Hank Parker: From Dirt Poor to Big Money
Editor’s Note: If there ever was a total outdoorsman, Mossy Oak Pro Hank Parker is one. A Bassmaster Classic champion twice, a master deer hunter who has taken 19 bucks that scored 170 or more, a race car driver and a TV host, Hank Parker has done it all. This week we’ll take a deeper look at the man who produces three TV shows, “Hank Parker 3D” and “Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine” on the Pursuit Channel and “Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood” on the Outdoor Channel. “I started wearing Mossy Oak as soon as it came to the market, and I’ve been wearing it for close to 30 years,” Parker explains. “For the last 6 years, I've adopted the Mossy Oak family as my family.” Hank is a staunch member of the Mossy Oak fraternity. We’ve watched as his life has changed courses throughout the years. Parker also is key to the success of C’Mere Deer and Swhacker Broadheads.
Mossy Oak: Hank, tell us how you first got into the outdoor business.
Parker: When I was young, all I wanted to do was hunt squirrels, rabbits, quail and other small game. I also fished, but hunting was my passion. I hunted all during the fall and winter and fished during the spring and summer. When I was 18-years old, I decided to be a professional fisherman, because that was the time when fishing tournaments really came on strong and were growing. If there had been an opportunity back then to be a professional hunter, I probably wouldn’t have become a professional fisherman.
Mossy Oak: Hank, why did you decide to become a professional fisherman?
Parker: I read outdoor magazines every time a new one came to the newsstands. I read about Roland Martin, John Powell, Tom Mann and many of the early pioneers in tournament bass fishing. When I was only 16-years old, I thought to myself, “Man, I can do that.” So, I set my life track to be a professional fisherman. I thought about being a professional fisherman for a year. At age 17, I was rock solid about what my career would be and already was winning some local tournaments. I pursued tournament bass fishing with every ounce of energy that I had. I got married when I was 19 and already had fished some Bassmaster Federation tournaments. I was in two different bass clubs, and I moved to Lake Wylie in South Carolina to spend almost every waking hour fishing and learning how to fish.
In 1976, I really got committed to becoming a tournament bass fisherman and borrowed $10,000 from the Northwestern Bank in Maiden, North Carolina. I couldn’t afford to fish in the B.A.S.S. tournaments. Back then, National Bass Circuit charged $200 to enter their tournaments and B.A.S.S. charged $250. But B.A.S.S. also had horsepower restrictions on outboard motors. You couldn’t have a motor more than 150 hp. The motor on my boat was 175 hp. So, with the equipment I had, I couldn’t fish the B.A.S.S. circuit. The first year I started fishing the National Bass Circuit, I won Angler of the Year, made enough money to pay off my bank note and had some money left over.
In 1977, I started fishing three different tournament circuits - American Bass, National Bass and Untied Bass Association tournaments. I won some money and had some money left over from my winnings. But that year one of the checks from one of the organizations bounced, and we had some problems getting the money from our winnings. I remember one fellow in the audience came up to me and said, “Hank, you have the talent and the desire to fish the B.A.S.S. circuit, and their checks don’t bounce.” I was fishing a tournament on Kentucky Lake. I called my wife and asked her to call B.A.S.S. and enter me in all the tournaments that B.A.S.S. was sponsoring in 1978. At that time, I was making pretty good money ($18,000 to $20,000 per year, which was big money back then). So, I was able to buy a new boat and motor. In 1978, National Bass and American Bass merged and became a strong tournament organization. They had top name tournament fishermen fishing their circuit in 1978. So, I fished on the B.A.S.S. and the National Bass circuits. I won three tournaments that year. Roland Martin beat me by one point for the Angler of the Year on the National Bass Circuit. I qualified in 9th place for the Bassmaster Classic.
Mossy Oak: Hank, when was your breakthrough year in tournament bass fishing?
Parker: In 1979, I won three consecutive bass tournaments, and I also won the Bassmaster Classic. From that year moving forward, I quit paying interest on loans, stopped sleeping in cheap motels and started making over $100,000 per year. I never dreamed I’d be able to make that much money, especially fishing. Making that much money was beyond possible for what I thought a fisherman could earn.
Go to http://www.hankparker.com/ to learn more about Hank Parker.
Tomorrow: Hank Parker: Here Comes Television