Is Becoming a Professional Fisherman Harder Than Ever?
There are a ton of anglers across the nation and all over the world that have the desire to be a professional fisherman. I'm one of those people, but unfortunately in fishing there is no streamlined process like most other professional sports. For example, I grew up playing baseball. With baseball there is a clear path to making it to the MLB. You start by playing Little League, then move to a travel team, or PONY League, then to your high school team, then you get drafted, or maybe you went to college, and then get drafted. My point is that the road is essentially paved and there is a clear path. For the most part, if you're good enough, you can get there. The barrier to entry is small, and the overall equipment costs are small. Yes, I know gloves and bats, and other gear can be expensive, but it's not going to be the same as an aspiring angler. That's what I want to discuss in this article.
I am going to break down the costs associated with fishing one event of the FLW Toyota Series or one BASS Open. The I'm going multiply that by 3 or 4 for the total number of events for the specific series. The FLW Toyota Series has 3 events per division and the BASS Opens have 4 events per division.
There is no qualifying event for the BASS Opens of the FLW Toyota Series. Anyone can enter and anyone can fish. The only thing you need to do is sign up and pay the entry fee. This is where we are going to start. If you don't pay the entry fee, then you aren't going fishing. The reason I am picking these two trails is because these are the qualifying trails to make the FLW Pro Circuit or the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The entry fee for one FLW Toyota Series event is $1700 and the entry fee for one BASS Open is $1800. No casts has been made, no fish have been caught, no tackle has been bought, no food eaten, no hotel book, no gas put in the boat or truck, and you're already out of pocket almost $2000.
There are a number of factors that can determine the specific amount of costs that are involved in the amount of money you will spend on gas. Where you live will make a difference, where the tournament is located will make a difference. For example, California has very expensive gas prices, close to the most expensive prices in the nation (currently around $2.90 - $3.20/gallon). Know that there are some differences in prices, I am going to use $2.00 a gallon for our example.
We can use my boat for an example as well. Some boats have larger gas tanks and larger motors, and some are smaller. My 2019 Skeeter ZX225 has a 44 gallon gas tank. With the $2.00 per gallon gas price thats $88.00 to fill the tank. You can easily use ½ to ¾ tank a day during practice. You generally have at least 3 days of practice, and in many events anglers are practicing more than 3 days. This will equate to about $44 - $66 a day in fuel. Let's do the math now, you have 3 days of practice and 2-3 days of the tournament. For the full practice and event the gas costs are about $264 - $396.
You also have gas for the truck. These costs are about the same. I have about 10 hours of travel time to get to most of my events. We can use the Delta for an example for fuel costs. The Delta is about 475 miles away. When towing my boat up there I go throw about two tanks of gas. My truck has a 36 gallon tank. If it takes two tanks of gas to get the the lake tanks at $2.00 a gallon = $144, so to get to the event and back is $288. Now let's factor in some driving around to get to and from the boat ramp, or out to eat. I'd estimate using about another 1/2 tank of gas in and around the city you're fishing in, so that's another $26.00. So in total you're looking at around $314.00 in gas for the truck.
Lodging can range significantly based on location, amenities, number of roommates, renting an AirBnb, camping, having a truck camper, region of the country you're in, etc. I think a fair number per night is $50. Obviously, you can spend more or less depending on the factors I mentioned already.
Typically, I stay the night before my first day of practice, the 3 days of practice and first 2 tournament days, which means you're driving home after day 3. This is a 6 nights total for approximately $300. Remember though, many events anglers are practicing longer than 3 days, or stay an extra night so they aren't driving home after a long day and long event, so this number could easily be higher.
We all need to eat, this cost will vary from person to person as well. Things that can impact costs are going to a grocery store to get food for the week, eating fast food every day versus eating at a restaurant, and the shear amount of food you eat. I’d say a fair estimate on food per day is $40.00. Some people may be more and some people may be less.
The number of days you are away for an event are what will impact this cost. Let's break it down. You're going to have at least 1 day of travel, 3 practice days, 2-3 tournament days, 1 travel day to get home. Total of 7-8 days x $40 a day is $280.00 - $320.00.
If you haven't noticed already, I haven't event mentioned the equipment you'll need to actually catch a bass at the event! Each lake is different, and each body of water has unique factors. Some tournaments you’ll need heavy line, and some you’ll need light line. Do you need new crank baits, plastics, etc.? There’s always something you’ll need to buy in preparation for an event. I’d estimate re-spooling at least 5-6 rods for a single event. A typical spool of fluorocarbon runs around $25.00. I like to use some sort of a backing on my reels so I don't use as much fluorocarbon and generally get two reels spooled from one 300 yard spool of fluorocarbon. I'd estimate around $75-$100 for just new line.
Soft plastics and the rest are hard to gauge. If you’re a tackle hoarder you may have what you need, but if you don’t carry a ton of tackle in your boat all the time, you may need to buy more than someone else, but I’d say adding in another $100 on tackle is a safe number. In many cases this number could be higher.
So in total estimate around $200.00 in tackle for the event.
I've broken down many of the costs associated with the event individually, so now let's do the math and figure out our total estimated costs for 1 event:
Averaged entry fee $1750
Averaged Boat Gas $330
Averaged Truck Gas $314
Total Costs $3,194
Now to fish an entire season you’ll need to multiply that number by 3 events to fish one division of the FLW Toyota Series, and multiply that 4 times to fish one division of the BASS Opens series.
Total Cost FLW Toyota Series (3 events) - $9,582
Total Cost BASS Opens Series (4 events) - $12,776
If you end up qualifying to fish the FLW Pro Circuit or Bassmaster Elite Series you probably cashed a check or two along the way and will offset some of these costs, and If you're lucky made money on the season. Often, there's a learning curve that many of us have to experience and unfortunately that means, not cashing checks at first, and paying your dues. You may go a season or two, or three, without much if any success. I don't say this to discourage you, I say this because the road to fish professionally is a long one, and an expensive one. I'm in the middle of pursuing this dream myself. I'm outlining all this information, so you can use it as a guide and have an idea of what you are getting yourself into when you make a decision to chase this dream.
One last thing to keep in mind as you're chasing this dream: As a thank you from both the FLW and BASS organizations for making their top tier levels, you will get a nice bill to pay $5,000 for each event the following year!