I want to apologize for not being as on top of this column as I normally am. It’s not that I don’t have anything to report – in fact, the exact opposite is true.
I've had such a tremendous travel schedule and workload so far this season that it seems that time has passed by faster than Marty McFly had ever experienced. I can't believe it's already almost April!!
Looking back at my last Sonar Sound-Off write-up, I'm blown away at how much I need to bring you all up to speed on, and I kind of cringe at the thought of having to breeze over some things that deserve their own treatment. But alas, due to my procrastinations, I must review the last couple months at light speed.
Learning the Struggle of the Juggle
Leading into the 2014 season, I knew that I'd be challenged like never before with a host of new sponsor obligations as well as tournament and personal commitments .
When I was going to school at Central Floria and working as a waiter, I often complained about not having any time. Well, I wish I could build a “flux capacitor,” install it into my Tundra and slap “past me” right in the face, because I had mucho-mucho more time back then than I do now.
The reason for this new hectic schedule is because I'm fortunate to have been offered some great new opportunities from some old sponsors, as well as some new ones, along with taking up a more extensive tournament schedule.
The two biggest consumers of my time this year – and opportunities I could not be happier with – are new contracts with Navionics and with Shimano America Corp.
Though Navionics has been one of my sponsors for a few years now, they offered me a position that was not only more time-intensive, but also more rewarding.
Shimano, on the other hand, is a brand new addition to my list of sponsors. The opportunity with them is not only a regular “pro staff” position, but I was afforded the chance to be part of the traveling Shimano Experience Team (or SET).
These two new deals represent the majority of my schedule, but obviously my goal of qualifying for the Elite Series through the Opens, heading up BassFan’s new college coverage, other sponsor engagements, as well as spending time with my girlfriend Katie (last but not least, of course) have all added to the craziness that I'm learning to juggle.
I think it's totally awesome and rewarding when you get an opportunity to work with a company that makes a product that you rely on so much in your fishing. Of course, I wouldn’t ever want to work in a company that I didn’t believe in, but it is just a great feeling when a company at the top of its market takes interest in you.
That's exactly how I felt when Navionics offered me a contract for 2014, which was substantially bigger and more work intensive. I accepted the position, of course, and so far it has been very rewarding, but it has been a challenge as well, simply because learning all the products and the features of each was a difficult task at first.
Though learning the products has been the biggest challenge, it's been extremely beneficial too. Learning about things like the SonarCharts option – and how to activate it on your GPS unit or on your mobile app – has helped me utilize that technology in ways that I simply hadn’t done before.
Overall, working with Navionics has been a great experience, but I know that I have much more room for growth to provide them with the value they deserve.
SET for the Year
Sometime around August of last year I was approached with a possible promotional position with Shimano. At the time it was one of those situations that got me so excited that I really didn’t want to think or talk about it until it was a done deal. Fortunately for me ,it worked out.
Shimano had rooted itself deeply in my first fishing memories, since my father was a staunch Shimano loyalist, and he would only buy me Shimano reels to fish with as a child. Since then, I continued to think of Shimano as the leader in fishing-reel technology, but frankly, never suspected I would have a shot to work with them. It was a nice surprise to have such an opportunity.
The coolest part of this deal is that I’m not only working with Shimano, but also with G. Loomis, PowerPro and Jackall Lures, which are all companies I admire and trust.
Another really exciting part of the position is that I'm part of the SET, which is a group of four guys who travel around in Shimano’s two wrapped boat and truck rigs, attending events such as the Elite Series tournaments simply to teach people about new products and to help them make the best choices when it comes to rods, reels, line and lures.
So far it's been an extremely rewarding opportunity, and it's just great to be able to meet so many people across the country and show them products that, honestly, speak or themselves in terms of quality.
Of course, with this kind of position, it has been very time consuming which I’m not bringing up in order to gripe, since I love it. But like everything else, it will take time to get into the swing of things and keep the right balance.
Journey to the Elites
At times it seems lik I’m really not fishing much, but I am getting good time on the water for tournaments – which is, after all, the reason I’m working so hard off the water.
My primary goal this year is to qualify for the Elite Series. Though I feel like I’m fishing pretty well, I did have a bit of a slip-up at the second Southern Open on Smith Lake, where I finished 77th. After finishing 27th at Toho in January, my placement in the standings for the Southerns is a somewhat disappointing 34th, which is clearly a long way from where I need to be to qualify for the Elites. I think I'll need a solid Top-5, and have a few people above me stumble, at the last Southern on Norman for me to have a shot.
Fortunately, I’ve got the Northern Opens to look forward to as well, which I'm extremely excited about since it seems that my strongest time of the year is the summer and fall.
Overall, I have a little bit of a hole to dig myself out of on the Southerns, but also have some other great opportunities to achieve my ultimate goal.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff, a graduate of the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, chronicles his quest toward becoming a tour-level angler in his Sonar Sound-Off column. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.