Basses come in many different varieties and can be found in small freshwater streams and deep cold seas. They are some of the most popular game fish throughout the world, prompting many anglers to compete nationally and worldwide for the title of bass fishing champion. But how do you become a pro bass fisherman?
To become a professional bass fisherman, you will need to learn how to identify bass. Additionally, you should set goals, acquire quality gear, visit new fishing spots, and attempt multiple fishing techniques. Finally, it’s crucial to enter and compete in a professional bass tournament.
To become the best bass angler, you’ll need to master several aspects of professional fishing. In this article, we’ll explore those aspects and discover how you might become a professional bass fisherman!
Learn About the Different Types of Bass
There are quite a few fish species that fall under the umbrella term ‘bass.’ Learning how to identify and differentiate these species is crucial to becoming a skilled and professional bass angler.
You’ll want to learn more about these various families before choosing a fishing hole and picking up a new rod and reel. After all, a fishing rig that’s ideal for a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) might scare away the smaller, more timid Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius).
Understanding your preferred game fish’s diet, habitat, mating patterns, and general physiology could shorten the amount of time you spend learning bass fishing basics. A little pre-expedition study goes a long way, especially if you’re not familiar with the many species of bass fish.
We’ve briefly summarized each of the nine primary bass fish families to help you along your way. While exploring these families, take note of any particular species that may catch your eye. This way, you can develop a rough list of the fish you’d like to reel in.
- Centrarchidae: This family is also known as the Sunfish family. Most fish belonging to this family are relatively flat and thin, with highly reflective scales that shimmer in the sunlight. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and rock bass all belong to this family.
- Moronidae: This family consists primarily of basses. The Moronidae family includes the spotted seabass, the European seabass, the white bass, the yellow bass, and the striped bass. As such, this unique grouping is partially freshwater fish and partially brackish and saltwater specimens.
- Latidae: The Asian sea bass is one of the most infamous members of this fish family. Also called barramundi, this particular fish is prized for its culinary applications. Consequently, it’s quickly becoming a popular farmed fish and a substantial fishing opportunity for competitive anglers.
- Percichthyidae: Though this family primarily contains perches, the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) is the solitary bass member. Anglers moving through the families and checking off their catch list might feel relieved to know that this family only consists of one bass.
- Serranidae: There are more than 400 species of fish in this family, and quite a few are basses. There are sea basses, reef basses, threadfin basses, and leather basses, just to name a few. Anglers can spend several years attempting to catch all of the bass fish belonging to the Serranidae family.
- Nototheniidae: Chilean sea bass belongs to this family. While its placement here might be a tad contentious (as many ichthyologists and anglers don’t consider it a real bass), it’s crucial to note that this fish is highly prized for its delectable taste and massive size variation.
- Polyprionidae: This family is called the wreckfish family. It includes two types of bass: the giant sea bass and the stone bass. As such, this family is notable for having some gigantic basses. When size matters, it might be best to search for members of this fish family.
- Acropomatidae: This tiny family is notable to bass anglers because it contains the small rosy seabass. This fish is more commonly known as the blackthroat seaperch, though collectivists are bound to add this species to their catch records.
- Cichlidae: The Cichlidae family is massive. The peacock bass, an elusive fish known for its impressive size and wide color variation, is a member of this family. While some might not consider the peacock bass to be a real bass, much like the Chilean sea bass, it still deserves at least a brief mention due to its game qualities.
Set Timely Fishing Goals
No angler becomes a professional overnight. It takes time, dedication, and quite a lot of effort to become a professional bass fisherman. Setting time-based goals for yourself is a great way to keep yourself focused and moving toward that higher level of professionalism.
Short-Term Goals (Seasonal)
Set seasonal goals for yourself that make sense for your current skill level. During your first year as a bass angler, you might want to stick close to home and become more familiar with the type of fish that live in your area.
Some species may be more active in summer, while others might enjoy the cooler winter weather. Becoming familiar with these local species and timing your fishing expeditions to ensure a higher catch rate for particular game fish is a fantastic way to achieve short-term seasonal goals throughout the year.
Long-Term Goals (Professional)
When you close your eyes and imagine yourself as a fully-fledged professional angler, what do you see? Do you see yourself winning competitions? What about competing in international tournaments? Is there a feeling of triumph that washes over you?
Each fishing trip you take is a step toward becoming recognized as a professional bass fisherman, but you’ll want to set at least one long-term professional fishing goal for yourself right from the start.
If your dream is to compete professionally, your long-term goal might be to join a professional team or become recognized as an experienced angler by the Major League Fishing (MLF) organization.
Acquire Appropriate Fishing Gear
If you’re still using a budget-friendly fishing rod that’s several years old, you may want to upgrade to a sleeker, more durable option that’s ideal for bass fishing. Naturally, a fishing rod is only a small part of the fishing gear anglers will need.
