How To Become a Pro Fisherman

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 13, 2023  •  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 professional fisherman, it’s important to see if this career path is a great catch. There are two common paths used that fishermen take to go pro. Let’s look at the steps for both of these paths below.

How To Become a Pro Fisherman

How To Become a Professional Fisherman by Competing

Become Very Good at Fishing

If you want to become a pro fisherman and compete in tournaments, you will need to have great fishing skills. This includes knowing where and how to catch fish. In addition, it’s best if you specialize in one specific type of fish, such as largemouth bass. A pro bass fisherman is among the highest-earning professional fishermen. Tournament fishing is all about catching the biggest and most fish possible.

Get the Right Fishing Gear

Knowing the best baits, lures, rods, and reels and how to find fish are all important tools for professional fishermen and novices alike. Whether you are competing or out with your fishing buddies having the right fishing gear technology can make all the difference.

Start Competing

You don’t have to do anything super special to start competing as a pro fisherman. You can join your local fishing club and start at the club level, then work your way up from there. Keep in mind that jumping levels too fast could hurt both your progress and your confidence.

Fish with Experienced Anglers

When you have the opportunity to go fishing with those that have more experience than you, jump on their fishing vessels and bask in their knowledge. 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 with hands-on experience and become a much better fisherman.

Learn Fish Power Techniques

You’re not just out fishing for a relaxing afternoon anymore. When you go pro, 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 these techniques and reaction baits.

Learn How to Cover Water Fast

When you only have a few days to catch fish, you need to cover the 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 and you will always be working outdoors. 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 bait you will use accordingly.

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. You could even work in your local fly and bait shop to earn some extra income.

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 large 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 are consistently in tournaments; you’re already in pretty good shape. You can even start tagging a brand you use for your gear and the type of lure 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. Professional fishing is not cheap. 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 in the ranks as a pro.

Become a Professional Fisherman: Training and Education

While most people think of a professional fisherman being a bass catchin’, tournament fishin’, sunglass-wearin’ guy, it turns out there is a whole other side to professional fishing. You can find employment opportunities working on vessels with commercial captains.

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:

Taking these complete training courses can help you enter this career.

Beginner Courses for Fishermen

If you are just starting on your path to becoming a professional fisherman or you just enjoy actually catching something (looking at you, stickfish) when you go fishin’ with your buddies, check out these online fishing courses for some tips and tricks.

  1. Fishing School: Unlock The Secrets of Catching Fish
  2. Fishing School: Unlock The Secrets of Catching Fish

    LEARN FISHING IN UNDER 60 MINUTES > Stop Wasting Your Time On Endless Video Courses & Get On The Water

    Go To Fishing School

    We may earn a small commission if you use this link at no additional cost to you.

  3. Trout Fishing: A Simple Method For Catching More Trout
  4. Trout Fishing: A Simple Method For Catching More Trout

    Catching Trout is Easy Once You Know How to Apply a Few Basic Principles

    Catch More Trout

    We may earn a small commission if you use this link at no additional cost to you.

  5. Peak Performance Fishing Techniques
  6. Peak Performance Fishing Techniques

    Peak Performance Fishing was founded with the goal of bringing quality freshwater fishing instruction videos to the web, enabling Fishing enthusiasts at all levels to enjoy learning (or re-learning) skills, techniques, and tips that will make them the best Anglers they can be.

    Reach Peak Performance

    We may earn a small commission if you use this link at no additional cost to you.

Get the Right Vocational Training

You can take your training a step further and go through a voluntary vocational training program. These types of vocational or technical programs will include courses in fishing procedures, fisheries, and other related subjects. You will often get a certification or an associate degree. Although you do not need a college education, this type of formal education is a great way to learn all there is about the fishing industry.

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

Learn the Technology

Fishers use lots of advanced fishing technology out on bodies of 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 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 that 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 find jobs to 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Pro Fisherman

How much do pro fishermen make?

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. Most 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. 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.

How much do commercial fishermen make?

Commercial fishermen at fisheries can earn an average salary of about $43K per year. 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.

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 gear. Even if you decide to become a commercial fisherman, there are some expenses to gain training.

How long does it take fishermen to go pro?

For most, it will take between three to five years if you’re doing well. If you’re winning, you will gain sponsors and move up the ranks.

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

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.