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Thursday, August 31, 2006
by Charles Bowman

(Editor's note: BassFan Charles Bowman is a structural engineer who lives in Kernersville, N.C. He regularly competes in BFL tournaments and often fishes tour-level events as a co-angler.)

When I heard the recent news that Bassmaster Elite Series anglers Brooks Rogers and Conrad Picou could no longer afford to fish on the Elite Series, my heart sank.

I fished the Clarks Hill Elite Series tournament as a co-angler back in the spring, and my professional draws both warned me there may be pros who'd run out of money before the season was over.

I heard several stories of financial struggles where anglers had placed their personal nest eggs on the line in order to chase a lifelong dream. I heard stories of anglers sleeping in their trucks at the campgrounds, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to save money, and of incoming calls from insurance agents on the verge of canceling coverage if a check wasn't won on Friday.

I heard stressful stories.

When Rogers and Picou decided that they could no longer compete due to the financial strain of the game, I genuinely felt sick. It's hard to believe that at the highest level of a professional sport, a participant can "go broke" in less than a season of competition.

The more I thought of the financial position that these pros have placed themselves in, the more I began to think about how expensive the sport of bass fishing really is. Even at the grassroots level, bass fishing's an expensive endeavor.

Knowing that, the question becomes, Can an average person afford to be a tournament bass angler?

I decided to break down an average family's budget to see if the average family could afford to bass fish competitively. I went to the U.S. government's census information and began to break down the amount of money that an average household has to spend. According to Census data, the average household income is approximately $39,438 per year.

According to Census data, the average household income is approximately $39,438 per year.

I then decided to make a list of an average household's yearly expenditures. Using data available via the U.S. Census, and combining that data with information from my own personal budget, I developed what I feel is a good, average, household expense budget:

Taxes (approximately 25% of gross income): $9,860
Home mortgage (per 2000 Census @ $985/month): $11,820
Energy bill (approximately $100 per month): $1,200
Cable bill ($50.00 per month): $600
Groceries ($100 per week): $5,200
Truck payment ($500 per month): $6,000
Car payment ($450 per month): $5,400

Subtotal: $40,080

I quickly discovered that the average household (assuming a husband-and-wife household only) has a difficult time breaking even, just with the averages. The expenditures that I added ignore expenses such as entertainment (movies, vacations), gasoline purchases, general household purchases (cleaning supplies, clothes), and special events such as Christmas and birthdays.

My thoughts then turned to the expenses of kids, home upkeep, insurance, and healthcare.

How can anyone afford to fish?

Since I now knew what I couldn't afford, I decided to add up what participating in one season of grassroots-level tournament fishing in the BFLs or Bassmaster Series costs. From personal experience, I developed the following minimum expenditure list:

Entry fees for one division (boater): $1,100
Overnight hotel expenses (three nights per season): $180
Practice (2 days per event at $150 per day): $1,500
Competition expenses (food, tackle, gas for 5 days): $1,000

Total for event participation only: $3,780

The expenses listed above ignore the purchase of a boat, all the equipment associated with a boat, boat insurance, rods, reels, base tackle, clothing (rainsuits, PFDs), or any other purchases that would need to be made, before fishing a bass tournament could even be considered.

Clearly, the average man or woman and his or her family, based upon the average household's income and expenses, cannot afford to fish bass tournaments.

It appears that less than half of all households can afford to tournament fish, few families have the financial resources to fish bass tournaments, even fewer families have the resources to fish upper-level tournaments, and only a very small percentage of families could afford to support a professional effort in tournament fishing.

Clearly, the average man or woman and his or her family, based upon the average household's income and expenses, cannot afford to fish bass tournaments.

Depressed yet?

The question then becomes, since I know that I cannot afford to fish as an average income earner, how much additional money would I have to make in order to fish at the grassroots level and break even?

If I purchase a used bass boat, modest tackle, and the bare minimum in clothing, my yearly expenditures in bass fishing, at the grassroots tournament level, would be as follows:

Tournament expenses (fishing one division as a boater): $3,780
Boat payments and insurance ($300 per month): $3,600
Rods, reels, tackle: $800
Clothing, PFDs, rainsuits: $300

Total minimum expenditure: $8,480

If it costs us a minimum of $8,480 per year to be able to participate at the grassroots level of tournament bass fishing, we'd have to earn an additional $12,300 in gross income in order to have enough money, after taxes, to participate.

Is the expense of tournament fishing, and bass fishing in general, getting out of hand? How is it that we have the money to purchase $15 crankbaits, $200 reels, $200 rods, $35,000 bass boats, and $40,000 trucks to pull it all with?

We don't.

The average household doesn't have the money to spend in this sport, and in fact, even the above-average household doesn't have the money to spend in this sport.

It's my opinion that the expense of this sport is getting out of hand.

For Brooks Rogers, Conrad Picou, and a host of others in the past and to come, the expense of participating at the highest level was and is more than could be afforded. For the average angler, at the grassroots level, the same is true.

In the meantime, I certainly hope I get my UPS delivery of my Lucky Craft crankbaits and Shimano reels before the weekend. What the wife doesn't know won't hurt her. After all, I've got just enough room on my card for it.

· Registered
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While I understand the money situation for most anglers, the simple situation is this



if i cant afford to do ANYTHING, i wont do it - people can say that entry fees are too high, and cost of fishing at even the lowest level is ridiculous, and don't get me wrong my heart goes out to conrad picau for not being able to afford to fish the elite series anymore, i ask this question

WHY IN THE WORLD would you enter a tournament fishing season if you CANT COVER THE COST of fishing for the ENTIRE YEAR????

a good friend of mine, Rick Ash is fishing the elite series this year
but what HE did, is MADE SURE he had 90,000 dollars to spend BEFORE registering to fish!
you can look up his tournament statistics online, and ill be the first to admit, they are NOT good
but he wont quit, because HE HAD THE MONEY UP FRONT

ive said it before and ive said it again, fishing is a sport where you CANNOT AFFORD to bet on a win or a high finish, its NEVER a sure thing so what i will say is this:


right now, I am working for my father at raymour and flanigan furniture, i am going to raise 25,000 dollars by June so that if i fish the Northern Tour to the best of my ability and not make a dollar, i will STILL be able to go back to my job, and start all over again making the money i need to fish the northern tour, and if i DO qualify to fish the elite series next year, or the next year, or the next year, you can bet your bottom dollar that i WILL have 90,000 dollars AT LEAST to go chase my dream with

if i dont get the money in time, i WONT fish

i can understand chasing a dream that has lasted a lifetime, however, chasing it without the money is STUPID!

thats basically setting yourself up to fail
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