How To Become a Pro Fisherman

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Recreation
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Maybe you love to go fishing. But have you ever thought about going pro? If you learn how to become a pro fisherman, you can turn your favorite hobby into a career.

Of course, this is not a standard career. It’s not a job you clock in for and work 9-to-5 each day. However, it’s still a career you can enjoy and make a good living doing.

If you’re interested in becoming a pro fisherman, it’s important to understand this career path better. There are two common paths used to become a pro fisherman. Let’s look at the steps for both of these paths.

How To Become a Pro Fisherman

How To Become a Pro Fisherman with Training and Education

Take Training Courses

If you’re not already an expert fisherman, you may want to take training courses. The U.S. Coast Guard offers training for fishers on many different topics. These include:

The right training courses can help you enter into this career.

Get the Right Vocational Training

You can take your training a step further and go through a voluntary vocational training program. This type of program will include courses in fishing, fisheries, and other related subjects. You will often get a certification or an associate degree.

Through vocational training, you will learn about manufacturing fishing products, environmental conservation, fish biology, fisheries administration, and more. This can even lead to an internship at a fishery or on a fishing vessel.

Learn the Technology

Fishers use lots of technology out on the water. They might use a fish finder, trolling motor, fishing nets, scopes, radar, and more. Every vessel is a bit different, and you will need to be familiar with the technology.

Get the Right Licenses

Of course, you will need to be licensed to become a pro fisherman. There are many different types of licenses you might need. For example, if you plan to be a commercial captain, you will need a different license than those working on your crew.

Some states require specific guidelines for commercial fishers if you plan to function near the seashore. Make sure you know the type of license you need to become a professional fisherman.

Find a Job

If you go the educational route, you can become a pro fisherman in the commercial industry. You can move up from a sailor to a boatswain and even to a second mate, first mate, and captain going this route.

Those choosing this route will likely work in catching, dispensing, or preserving fish in the fishery industry.

How To Become a Pro Fisherman by Competing

Become Very Good at Fishing

If you want to become a pro fisherman and compete in tournaments, you want to start by becoming very good at fishing. This includes knowing where and how to find fish to catch. In addition, it’s best if you specialize in one specific type of fish, such as largemouth bass.

You want to get to know the best baits, equipment, and how to find fish. Tournament fishing is all about catching the biggest and most fish possible. Competing will require you to be very good at fishing.

Start Competing

You don’t have to do anything super special to start competing as a pro fisherman. You want to start at the club level and work your way up. Don’t jump levels too fast, or it could hurt your progress and your confidence.

Fish with Experienced Anglers

When you have the opportunity, fish with those that have more experience than you, it’s even good to fish as a co-angler for a few years before you move to the front of the boat. This can help you learn techniques and become a much better fisherman.

Learn Fish Power Techniques

You’re not just out fishing for a relaxing afternoon anymore. When you become a pro fisherman, it’s your livelihood. So you want to learn the fish power techniques with proven winning lures. Learn how to fish swimbaits, pitching jigs, soft plastics, and vibrating jigs.

While finesse tactics may win events sometimes, it’s not that common. Instead, most will be won by those using fish power techniques and reaction baits.

Learn How to Cover Water Fast

When you only have a few days to catch fish, you need to cover water quickly. Learning how to efficiently move through the water and break down a shallow water fishery is key to your success.

Create a Detailed Gameplan

When you fish in tournaments, you will likely be fishing in larger bodies of water. Therefore, you want to make sure you have a good game plan going into the tournament. Choose the lake areas where you want to focus and choose the type of baits you will be using.

Save Money

It can be expensive to compete each season to qualify for larger tournaments and gain sponsors. So make sure you can save money where you can and keep your budget under control.

Many professional anglers tell stories about sleeping in their trucks and eating cheap food to save money. Unfortunately, this is part of what you might have to do to qualify for the larger tournaments.

Find Sponsors

Most good pro fishers depend on their sponsors to help pay the bills. They might also provide things, such as fishing gear and clothing. Small fishing companies are actually pretty easy to get as sponsors.

Suppose you can show that you have a social media following and consistently in tournaments; you’re already in pretty good shape. You can even start tagging a brand you use for your gear in pictures. This could lead to a sponsorship deal.

What to Expect When Becoming a Tournament Fisherman

If you want to become a tournament fisherman, you will likely start fishing tournaments in high school. Getting a college education is a smart way to allow some flexibility and income as you work your way through the ranks, too.

It’s not cheap to become a professional fisherman. You’ll need money for entry fees, travel expenses, a boat, tackle, and other equipment. It’s not uncommon for a fisherman on the Bassmaster Elite Circuit to spend more than $100K per year.

You can start in college by fishing the college bass circuit. This can help you get to know people and even get to know possible sponsors. The college circuit can help provide an excellent experience and help you earn the right sponsorships. If you win, you can even move up faster.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Pro Fisherman

How much can I make as a pro fisherman?

If you work as a commercial fisherman at fisheries, you can earn an average salary of about $43K per year. However, those deciding to fish in tournaments might earn a large amount of money or very little. It depends on how good you are at fishing, performing in tournaments, and the sponsors you gain.

Those reaching the level of captain can earn a salary closer to $90K per year. But, of course, there are many different jobs in the fishing industry with different salaries.

Those performing very well in tournament fishing can earn a high lifetime winnings amount. The top 10 have lifetime winnings ranging from $2.9 million to $6.8 million. But, of course, this doesn’t include the money they make from sponsorship deals, either.

About 15% to 20% of professionals on tour make over $100K per year. Many others make much less. If you win a larger tournament, it can pay out a few hundred thousand dollars. Even second or third can pay out more than $10K in most tournaments.

The average professional on tour won’t make a huge amount of money, however. It’s common to make $20K to $30K per year. However, after a few years, you might land a few sponsors and end up making much more money.

Is it expensive to become a pro fisherman?

Yes. If you decide to fish in tournaments, you will need to pay the entry fees and cover the cost of all your equipment. Even if you decide to become a commercial fisherman, there are some expenses to gain training.

How long will it take me to become a pro fisherman?

For most, it will take between three to five years if you’re doing well. If you’re winning, you will gain sponsors much faster than if you’re not.

Those going the commercial route will find the education takes about two to three years. Then, you will likely need to earn some experience before becoming a professional fisherman.

There are many jobs in the fishing industry. However, if you’re set on becoming a pro fisherman, you might have a long road ahead. It may take several years to work your way through the ranks and gain sponsors. However, with hard work and determination, you can become a pro fisherman and start winning tournaments.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!