Most people know the old saying about “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” … – I don’t know about that because it’s my experience dream jobs – even in the fishing industry – just don’t happen without long hours, plenty of stress in various forms, and plenty of self-drive and sacrifice.
What I take the saying to mean is getting to work in a job you really love makes all the headaches associated with making a living tolerable, the time flies by, and you’re probably going to be more successful in your career because you aren’t forcing your brain to pretend to be interested in soybean yields or interest rates or real estate law or whatever.
For any college kid or high schooler out there thinking about a career in the fishing industry, I say go for it. But go for it with your eyes open. Probably the number one thing to understand is that nobody really fishes for a living, even Elite pros. Their bread and butter is marketing and public relations for their sponsors, necessarily topped-up by tournament winnings. Bass guides, if it’s not too obvious to say, guide, they generally don’t fish themselves, and it can be exhausting work.
You may or may not be familiar with fly fishing writer John Gierach, but as fishing writers go he’s about as successful as they come. His New York publishing company flies him around the country on book tour every couple of years – that’s pretty much all you need to know. In of his books he mentions coming across a non-angler who finds out what he does for a living: The guy says appreciatively, “So you get paid to go fishing,” and Gierach corrects him with the crucial distinction that he pays for his fishing out of his own pocket, but makes a living writing about it. And writing at his level takes enormous skill, hard work and determination.
Still interested? A couple of recent resources have popped up that may help you on the path.
The Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA) recently announced a very forward-thinking partnership with Pure Fishing, the largest tackle manufacturer in the world. The basic idea is to get the word out about summer internships, open positions, and other opportunities at the company and it’s major brands. The ACA web site now has a section titled Job Bank which currently lists opportunities with Pure Fishing, Garmin, Cabelas and The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
As an example of the kind of good thing that can happen, Andrew Marks, Marketing Director for Pure Fishing, singled out Stephen Britt from the University of South Carolina, who in a single year became a Brand Manager for Berkley rods and terminal tackle and contributed to the company getting a Best in Show at ICAST for one of his division’s products.
Not to get all fly fishing on you, but writer Chris Santella recently penned a very detailed article for Fly Rod and Reel magazine interviewing a range of people making a living in the fly fishing industry. It makes for a very revealing read about the best and worst aspects of their jobs, their skill sets and pay ranges. Just about all the positions have an equivalent in the bass and general fishing world – guide, rep, marketing manager, Alaska bush pilot … okay, scrub that last one.