The CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pros get fish all the time.
BASS members and fans see today's big-name tournament professionals in their logo-laden shirts on the victory stand, bathed in adulation at tournaments and turning into celebrities on ESPN2.
Many ask themselves, "Wouldn't it be great to actually get paid to fish?"
Anyone who dreams of becoming a professional angler should heed the words of Timmy Horton, for the career path taken by the 34-year-old Alabama pro provides a road map for all aspiring tournament anglers.
Horton took the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail by storm in 2000, when he turned in one of the most dominant seasons ever en route to winning the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in his rookie year on the Tour-level circuit.
Since his debut, Horton has won three BASS tournaments, qualified for eight consecutive CITGO Bassmaster Classics and earned more than $770,000.
"I dreamed about being a bass pro when I was 12 years old, but didn't make the decision until my sophomore year in college when I started realizing I was going to soon go to work," he said.
"I got my college degree just in case it didn't work out. I also started a guide business to get some financial stability to compete in tournaments.
"My biggest career break was probably winning my first Top 150 tournament (in 1999). I won $100,000," he said. "That was the first one I ever fished. I didn't have any paying sponsors at the time. So that win afforded me the security to fish the rest of the year. That was the season I went on to win Angler of the Year."
The Muscle Shoals, Ala., pro worked for years as a guide on Pickwick, Wilson and Wheeler lakes in Alabama to learn more about fishing and save enough money to enter the pro ranks.
"My first year on the Invitational circuit cost me $10,000 to $15,000," he said. "When I moved up to the (Tour), it probably cost me $30,000 to run the year."
Horton said the most satisfying part of his job likely is the camaraderie of his fellow anglers.
"Just the enjoyment that we get out of each other," he explained. "We're intense competitors on the water, but yet there's a kinship you establish with certain anglers."
Horton offers this advice for aspiring bass pros:
"Make sure your family is supportive of you, because you can't do it without that. If you have a spouse that is hesitant about it, you're going to make it tough on your family. Chase your dreams if it's also your family's dream, too. Don't do it if it's not."
Elite Series angler Rick Morris was the runner-up in the 2006 Bassmaster Classic. Now his brother Ivan, an amateur angler from the siblings' home town of Virginia Beach, Va., is one step away from qualifying for February's Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake.
Ivan Morris, a 52-year-old glass-company owner, won the recent Mid-Atlantic Divisional on the Potomac River in Maryland and will represent Virginia at the Federation Nation National Championship on Alabama's Lake Neely Henry Jan. 17-19.
With success there, Ivan could earn an invitation to the bass fishing's most major event while his younger brother Rick, 44, watches the Classic from the sideline. Rick, who finished 81st in the Angler of the Year Standings, did not qualify for the Classic via the Elite Series- only the top 37 in Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings qualifed.
"I'd never have any aspirations of winning the Classic," Ivan Morris told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. "But this is the best shot of my life of qualifying to fish in it. I'll be disappointed if I don't make it.
"I've got some pretty good help on how to fish on Lake Neely Henry. And I've got a brother who is a professional who can shed a little light on it for me."
BASS Conservation Scholarship Program
BASS Conservation through the BASS Federation Nation and supported by Costa Del Mar sunglasses - is now accepting applications for the BASS Conversation Scholarship Program, which will award college scholarships to students seeking a degree in the natural resource field.
Applicants must be a BASS member and a BASS Federation Nation member or immediate family to a member. Six undergraduate scholarships awarding $2,000 annually and one graduate scholarship awarding $5,000 annually are available and can be used for tuition, textbooks or living expenses. The deadline to submit is Dec. 1.
"We wanted to provide the BASS Federation Nations with a unique program only available to those members," said Chris Horton, associate director of BASS Conservation. "These scholarships will help ensure that tomorrow's fisheries managers are actually anglers themselves or are from an angling family."
For more information or to apply, visit Bassmaster.com/conservation.
With a healthy dose of help from Bassmaster Elite Series pros who comprised most of the Eurobass Cup American team, the United States won the third annual Eurobass Cup recently in Spain. The victory marked the third in as many trips for the United States team.
The Bassmaster Elite Series contingent included Byron Velvick, Steve Kennedy, Aaron Martens, John Crews and Lee Bailey.
One of the high-profile boats in the Bassmaster Elite Series has been Jason Quinn's. It is wrapped with the colors and logo of Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Quinn picked up the sponsorship at the 2004 Bassmaster Classic, which was held in his home region of Charlotte, N.C.
And the deal has gotten sweeter since: The colorful York, S.C., pro recently had his sponsorship renewed for another three years.
WBT boat wrap
Sammie Jo Denyes, a Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats pro, took a cue from BASS' recent Hottest Rig Running contest and created her own "proudest rig running" she'll debut next season.
The Florida angler just wrapped her boat with a tribute to the military, similar to what CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series angler and Hottest Rig Running contest winner Mike Reynolds did in 2006.
Denyes, whose father is a Vietnam War veteran, combined an American eagle, the POW/MIA logo, a photo of her father and three other soldiers and the "Reflections" painting to form a tribute collage. She chose the phrase "All Gave Some … Some Gave All" as an overlay.
Boat wrap company Liquid Wraps in Phoenix, Ariz., donated the $5,000 wrap and the angler's sponsors helped fund her trek from Florida to Arizona and back.
Ask Japanese pro Morizo Shimizu to name the oddest thing he has ever hooked with a rod and reel, and his face lights up with his trademark smile.
"A shoe. And a bag. And an umbrella," he replied. "In Japan on different lakes. The umbrella was caught on jighead. I thought I had a fish for a moment."
Did you know?
Aaron Martens, the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, quietly followed that achievement with a solid fourth-place campaign this season.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Shelly Perry, a competitor on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, would likely be working in the parks and recreation system for a municipality. She graduated with a degree in parks and recreation from Marshall University in West Virginia.
They said it
"It was a lot of fun today. There are magnetic signs on the rear and sides of the truck reading, 'Follow me to the BUSCH Shootout,' and people honked and waved at me all down the interstate. When I stopped for gas one lady walked up to me, stared at my picture on the side of the truck and asked me if I was the famous man who cooked chicken wings. I laughed and told her I wasn't the chicken man."
Preston Clark described his drive to the BUSCH Shootout to the Palatka Daily News.