Hail By to Don tHe Pearson Semi-Pro
eight years ago my buddy John and I were fishing the east delta and upon catch- ing one nice bass after another, my buddy turns to me and says, “You know, we ought to get in a tourney sometime”. I looked at him like he was crazy. I told him we weren’t ready, we wouldn’t know what to do and that a tournament would be way differ- ent than recreational fishing. Sure we had fished club tournaments, but tournaments that drew more than 10 boats seemed a frightening proposition. Throughout the day we kept discussing it and by the end of the day John had me convinced we could do it. That night I got on the internet and typed in ‘semi pro fishing circuits in North- ern Ca and decided that the now defunct New Bass would be a great circuit to try. The tournaments fell on a Saturday and the body of water the tournament was held on was off limits the week before the tourna- ment. This sounded perfect for a couple of weekend warriors like John and I. I remem- ber driving to Ladds Marina on the delta that spring morning with more butterflies than an Audubon museum. Well, to cut to the chase, we finished 2nd in the event and a couple of tournament nuts were born. Flash forward eight years. John and I are still fishing tournaments together and yes we are still a couple of semi pro guys. We have experienced some real good times in the past eight years with some tournament wins and even a couple semi-pro angler of the year titles in New Bass and Anglers Choice. We truly enjoy the semi-pro circuit be- cause it gives two guys that can only fish once a week a chance to get the competitive juices flowing by competing against other anglers at a reasonable price and at an even level of competition. We often talked about stepping up and fishing the open tournaments, but day in and day out you just aren’t going to take out anglers like Dee Thomas and Bobby Bar- rack on the delta when there is money on the line. By the way, there are no ‘sour grapes’ intended in that last sentence, just a little jealousy (tongue in cheek). We would love to be in
a situation where we could pre fish two days each week for an upcoming tourney, but that’s just not going to happen. It is tougher today to win a tournament than it has ever been. The weights keep go- ing up and up. You hear guys say all the time that you have to throw the swim bait all day or flip a jig all day and you will get five bites. Sound familiar? That is so tough to do when your time on the water is lim- ited and you haven’t had a bite all morning on the one day you get to fish. Of course, if you were on the water two days already that week, you would know that the bite is going to happen at some point and you can pretty much count on it somewhat being there on tourney day. The pro with water time that week has a thought process of “I know this is the pattern” and the semi-pro being off the water all week is sitting at his work desk is thinking “I just hope I can get bit on Saturday”. I did not seriously take up bass fishing until I was in my early thirties. What was I thinking?! I was married, had a full time Monday thru Friday job and a mortgage. I was 34 when I got my first bass boat and managed that by getting a steal of a deal from a guy who won a boat in a tourney. I told my wife, “I can pay $20,000 for a brand new boat now, or pay $20,000 later for a used boat that might not even have a war- ranty. Thankfully, she went along with the ‘new boat’ idea. It was nice that John and I both had bass boats now, good, solid jobs
and wives that let us fish. However, it didn’t change the fact that we were still weekend warriors. Over the last eight years we have got on hot streaks and got some grief from the other tourney guys about stepping up to the open divisions, but the talk goes away in a hurry when you stink up the joint for five or six tourneys in a row. The pattern you work so hard to find just never seems to last. Then again, isn’t that the epitome of being a semi-pro angler? In the text above, I have done my best to explain what it is like for an average guy to fish in the semi-pro circuit year after year and what this angler’s thought process is in particular. I wrote this article mainly be- cause I know there are a ton of guys and girls out there who are in the same situa- tion. Do I step up to the open circuit? Do I have the skill? Am I throwing my money away? Good questions. This is my best ad- vice. If you are having a good time fishing semi-pro, then keep doing it. If you feel like you need something more, then you proba- bly do. After all, if you tear up the lower cir- cuit too much, you will get a polite nudge from the circuit director to step up anyway. I guess what it all boils down to, is, don’t feel like you need to jump up to the opens because you have been a semi-pro for five or ten years. You are still a semi-pro fisherman for a reason. The reason is more than likely because you are like the 90% of us who do what we can with the little time on the wa- ter we have. I still have a dream of fishing the big circuits. Heck, maybe someday I’ll be financially secure enough and time off to make the jump to the bigger circuits. Everyone knows it only takes one good win to completely change your life. However, things aren’t too bad now. I have a beauti- ful family, a nice home, I get to fish once a week (twice if I’m lucky) and my health is good. Not a bad deal. Once again, I think I just described 90% of us. I, along with a ton of people I have spoken with know that pretty much the only thing missing from being able to fish with the best is time on the water and a better financial situation. But, until that oppor- tunity presents itself, just have fun doing what you love and be thankful you have the means to do it.