In general, professional bass anglers own:
- Environment-appropriate clothing
- High-quality fishing rod
- High-strength fishing line
- Assortment of hooks
- Bass-friendly lures
- Bass-friendly live bait
- Portable fish storage
- Adequate transportation
- First aid kit
- Water and food
Additionally, professionals double-check their inventory before setting out on a new fishing trip. They’ll also switch gear in and out as their specific plans change. Customizing your equipment to fit your game fish’s profile is one of the most crucial aspects of becoming a professional angler.
Be sure to study beginner’s guides to learn which rods, reels, and lures might be best for you and your desired game species. In general, basses enjoy munching on plastic worms, reflective spinner lures, and a variety of live bait.
Larger varieties of bass tend to go after small fish, ignoring insect bait. Smaller species prefer the less-aggressive lures and baits.
Don’t feel pressured to invest in a ton of gear right away. As a beginner, you’ll likely only need a few essential tools and supplies. As you can experience, you’ll also gain new lures, lines, reels, rods, and hooks.
Additionally, you’ll have a keen understanding of how to use all of these items properly. However, if you never wander far from your favorite fishing hole, you might never reach this stage, which also means that you’ll have a hard time turning pro.
Visit New Locations and Try New Fishing Methods
Once you’ve gotten the hang of catching a particular species of bass, you’ll want to change things up. This advice is especially crucial for those who’ve been fishing in the same two or three locations for the last several weeks or months.
While consistency and repetition are fantastic for honing specific skills and techniques, they won’t ensure that you’re exposed to a wide variety of environments or bass. You can catch bass while performing multiple types of fishing, including:
- Terrestrial fishing
- Intertidal fishing
- Fly fishing
- Kayak fishing
- Boat fishing
- Offshore fishing
- Deep-sea fishing
Of course, the type of fishing often correlates with specific species of bass. For example, you can fly fish if you’re hoping to snag a largemouth bass, but you’ll need to go deep-sea fishing to catch massive sea bass.
By visiting new locations and attempting many fishing methods, you can catch the widest variety of bass while improving your angling techniques. Just be sure to have someone else around to verify and help you record the fish you reel in.
Record Your Catches
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see or hear it fall, did it happen? While this question (or a version of it) has kept philosophers happily awake at night, it has some real-world applications when it comes to bass fishing.
If you’re not recording your catches and weighing your fish, how will you prove that you ever caught that 20-pound (9.07-kilogram) largemouth or 300-pound (136.07-kilogram) sea bass? As such, serious bass anglers must follow through with three steps.
These steps are:
- Fish with others.
- Have a portable scale handy.
- Invest in taxidermy.
By following this simple three-step process, anglers can ensure that every prize-winning catch is noted, recorded, and saved for posterity. If you’re aiming high and long to join the ranks of professional bass anglers, you may want to join or form a fishing team.
Having some company not only ensures that you have witnesses, but it’s also a smart way to stay safe. Even a single extra pair of eyes goes a long way if you’re fishing in waters with alligators, crocodiles, sharks, alligator gar, or giant catfish.
Fish With Others
Unless you sincerely enjoy fishing alone, you should consider joining a local fishing team or starting one among a group of interested friends. Fishing with others can help you enjoy your time out on the water, as you’ll have folks to talk with.
You may find that other anglers have a wealth of experience to share with you. With the right group of people, you may head out onto the water for an unforgettable adventure every week or every-other-week. You might also form valuable lifelong friendships that transform into professional angling partnerships further down the line.
Many professional tournaments involve team-ups, so it’s often a smart idea to work as part of a team during your early days. You’ll likely continue working as part of a team throughout your fishing career, especially if you intend on exploring deep-sea fishing. Besides, there’s something to be said of safety in numbers.
When you go out onto the water solo, there may not be anyone to call for help during an emergency. If you’re incapacitated, your survival may be out of your hands. That’s a situation that no angler wants to find themselves in, which is why it’s always better to fish with friends or teammates.
Still, if you’re determined to do it alone, you can wear a GoPro device and use a health-integrated smartwatch to stay safe and record your catches. The GoPro will provide a first-person view of your fishing experience, and the smartwatch will contact emergency services in the event of an accident.
Have a Portable Scale Handy
Do you own a portable weighing scale built just for fish? If not, you’ll want to go ahead and pick one out. Professional bass anglers are scarcely found without a weighing scale. Weighing is the primary method of determining a game fish’s value.
Most handheld scales are digital hook scales. The Dr.meter Backlit Digital Hook Scale is a fantastic example of the standard modern fishing scale. It’s battery-powered, super-accurate, and easy to read.
However, more traditional options are available, though they’re bound to generate less-precise readings. Notably, most handheld fishing scales have a maximum weight limit of 110 lbs (50 kgs). If you’re planning on going out into the deep sea, you’ll need a more industrial-sized weighing device.
Fortunately, most boat captains that host fishing expeditions also provide larger scales aboard their vessels for immediate weigh-ins. No matter where you decide to go fishing for bass, you’ll want to think about your most treasured catches. Specimens that make the cut can be preserved via taxidermy and some species make for a beautiful meal.
