On occasion, we investigate ways to earn a living in the fishing industry, giving readers a bit of the inside scoop. Since I haven’t held a “day job” since the age of 25 and I’m now knocking on the door of 50, I must have done something right in order to survive. Truth is, adaptability in the industry has always been my secret.

But today I’m most concerned about you. We took a peek in this direction not long ago, and I gave a few tips for aspiring professional anglers. With a gigantic surge in 20-something competitors lately, I’m guessing many readers fit the category.

So what’s it take to give it all up and chase your dream? Winning tournaments? Qualifying for the BPT? Making the Classic?

Not hardly. In today’s game, there are a number of ways to put bread on the table. Some don’t even include tournament competition.

Now, before I go any further, let me again point out the need to refrain from shooting the messenger. Most of you will recognize my affinity for the pay-to-play process. When it comes to proving your worth, I’m as old-school as they come. Give all the accolades, awards and publicity to the best competitors, I say.

But that’s no longer what the industry thinks, and for good reason. While a time existed in bass fishing that the most notable anglers were those with the most wins, that’s now a bygone era.

You see, years ago there was no other way for a hotshot basser to distinguish himself other than tournament fishing. Put up or shut up; that type of thing. Top anglers were given that credit by their win list, Classic contentions and AOY standings. With the notoriety came sponsorship. And with that, the dollars and freedom to move forward, pursue speaking engagements and earn a comfortable living.

As time went on, a few business-savvy pros expanded more. Television contracts offered some a chance to get rich from fishing. A handful of others found a niche – perhaps a regional following or big-time guide business. But the majority of the most successful bass fishing businesses got that way through tournament recognition. In fact, a few of the popular TV shows were those following the tournaments, giving more leverage to the model. Same thing for the magazines. In the case of bass fishing, “street cred” was still earned in the competitive arena.

But a major change occurred in the early 2000s. Social media networks began and expanded with Facebook in 2004, followed by the introduction of YouTube a year later.

Typical of the fishing industry, this new technology was slow to be adopted. But once it became mainstream, it spread like wildfire. Today, while the major tournament organizations continue to pump out great content – much of which appears on social media – thousands of other information sources exist at the click of a mouse.

And that’s where you can fit in. While a strict competitive career still attracts many young anglers, it’s not for everyone. Yet, everyone is still consulting some form of media to learn more about bass fishing.

Industry leaders are recognizing this and pumping a large share of their marketing dollars into social media. That comes in many ways, from ad buys to influencer partnerships. These outlets now compete with tournament winners for endorsement dollars because they influence the buying public just as effectively. That’s just the way it is – regardless of who likes it – because it all boils down to one simple term.


As media and information have evolved, exciting social media content now makes as many or more quality impressions as tournament headlines.

We’re now seeing clever anglers capitalize on this. Making it work depends on regular, quality material. Here are a few tips, should you decide to go this route.

1) Practice your delivery – Pick out videos that you enjoy and notice how the subject delivers them. Usually it’s three or four key points and a quick recap. Each section has a few cut-aways to illustrate what’s being described. Try on your own, ask for critiques from friends and family, and listen to the recommendations. Often, it’s hard to judge yourself.

2) Invest in quality gear, but don’t worry about the nerds – You DO need a quality camera and a GoPro or two, but you DON’T need something that looks like it belongs in Star Wars. Leave the crazy set-ups to the extreme-sports junkies. Heck, a bunch of content used by the fishing industry is shot on I-Phones; you’ll be a hero with a decent rig capable of shooting 4K video in decent lighting. Equally important is knowing how to use your cameras and always keying on focus. Remember that word.

Much of your work can be self-shot, but having an extra set of hands is invaluable. An angler with a similar mindset makes a great business partner as you each work in your specialty. Notice how many fishing content builders work in pairs.

3) It’s all in the editing – You’ll need to shell out a few bucks for a capable computer and subscription or two to editing programs. Lightroom rules for photographers, video editing is a toss-up between Premier and Final Cut Pro. Regardless, spend the time it takes to learn how to edit your own content. YouTube tutorials are everywhere, just approach it like a class. Don’t be in a hurry, and plan to spend several hours a day, several days a week editing at first. And, when in doubt, edit photos less and video more.

4.) Post regularly, and keep track – Don’t assume that industry partners or sponsors are out there checking up on your reach, they’re not. They’re checking up on their own. Always take time to update anyone in your circle of your work, and keep a running log of your posting practices and performance. While you may not kill it in terms of views or likes at first, building takes time and regularity in your approach. And quality still reigns supreme over quantity, even with social media.

So there’s an opening crash course on making it in today’s world of fishing, without the need to purchase a six-figure bass boat or travel across the country. Media has changed vastly in the last two decades, leaving more ways than ever to get your share. Think outside the box, because the box itself is always expanding. Nowhere does it say you can’t.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)