What separates a professional tournament angler from the local weekend tournament angler? Many folks would immediately think….skill… but I’m here to tell you that’s NOT the case. There are many “local” anglers who could be competitive at the highest levels of tournament bass fishing. What really separates the touring pros from the local guys that would love to fish at that level……….SPONSOR DOLLARS!  Professional fishermen rely on sponsor dollars to pay entry fees, travel expenses and the bills at home; without those monies VERY few could actually afford to participate in the highest levels of our sport.

 So why “Sponsor” a fisherman?

In most cases it’s an advertising expense, the rolling billboards that our boats and trucks have become are a great advertising medium (roughly 125 MILLION viewer impressions each year). In some instances, it’s a company looking for a tax write off, helping a buddy or a friend pursue their dream or a combination of all the above.

From a straight forward business perspective you would think a company (local, regional or national) would want to sponsor fisherman with as many media outlets as possible: TV, Internet, print media, personal appearances, tournament exposure locally, regionally and nationally. I can tell you from personal experience that having all that media exposure is great but doesn’t seemed to have mattered much. It appears that it is more important to be in the right place at the right time, know the right person or have the right people like you. Which is really frustrating for someone like me, who has and does work so hard to represent myself, the sport and my sponsors everyday.

So, what’s an aspiring professional fisherman to do? Keep working! Every year about this time, I start working on my resume and planning for the coming year. Hoping to make that right contact or be in the right place at the right time to get the sponsor dollars I need to continue to pursue the dream of competing at the highest levels of this sport.

If you own a company and are considering where to spend your advertising dollars, consider some alternative venues/mediums to reach the public. The majority of the demographic of bass fishermen is 30 to 55 year old white males. So if that’s the group you’re trying to market your business or product to then sponsoring/advertising in the bass fishing arena may be a VERY good way to go.

There is no substitute for time on the water!

Rusty White of Rock Hill is a professional fisherman and full-time guide on the Catawba chain of lakes, offering full- and half-day services. For more information, visit fishingwithRusty.com.