Of course, if neither of these options suits your tastes, you can always return the fish to its home. Still, many anglers who manage to snag a monster-sized bass aren’t likely to return home empty-handed, which is why it’s crucial to know a good taxidermist.
Invest in Taxidermy
A mounted fish is one of the most indisputable records, showcasing your best and biggest catch. Professional taxidermists that specialize in fish mounting can transform your beloved prize-winning specimen into an impermeable trophy.
Unfortunately, this often requires a good deal of paint, as fish lose their lustrous coloration when their scales become dry and brittle. Still, fish taxidermists do their best to use as much of the natural body as possible during the preservation process. A fish’s inner organ and eyes are typically the only parts that don’t survive.
While you might not want to make a habit of taxidermy for every catch (it would get expensive, and you’d need a lot of space to place your trophies), it could be worthwhile to make a habit of choosing one fish per year for mounting. In this way, you’ll also have a physical record of your skill increase over time.
You might only catch a few smallmouth specimens or a handful of juvenile bass during your first year as a bass angler. As you progress, the fish you reel in might become more extensive, more impressive, and more worthy of being mounted.
Enter Bass Fishing Tournaments and Competitions
One of the best ways to test your mettle is to enter fishing competitions and tournaments. Bass tournaments typically offer large cash prizes or high-quality fishing gear. They also offer anglers the opportunity to show off their skills and earn some much-deserved notoriety in the fishing community. Competitions are held all across the world.
A determined angler might be able to attend and compete in at least one tournament each month, though they’ll undoubtedly get some miles under their belt in the process. Starting with smaller local competitions is often far more cost-effective and is an excellent way for amateur and intermediate anglers to hone their techniques.
No matter the level of experience you currently have, there’s a bass fishing competition designed for you. Choosing a contest that befits your skill level is crucial, as it gives you a fighting chance at winning.
Novice and Intermediate Level
The Big Bass Bash is a two-day amateur-level bass fishing competition at the Lake of the Ozarks every April. Angler entrance fees vary depending on whether anglers choose a one-day or two-day pass.
Still, entry costs are relatively low at less than $200 per angler. The Lake of the Ozarks is a top-rated fishing destination for anglers of all types, as it contains multiple species of game fish and offers more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.
Anglers may want to be particularly careful if fishing from a boat, as this human-made lake is known for boating accidents and injuries. The allure of winning more than $300,000 in cash and prizes is bound to keep anglers interested in some Missouri-bound springtime fishing.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for local fishing competitions near you. If you’re not a member of any fishing communities or teams, you may want to search “[state name] fishing competitions” to locate potential bass fishing tournaments in your area.
Essentially, every Major League Fishing (MLF) competition is designed for professional anglers. The Bass Pro Tour is one of the most notable and watched fishing events in the US, and only 80 of the country’s top MLF anglers get to compete.
Over six days, these professional bass anglers do their best to consistently reel-in the most impressive catches. After that, the top 30 contestants face off for another four to five days to determine an overall winner.
The winner of this tournament gets a fantastic $100,000 prize. Every competitor that ranks within the top 50% also gets a decent cash prize. There are additional rewards for the largest per-day bass catch and the most impressive overall bass catch.
Naturally, you’ll need to be a member of MLF to compete, but anglers can join for as little as $10 per year, which is a real steal.
Becoming a professional bass fisherman requires focus, patience, and plenty of practice. For starters, you’ll need to study the many types of bass and be capable of identifying their differences. Setting a variety of timed goals is a great way to pace yourself.
You’ll also need the right gear. Fishing in multiple locations and focusing on specific bass species can prepare anglers to enter and win fishing competitions—the hallmark of any professional bass fisherman.
- Average Outdoorsman: What to Wear When you Go Fishing
- Bassmaster: Why join a fishing club?
- Bass Resource: Beginner’s Guide to Bass Fishing Rods
- ClickLikeThis: 12 GoPro Fishing Tips: Guide to Settings, Accessories, Composition
- The Daily Meal: What is Chilean Sea Bass?
- The Fish Site: Barramundi Asia: taking Asian seabass production to the next level
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Suwannee Bass
- Horn Law: Boating Accidents Up at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri
- Into the Blue: Stuffing The World – What Is Taxidermy?
- Funlake: Lake of the Ozarks – Fishing
- Major League Fishing: Bass Pro Tour
- Major League Fishing: FAQ
- Major League Fishing: MLF Bass Fishing Membership Options
- Midwest Fish Tournaments: Midwest Fish Tournaments :: Event Info BBB LOZ Spring
- Tech-Enhanced Life: Smartwatch as Medical Alert?
- USA TODAY: America’s best bass fishing lakes and ponds
- Wikipedia: Australian bass
- Wikipedia: Blackthroat seaperch
- Wikipedia: Largemouth bass
- Wikipedia: Serranidae
- Wikipedia: Wreckfish