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Taking the Next Step to Becoming a Professional Angler

provided by John E. Phillips

At the 2020 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Championship, Tucker Smith won his third National Championship with two different partners from Briarwood High School in Birmingham Alabama. Each of these three championships had from 200-300, two-man high-school teams participating in it. In 2020, Smith fished with Hayden Marbut, and the team brought in 47 pounds and 5 ounces of bass. The tournament was held on Kentucky Lake.

Marbut Smith 2020 Bassmaster High School

How does a high-school tournament fisherman get sponsors?

I’ve learned a lot through my high-school bass-fishing career and realize that chasing sponsors and beating down their doors is not the way to get sponsors. First you must understand what sponsors want from a high-school fisherman, and I’ve learned sponsors want a person who knows how to market himself and how to market the products that sponsors produce. Someone told me that Rick Clunn, four-time Bassmaster Classic champion, once answered the question, “How do you get sponsors,” with, “Prove you don’t need them. When you’ve proven you can win tournaments and that you can talk to people and promote sponsors, the sponsors will come after you. You don’t have to go after them.” I’ve found those words to be absolutely the truth. 

Sponsors also are interested in your ability to market yourself and their products on social media pages, your ability to speak to people and teach people to use their products like you do. If you show that you can benefit a company’s sales of products and present yourself and your fishing and teach others to use their products, those companies will come looking for you. I’ve learned to start building relationships with sponsors throughout my high school career. 

Another tremendous help in knowing how to work with sponsors is to find a professional angler to help mentor and teach you what to do to cause sponsors to come looking for you. Aaron Martens, who fishes the Bassmaster Elite Series and is a three time winner of the Angler-of-the-year title, has been a tremendous help to me; and also Joey Nania, who’s a guide on Alabama’s Lay Lake and is sponsored by and works with Z-Man Lure Company. Joey has been mentoring me, since I was really young. These men not only have taught me how to be a better fisherman and how to work with sponsors, but also how to discipline myself to do what I need to do to succeed at bass fishing. They’ve also been open to any questions I have about my fishing skills, as well as working with sponsors.

I believe that the shortest distance to get from where I am to where I want to be is to listen to the advice of the people who already have made that journey and have been highly successful, like Joey and Aaron. Those two anglers have tons of experience, and they’re willing to share what they’ve learned with me. They know that if they help me out now, hopefully one day, if I make it to the pro circuit, I’ll be able to help them out. I really believe having a professional fisherman as a mentor and learning to trust his advice is critical to grow from a high school fisherman into a collegiate angler and then make the jump from college tournament fishing to the pros.

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