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How I Became a Professional Bass Fisherman

Twenty-six-year-old Jordan Lee of Guntersville, Alabama, won the 2017 Bassmaster Classic and $300,000. He recently joined the Mossy Oak Fishing Team. Lee shares some insight into how he reached the professional bass fishing circuit.

Jordan Lee Mossy Oak Fishing

Jordan Lee | Mossy Oak Fishing Team

If you’re truly passionate about pursuing a professional bass fishing career, start early. Fish high school bass fishing tournaments to gain experience. I recommend a college education followed by a good job that allows some flexibility. You’ll need a lot of money to be a professional fisherman. Starting out as a professional fisherman, you're not going to make much money. So, you definitely need some financial backing before you get started. Entry fees on the Bassmaster Elite Circuit are $50,000 per year. Your traveling expenses – motels, food and gas - will be at least another $30,000. When you figure repairs to your equipment and buying tackle, that’s another $20,000.
 
While in college, fish the college bass fishing circuit, and meet the people you need to know to get sponsors. When I graduated from college, I told myself, “I don’t have very much money, but I'm going to take what I have and see what I can earn on the Southern Opens circuit.” 

That first year I made money, and I qualified for the Elite Circuit, the top level of competitive bass fishing. I’d had four years of tournament bass fishing experience, too, while I was in college. So, I knew what to expect. My first year on the Elite Circuit, I earned a little over $100,000. Because I also had sponsors, I finished that first year with some money in my pocket. If I hadn’t fished in college and picked up great companies like Carhartt and other sponsors, I might not have been able to continue fishing after that first year. Besides learning the craft of tournament fishing in college, I met my sponsors, learned how to work with them and knew they were willing to help support my dream. 

After I won the college bass fishing bracket, a company named Dynamic Sponsorships that gives college bass fishing winners an opportunity to move up to the next level, contacted me. Dynamic Sponsorships deals with non-endemic companies. The company’s job is to find fishermen it believes have the potential to be good representatives of major companies and corporations in the fishing industry. My brother Matt and I were able to get to know Dynamic when they were looking for anglers to sponsor during the Bassmaster Opens Series Tournaments in hopes that those fishermen would make it to the Bassmaster Elite Series. It has been a great opportunity for Matt and me to work with Dynamic Sponsorships. 

Really and truly, fishing on that college bass fishing team provided two key elements to my success and my ability to later fish on the Bassmaster Elite Circuit. 

Fishing on the college circuit: 

  • gave me a realistic look at what tournament bass fishing was all about, including the travel, the competition and everything that possibly could happen if I continued on in professional fishing, and
  • provided an opportunity to meet and get to know sponsors and for them to get to know me. Then when I was ready to take the next step, they would be there for me. I might have made it on the Elite Circuit without college, but I know it would have been much harder and taken much longer if I hadn’t gone to college. 

Something else that I think impressed sponsors was that I could multitask. I could study and make the grades to graduate college, and I could fish hard and gain some success in tournament bass fishing. Plus, I learned the fundamentals of business and marketing from my college courses, and I was able to take what I’d learned in class and use that to help promote my sponsors’ products on the college tournament circuit. I don’t want to give anyone a false idea that getting a college education and tournament fishing for four years is easy, because it’s not! But I believed, and still do believe, it’s the best way to get from where I was after high school to where I am today – fishing the Bassmaster Elite Circuit.

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