Bradley Roy of Lancaster, KY, became the youngest angler to ever qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series at age 19 in 2009. He was the 2010 Rookie of the Year and has 30 Top-50 B.A.S.S. finishes. The annual Bradley Roy Open sends four anglers to the B.A.S.S. High School National Championship. He’s active on his Facebook page at Facebook.com/ProBradleyRoy.
Becoming a professional bass angler is without a doubt the coolest thing that has ever happened in my life. I never imagined all the places I would get to go and the opportunities it would present. And I’m not just talking about chances to go catch fish all over the country. I am also talking about the opportunity to help others in their fishing endeavors. Still to this day I get excited when someone sends a Facebook message asking for my advice about something related to fishing. I love the questions and answer each one to the best of my ability.
Without a doubt, there is one question I get more than any other – “How do I become a pro bass fisherman?”
Everybody wants advice on; which path is the best, obtaining sponsors, what age to start fishing a certain tournament trail, and so on. All are very valid questions for an up-and-coming- angler and must be answered at some point. I think back to a young 19-year-old Kentucky boy named Bradley who certainly was trying to find some answers when he qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series. One thing I know looking back is that I don’t believe you can ever be fully prepared for the shark tank that is fishing a circuit like the Elite Series. I also know I wish I had been more prepared, simply because it would have made life a lot easier for the first few years.
When talking about fishing professionally many people focus on the cost, time away from home, dealing with media, and all the glamorous things that come along with the title of “pro angler”. One detail that seems to get overlooked is fishing ability. Sure learning how to grab a shirt-full of sponsors is important but that’s a learning curve all in itself. Mastering the basics of fishing at each level also plays a huge role and I think most don’t focus on this area like they should.
I know from experience that unless you come over from another professional circuit or have years under your belt at a high level of competition, it’s going to be pretty hard to compete with guys like Kevin VaDam or Aaron Martens. I’m not saying you have to be ready to deal with those monsters once you’ve qualified. What I am saying is that you should work really hard at each level and soak up as much knowledge and skill as you can. We all know that fishing is a never-ending learning game, but there are some basics to big-time tournament fishing that one should know before taking on a professional circuit level.
It’s a different game at the top. Ever watch a high school team play basketball and then watch a college team? You will notice an obvious difference in speed. Then go check out a professional team and the speed at which the game is played will blow your mind. That happens in fishing too, even if it’s not evident on the surface. That pattern a local angler put together in two days – Ott DeFoe just put it together in about ten minutes.
I have tremendous respect for local anglers (they beat me regularly in tournaments on my home lake) but top anglers are unbelievably good at piecing the puzzle together quickly on bodies of water they see for the first time. Getting better at this skill is all a process. And there is only one way to get better at that process – put yourself through it more. Not only do you need repetitions, but you also need them in the right settings.
This is one area where high school fishing pays huge dividends. The earlier you can start the process of figuring out the fish the better angler you will become down the road. High school tournaments can take you out of your comfort zone and create wonderful opportunities for competition and improvement. High school fishing also feeds nicely into collegiate fishing, which then feeds into the next levels after college.
Wherever you find yourself right now as an angler, I encourage you to master it before moving up to the next level. Never forget there is always more to learn in the game of fishing. I’ve still got a long way to go before I master this skill called “fishing” but that’s what makes it fun – it’s always a challenge.