This is an overview of my discussion with the West Knoxville (TN) Rotary back in 2013
Brandon Coulter started fishing when he was 3 years old. From 6 to 15, he fished primarily in local club tournaments in the Northeast. At age 16, he began fishing in the Red Man Trail, the predecessor to the Bass Fishing League, where he qualified for the only two regional competitions in the series and become the youngest qualifier at the time for a Red Man regional in the Northeast and Mountain Divisions.
After two seasons of competitive fishing, Brandon took a 10-year hiatus to focus on education, business, and family. In 2000, he began fishing in local events, and in 2007 he transitioned into a full-time bass fishing professional.
Brandon noted that as a professional fisherman, he gets to do something unique. It’s a very special sport because so many people fish, and when he pulls into a gas station with his truck covered with sponsor logos, everyone has questions.
Brandon said that competitive bass fishing has taken off in the last 4-5 years. There are two trails, the FLW and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, which used to be owned by ESPN. Between the two trails, there are approximately 250 professionals. There used to be only 20. Today there are over 300 college fishing clubs and thousands of high school clubs, all of which have been formed since 2007. Bethel University in McKenzie, TN, offers a scholarship for bass fishing.
Three events made the competitive fishing industry.
- In 1932, George Perry caught a record 22-pound bass in Georgia, and people have been trying to top that ever since.
- In 1967, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society was formed, giving the sport a national structure and a national championship.
- In 2007, Scott Suggs won a million dollars in a tournament, which made everyone realize that you could fish not just for fun or for competition but for money, that you could have a financial future as a professional fisherman. Now, tournaments pay $100,000 or more to the winner and smaller amounts to the top 50 finishers.
Since 2007, however, the bass fishing industry is down 20%, and the sale of bass boats is down 50%, from 20,000 boats/year to less than 10,000. In Brandon’s view, the industry needs to make the following changes:
- Become more media-friendly. The TV shows about fishing have been the same for 25 years. They need something different.
- Develop opportunities for teaching and coaching. The industry is set up in leagues, with stages you have to go through to get to the professional level. But there are only 250 professionals, and none of the college or high-school teams have coaches. So there’s no place for the others to go, and they have to leave the industry.
- Change the structure of the competitions so you don’t have to “pay to play.” Currently, you have to pay an entry fee to join the league and enter the competitions, which isn’t the case in any other sport. It costs around $30,000 to join one of the leagues for a year, not including food, lodging, and transportation to the tournaments. This is a barrier and will be until it changes.
– See more at: http://www.westknoxvillerotary.org/Stories/brandon-coulter-professional-bass-fishing#sthash.m6nBJ30Z.dpuf