, work in the regional tournaments until
you can consistently do well, try to attract some sponsors, then
move into national competition. You're added time on the water
may shorten the path, but not eliminate it. Remember, 99% of
everyone who tries it, fails. Don't set your sights on a goal so
lofty you'll feel like a failure if you don't make it. If it
happens, it happens. Try hard, work hard, but don't depend on it
or risk your family's welfare trying too hard to make it happen.
We could write all day about tournaments, but here we'll move
on to much more interesting things, like how to make a living at
it. Reference any of the many articles or books on tournament
fishing techniques you need. Meanwhile, let's move on to the
important stuff for a professional: finances.
Part 5. Sponsors and Teaching.
When it comes to professional fishing, particularly tournament
fishing, sponsors make the world go 'round. If you add up the
expenses, you'll find out may 4 or 5 guys out of a 500 man
tournament actually cover their expenses. On a professional
trail, perhaps half a dozen guys will actually show a profit from
tournament winnings any given year. What keeps the trails going
are the sponsors.
First, let's look at the budget for
a typical professional trail. You'll have 6 or 8 tournaments to
commit to, but we'll just look at one and then do the math.
You'll need to make at least two trips to the tournament site for
a good chance to cash a check: one before cut off and then one
the week of the tournament. Figure about $200 a week for tow
vehicle gas, another $200 for the boat. If you share expenses
with other pros on the same trail, (always a great idea), then
maybe $75 a day in hotel, meals, and miscellaneous expenses.
You'll have between $600 and $2500 in entry fees depending on the
trail and the tournament, so figure maybe $1500 average. Add in
maintenance on the gear, vehicle and boat, for say, another $200.
So, with 10% in reserve, your budget should be about $4,000 per
tournament or up to around $30,000 in expenses for the trail and
about 4 months you're not working and drawing a pay check. And,
of course, tournament season is always right in the middle of the
best bass season back home so you're loosing the best guiding
days, and tips, of the year. You need help….Bad.
Then look at the attitudes of the sponsors.
They are in business to sell products or services to fishermen,
and that means you. They ARE NOT in the business of giving money
away, and if they were, it still wouldn't be to you. So, if they
won't give you money, you're left with the old fashion way, you
have to earn it. Here is where those advertising courses pay off.
If you know what the sponsors are looking for, then you're in a
better position to provide it.
There are all sorts and levels of sponsors. You'll need them
all. Start small and work your way up. You can find sponsors even
for your guide business if you work at it. If you want to make
ends meet, or even wave at each other, you need to learn how to
attract them and keep them.
Image is everything. You need to
look like a good product spokesman. Grungy fishermen straight off
a day on the water need not apply. You need to look neat,
confident, and in control. Nothing controversial like beards or
long hair. As silly as it might sound, stay in shape. A good
athletic look always sells well. TV pitch men are a good example,
maybe less the tie. You need to speak well, and be at ease in
public, (remember those speech courses and communications?)
You're out there representing the image of the company, take it
serious, it's your job.
Early sponsors suitable for guide businesses are really a
barter arrangement type deal primarily involving discounts. The
tackle store gives you your bait a half price for being a regular
and sending customers their way. You might find a marine mechanic
willing to keep your motor serviced and running in return for
advertising space on your boat, motor, or truck. Bait companies
may furnish samples for your customers or give you deep discounts
for using their baits on trips and maybe wearing the company hat
or logo on your shirt. Don't only think about fishing related
items. One guy I know gives boat sign space to a Cleaning
business in return for doing his wash and dry cleaning. Another
guide has a sweetheart deal with a local filling station where
his boat was ordered in the company colors and the sign was a
decal put under the clear coat, for which he gets free gas and
oil at the station. Be creative! You don't know until you ask and
all they can say is "no", (a word you'll get use to
Next level is where you start asking for a little cash.
Instead of sponsoring fishing trips, you normally have better
luck sponsoring seminars. You can set up fishing seminars at
local sporting goods stores, schools, clubs, just about anywhere.
Offer a public seminar some Saturday morning for kids in a public
park with a lake. You can approach bait companies, tackle shops,
boat deals, etc. to pay you $50 or $100 as a major sponsor and
include their name and logo on any fliers or advertising you do,
(might try to get a copying company to co-sponsor by providing
the fliers.) Radio stations will often advertise for you as a
co-sponsor if the seminar is being held at one of their normal
advertiser's locations. To hone your seminar skills, start off on
your time and nickel. Public schools are always a favorite.
Summer time activities many times are coordinated by the city or
county providing a willing and interested audience of kids
looking for something to do. The more of these you can show on a
resume, the better off you'll be attracting sponsors from here on
out. Civic organizations or social services like Big Brother /
Big Sister are another source of audiences. Get good at this, if
you're a tournament pro this will be your new job.
Now comes the time you're ready to graduate.
You've won a couple of regional events, maybe have a couple of
trial chances at national trails that have come close, have a
good resume, a local reputation and some strong local
sponsorship. You're operating at a high enough level now where
there are no set rules, but there are some guidelines. Don't
worry too much about the major manufacturers, they are already
sponsoring the top names in the sport and until you've got a win
or two under your belt, save your breath. Initially you're
looking to offset major expenses, (say entry fees.) It's kind of
a chicken and egg problem, until you commit to the national
trail, the sponsors won't bite, and without their support, you
can't afford to commit. Normally, you go to your best local
sponsors and try to bump it up a notch. The local sporting goods
store may not have the budget, but their regional office might
and the local manager might be talked into putting in a good word
or two. If there are locally based national corporations, then
national headquarters are always good visits, even if the
connection isn't obvious, (worth a shot.) You should have quite a
bit of experience at this point of presenting to sponsors and
know the type of thing they are looking for. Once you commit,
(which may come mostly out of your own pocket the first year or
two), then things get a little easier. For example, most major
boat and motor manufacturers have memo bill programs. Under this
type of sponsorship, a touring pro will agree to exclusively use
that brand, proudly wear the shirt and hat, and make a few
personal appearances. In return, the start of the year you pick
up your boat at the factory and are billed at wholesale on a
memo. The bill is due at the END of the year. This means you can
use the boat all year, sell it at the end of the year (at a
profit if you take good care of it), and use the proceeds to pay
the supplier the wholesale price. Then you pick up next year's
boat while you're there. Nice deal, fairly easy to get once
you're on the trail. Many such deals are available. It doesn't
pay your expenses, but does reduce them a bunch. As you get to
know other pros on your trail, you'll find other opportunities
for sponsors will present themselves. You may never make money
casting for cash, but after a few years if you're a good
spokesman, at least it will stop costing you much to try.
Well, that's about the best I can do. If
you're seriously thinking about becoming a professional, at least
you've got and idea of what it's all about. It's certainly not
what you see on TV, and there are lots of places to fail and road
blocks in the way. But if you're determined, plan it well, and
think before acting, you can make a career out of fishing. Best
of Luck and put me down for a guide trip in your area.