In retelling all my stories about bass fishing (See the new story about Lake Toho), it makes me want to quit the working life to retire to fishing. The economics of bass fishing keep me from making such a dumb move.
I know a central Florida fishing guide and pro who has won over 100 major fishing tournaments. Do you want to know the difference between him and all the other bass fishermen out there? He actually has his boat paid off, and he thinks he might be able to buy a nice home next year, now that real estate prices are down. He is what all bass fisherman can aspire to. He does not sleep in his truck, and his wife has not left him...yet--he still wins a few now and then. But he tells me the guiding business has been down as much as 50% over the past years compared to what it was before 2008. Tournaments are down in turnout numbers and payouts too. You're not going to make a million dollars bass fishing, especially not in one year--not even if you can catch the world-record bass. The world-record bass is not a million dollar fish, as has been previously claimed. Ask me. Ask Manabu Kurita. Ask George Perry. Let's be real, folks. (Read about the Greatest Bass Fishery Ever--no money is being made here...yet.)
The reality of bass fishing economics is that it costs a lot and does not have much return. For those who are considering making a run as a pro basser--don't kid yourself. In American BeheMouth, I mentioned the couple that Bassmaster featured who exuberantly admitted that they took all the equity out of their house so they could go on the tour. I also mentioned the fact that the follow-up interview never occured. The reason the interview never occured is because it would make Bassmaster look bad that they encouraged a young couple to sell off everything they owned at boom prices before the crash, and now, with no tournament wins, they are bankrupt.
There are only a few pros who make "decent" money in bass fishing and that is because they are good sales people. They can sell their sponsor's products, and they are both lucky and hard working on the water. Don't get me wrong--it takes a lot of skill and hard work. But bass fishing also takes a lot of luck. It's the right place and right time and the right angle of a hook set that win the tournament. No one can make all the right calls on a fishery. The best fishermen I know are not that lucky. There are too many variables.
My practical advice is to avoid bankruptcy and poverty and to keep your day jobs. Contribute to society where you can. Go fishing when you can and enjoy the sport, but don't think you are going to be the next Kevin Van Dam. The odds are about as good as being the next Michael Jordan.