Paths to Become a Pro Angler
At some point, every youth, high school, and college angler dreams of becoming a professional angler. Anyone can decide to fish in high school and college if he or she is enrolled and has the minimum GPA requirement to be eligible. If you are a high school student and your school does not have a fishing team, read here for some suggestions on how to start one. Competing in high school tournaments will prepare you for college fishing, and it will also help build your resume if you aspire to obtain a fishing scholarship. Competing in college tournaments will help prepare you for competing at the semi-pro, and even the pro level if you choose to do that.
There are 3 separate professional bass fishing organizations: Bassmaster, Major League Fishing, and the National Professional Fishing League. Bassmaster (B.A.S.S.) and Major League Fishing (MLF) have different levels of tournaments that offer paths to become a professional angler, The National Professional Fishing League (NPFL) is a new professional tournament trail that launched in March of 2021 that currently has no qualifying trails to compete on the trail. The inaugural season allowed anglers to submit resumes for consideration to compete, and if accepted competitors paid a $30,000 entry fee for six tournaments
Stepping into Semi-Pro
Obviously, semi-pro level events are not inexpensive to enter. Sponsors do play a huge role in paying the pro-level anglers’ expenses, but how do you get to that level? Tournament expenses can be a huge burden along with the tough competition, however high school and college fishing can be a stepping stone to get to the next level. There are two paths to making it to the next level through college fishing: Carhartt Bassmaster College Series and MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing. The Bassmaster College Series gives anglers a chance to compete for a spot in the legendary Bassmaster Classic. The top 3 anglers from the Bassmaster College Series National Championship along with the Team of the Year compete in a head-to-head bracket style competition. The winner advances to the Bassmaster Classic and has his or her entry fees are paid to compete in all of the Bassmaster Opens for the following year. As an alternate route, MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing gives college anglers a chance to qualify for the Toyota Series Championship, with the top boater prize being $235,000, including a Phoenix Boat valued at $35,000, and the top co-angler prize being a Phoenix Boat. Both anglers of the top two teams at the College Fishing National Championship receive qualifications for the Toyota Series Championship as boaters, and both anglers of the third-place team receive qualifications as co-anglers.
The Big Leap: Semi-Pro to Pro
There are 3 paths to making it to the professional level as a bass fisherman. It’s not an easy route, but it’s possible. Check out the odds here.
Path 1: Bassmaster
The Bassmaster Elite Series has existed since 2006, and it has been the standard for professional fishing tournaments since then. Only 12 anglers from the Bassmaster Opens advance to the Elite Series each year depending on how they are placed in the division standings and overall points standings. The entry fees are $1800 per tournament for boaters, and $475 for co-anglers. While there is no professional level for co-anglers, fishing in the back of the boat can be a great learning experience for an angler who wants to fish professionally in the future but needs to know more about what it’s like. The competition is fierce in the Bassmaster Opens, and one bad day can ruin your chances of making it to the Elite Series for that year. The top boater in an Open event receives $35,000, and also, if he or she were to enter all tournaments in that division, a qualification in the prestigious Bassmaster Classic.
Path 2: Major League Fishing
A great way for an angler to work his or her way up the ladder is to start out competing in MLF Phoenix Bass Fishing League tournaments. Through this route, an angler can enter a division as a boater or co-angler and fish lakes close to home, qualify for the Regional Championship, qualify for the BFL All-American, then qualify for the Toyota Series Championship. The top boater from the Regional Championship receives $10,000 plus a Phoenix 819 Pro valued at $50,000, and the top co-angler receives a Phoenix 819 Pro. The top six boaters and co-anglers from each Regional Championship advance to the BFL All-American for a chance to win $120,000 for a boater and a Phoenix 819 Pro valued at $50,000 for a co-angler. The top finishing boater and co-angler from each Regional Championship at the BFL All-American qualifies for the Toyota Series Championship for a chance to win $235,000 for a boater and $35,000 for a co-angler.
While the Bassmaster Elite Series and Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit (formerly known as FLW Tour) have existed for years, the Bass Pro Tour is finishing up its third season. To qualify for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, an angler must place in the top 5 in his or her division standings through the Toyota Series. If an angler is already qualified for the Pro Circuit, they will keep working down the list until the spots are filled. To qualify for the Bass Pro Tour, an angler must place top 10 in the Pro Circuit Angler of the Year standings.
Path 3: National Professional Fishing League (NPFL)
As mentioned before, this is a new professional tournament trail that is just finishing up its inaugural season, and there are no qualifications that are needed to compete in this trail, nor are there any advancement opportunities for higher levels through this trail. So how do you enter? Well, it was a first-come first-serve basis when they started accepting applications for 2021 and it costs $30,000 to enter. The first-place prize money is $50,000 per tournament. Applications are closed for the 2022 season, but more information about applying to compete in the 2023 season is to be determined.