Professional bass fishermen make a lot of money, but there’s a difference in earning a lot of money and keeping much of it. When an angler wins a tournament and his winnings are $100,000 or $500 million, we automatically think he gets to keep all that money. Regardless of any business you’re in, you'll keep much more money, if you don’t have to pay expenses. So, what’s the cost of being a professional fisherman?
Each tournament I fish costs about $7,500 for entry fee, food, lodging and gas. That doesn’t include the price of my boat, motors, electronics, rods, reels, tackle, trailer, truck, insurance and maintenance on all the equipment required to be a tournament bass fisherman. A tournament fisherman often travels from coast to coast, and most of us fish more than one tournament circuit. When you're putting that many miles on a truck, trailer and a boat, you're going to have unforeseen costs for maintenance.
Since I once had a number of electrical problems, and that was very expensive, I started rigging all the wiring on my boat myself. That helped minimize my electrical problems. Today, I have far less problems than I've had in the past. You’ve got to remember. When you take off at the beginning of the tournament, you may run from 5-25 miles as hard and as fast you can go. Wires will come loose. Or, maybe you haven’t gotten a good crimp when you’ve put wires together and that comes loose. Or, perhaps the people who have rigged your boat haven’t used the right splices. Little problems can lose a tournament for you. If you have to depend on someone else to solve those little problems, you can spend a good bit of the money you earn keeping your electronics in order, or possibly losing a day of fishing because of your electronics.
Another thing that fishermen who want to be tournament anglers may not account for is that they have to pay taxes on the money they win. Some states and some cities take taxes out of your winnings, even before you get your money. Then you have to pay income taxes and self-employment taxes. Remember, you have to buy health and life insurance for you and your family, and you have to plan for your own retirement. If you have to go to the doctor on the road, that can be expensive. There are numbers of hidden expenses that the general public doesn’t think about when they see a professional fisherman receive a big check at the end of a competition.
Tournament fishing is a business. As a tournament fisherman, you have to pay all the expenses that any other type of business has to pay. Also, you can’t exclude where you and your family live. You still have to pay for lights, gas, water and all the expenses and insurance required to have a home, feed your family, buy their clothing and repair whatever breaks.
Sure, some pros have and are making over $1 million, but that’s before taxes and expenses. The proprietor of a hotdog restaurant may charge $2 or $3 for a hotdog, which may seem a lot for a wiener on a bun, but he also has to pay rent on the building where the establishment is located and utilities and purchase the wieners, hotdog buns, and condiments to make a good hotdog. He has to pay for a business license, insurance and taxes. When something spills or breaks, he has to clean it up, fix it and/or pay someone to clean it up and fix it. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a tournament fisherman. I love competing as a bass fisherman. I love the travel, and I love to win. When a fisherman wins a big tournament, that check is not just spending money for him. When you take out all the expenses, the check is not nearly as big as it appears to be when he walks across the stage and picks it up at the end of the tournament.