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By GCI ambassadorGrae Buck
The life of a professional fisherman is a wild ride. Now on my 7th tour season, I’m no stranger to the lifestyle of a traveling bass angler! Below, I’ll walk through what it’s like to fish the MLF Pro Circuit.
Professional bass anglers are truly living the dream—but while the rewards can be monumental, the lows can be seriously discouraging, and you handle them can make or break your career. This profession requires commitment, sweat, and tears. Tournament season can be especially rough, with early mornings and late nights, and being away from home for up to three weeks at a time, all for the chance at a win.
Before Leaving Home
Lakes vary significantly depending on time of year, and when unpredictable weather patterns, water levels, and other variables are added to the mix, tournament fishing can be a challenge for even the best angler. Preparation is critical, so I conduct research at home before arriving at the lake. I watch videos and read about historical patterns, study maps and Google Earth, and review past tournament results. This gives me a general idea of what to expect.
Ready for takeoff. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
Two Practice Days
The week of the tournament, all 160 competitors are allotted two days of practice to dissect the body of water we’ll be fishing. We’re allowed on the water from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset, and I take advantage every second. It’s no small feat to learn to scout out and dial in the bite on massive bodies of water, some over 100,000 acres! Executing an effective practice is what sets the most successful anglers apart from the rest.
The ultimate goal is to place high in the standings, so practice is a delicate balance of trying to cover as much as water as possible in just two days, while honing in on the right baits, techniques, and areas of the lake.
Every fisherman has their own “confidence” bait, and mine is a Z-Man Jackhammer Chatterbait. This is my bait of choice for practice because with it I can fish quickly, covering a lot of water, while feeling confident that I will get the bites, and then I can determine whether an area is worth fishing on tournament day. With uncountable factors, reducing “lure error” is crucial during practice. The Jackhammer gets it done.
Between the practice days and the first tournament day there is an “off day” allowing the competitors to prep tackle and boats and to complete registration.
Every bite counts in professional fishing, so each rod is re-spooled with fresh line, with an assortment of fresh hooks and lures tied on. After everything is prepared for the tournament morning, I like to spend a couple of evening hours in my RoadTrip Rocker™, relaxing and mentally regrouping.
All anglers fish for the first and second days of the MLF Pro Circuit tournament. Cumulative weight will decide the top 50 competitors to fish on day three, so everyone is out for their five biggest bass during these first two days. Making the top 50 cut also guarantees a $10,000 check and extremely valuable Angler of the Year points toward qualification for the championship at the end of the season.
After the third day of the tournament, the top ten anglers qualify to compete on day four, with a shot at $100,000! The weights reset on the final day for an exciting top ten shootout. Finally, the season culminates with a championship tournament for the top 50 anglers in the point standings.
Time for the weigh-in! Photo by Cobi Pellerito.
Behind the Scenes
The untelevised side of practice and tournament fishing includes long, grueling days spent on the water in all weather conditions, running on little sleep, and battling the pressure of the tournament, on top of whatever challenges the lake throws at you that week.
Aside from the tournaments themselves, much of a professional fisherman’s career is done behind the scenes. Sponsorships are critical in this sport. Both before and after our time on the water, we spend hours managing social media and promoting sponsors’ products. Each tournament is followed by creating videos for YouTube and content for Facebook and Instagram.
The work doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Photo by Jody White.
The life of a professional angler is one of highs and lows, hard work, and dedication to the sport. My sponsors make it all possible, so they have my sincere thanks!If you’d like to join me on the journey, check out my fly fishing tips or follow Grae Buck Fishing on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.