A master of angling is a must, yet Bassmaster Elite Series anglers require many more skills to sustain a career in professional bass fishing.
Davy Hite, a Classic champ and two-time Angler of the Year turned TV analyst, was asked to detail the numerous hats pros must wear. While the ability to hook and land fish without a net is the No. 1 requirement, Hite agreed a pro has to possess various talents, like naturalist, meteorologist, travel agent, negotiator, marketer and, of late, social media strategist. Getting around by land or sea is important, so add geography skills, boat captain and over-the-road truck driver, which leads to part-time mechanic and electrical engineer.
The list goes on, and the minutia of those requirements are enough to fill a book, Hite said.
“A lot of people never, ever think about many of those things,” Hite said, “and not just new viewers in the ESPN2 audience, even people who enjoy bass fishing but who have never really considered pursuing full-time professional angling. If you haven’t done that, you don’t think about all the things that come into play.”
There’s a definitive physical aspect to standing on a boat deck casting repeatedly for an eight-hour competition day. With an average of three casts per minute, an angler would make around 1,440 a day, so athletic ability is needed.
“Absolutely,” Hite said. “That’s just one day. There’s potential for seven days in a row, and practice days can be from dawn to dusk. I challenge anybody to state that these guys aren’t athletes. You get in the boat with any of the Elite anglers and you’ll be impressed by their physical abilities.”
A few years back, the physical demands of Elite anglers was studied by a health consultant, who via heart monitors discovered an angler can burn close to 6,000 calories a day. That physical exertion necessitates knowing something about refueling and hydrating -- dietician -- because running on empty could affect the next prerequisite.
“Fine motor skills. Hand-eye coordinator is a big deal,” said Hite, who as a youth practiced target casting for hours on end. “I pitched in a bucket in the backyard, in the dark, in the garage. I had access to a lake, but when I couldn’t get out, I would set up a bucket inside as long as grandma wasn’t around and I wasn’t going to break something.
“I had a burning desire to get better and better as an angler and hopefully fish professionally. Guys have been doing that for years and years.”
Admittedly, some are more proficient than others in pinpoint casting -- a bad cast could spook fish and burn that area, maybe even prevent a win. “Even the guys who aren’t quite as good of casters, they’re really good,” Hite said, “and they might just be better at electronics and fishing offshore.”
Electronics are so advanced an angler can see an individual fish and cast to it, but being in tune with nature has put many winners in the right place to take advantage. Hite recalls his last of eight Bassmaster wins as a prime example of following Mother Nature’s clues.
“It really goes in with angling skills, but you have to be able to judge what’s going on out on the lake,” he said. “On the last day at Pickwick, at 11 o’clock I didn’t have a fish in the live well. Things were not anything like they had been the previous three days. Even the birds were just sitting around in the trees.
“Then all the sudden, a number of birds all flew down to the water’s edge and were sitting on rocks, like it’s about time to feed. I knew immediately, ‘It’s about to happen. I need to get to my best little current break because it’s about to go down.’ I caught 20 pounds in the next two hours.”