UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Eufaula

Prepping to Go Pro

Prepping to Go Pro
Luke Dunkin

 (The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


In 2016, I will be stepping from the back of the boat to the front deck for my rookie season as a pro on the Walmart FLW Tour. The decision to pursue my childhood dream at the next level has made my fall and winter a little different so far. OK, it’s actually been a lot different than a normal offseason. Sure, I’m cleaning reels, organizing jigs and changing the treble hooks on my crankbaits, like in years past, but there’s a lot more to consider this time around.

I have been a tournament angler at various levels for the last 20 years of my life. The fishing side of the professional bass game is just the beginning. It’s the family, business, tackle prep and travel sides that tend to get overlooked. There is so much more to competing on the Tour than just hooking up the boat and heading south to the Big O for the season opener. A few of these things have hit me between the eyes during the course of my preparation.

I think anyone that makes the decision to chase any dream needs a strong support system. It’s hard to get very far in life without one. I am very fortunate to have an amazing wife, five great kids and a group of friends that all but drown me with support. This group also includes the folks at T-H Marine, where I have been a sales manager for the last 10 years. Stability is a major key in being able to stay focused on whatever it is you are doing in life. It can make or break you. My support system was a huge factor in my decision.

The business side of the game is crucial to success too, and it’s not as simple as just saying, “I’m a pro.” Companies do not just fill your bank account with hundred dollar bills because you decided to walk out on the ledge. You have to build relationships with them.

Finding companies willing to partner with you, that make products that fit you, is a challenge. Most of the veteran pros have created a brand for themselves over the years and have come to be associated with the companies they partner with, and vice versa. As a rookie, trying to get a spot in that rotation before the first cast is made is very difficult. I have spent countless hours working on this part of my “fishing” for 2016 and beyond.

I am fortunate to have made some new relationships for next season, and am proud to be bringing along some companies that I have worked with for a long time. Fishing is an expensive sport, with entry fees, lodging and fuel costs, so this is a critical part of the game.

As for the equipment preparation, I’m almost OCD in regards to tackle. I have to be, because I worry about always having the right thing for the right situation. This led me to be a notorious over-packer on the co-angler side, even though I probably could have gotten by with a Walmart bag full of Senkos and Trick Worms.

Now that I’m fishing on the pro side, I feel like I better be prepared for anything, everything and then some. We start in Florida and end up in Vermont. You name it, and we will see it. Thus, I have spent a lot of time making sure I have plenty of the tackle I use the most. I have also spent an equal amount of time filling the holes in my tackle lineup, such as prepping for techniques that I don’t spend much time with, but might need during the season.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on my rod and reel selection as well. Co-anglers are only allowed seven rods, which drove me nuts! I will have a lot more than that on the front deck of my Ranger Z520. I assure you of that.

Last year I typically practiced with Wesley Strader and roomed with Wesley, Shad Schenck and their families. Shad has decided not to compete in 2016, so Wesley and I will be rooming together all year. Shad’s wife, Sara, took care of most of the booking last year for the crew. Logistically, it is a lot to line up. For peace of mind, we like to stay in houses instead of hotels. They are typically safer and have full kitchens, so we (Stephanie Strader) can cook all week and have plenty of room to work on tackle. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. When you are renting, you have to make sure you are in a decent area, close to the venue and have plenty of parking for two tournament rigs – our trucks and Rangers take up a lot of room. It can be a huge undertaking. The last thing you want to do is get to an event and be stressed over something like lodging. You have to control all the variables you can.

With all that said, I could not be more excited for this new adventure. All the work will pay off when I get to Okeechobee in February and start my bid for the Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake. Oh, and did I mention that the Cup is on my home lake?

There’s a lot to look forward to in my rookie season on the Walmart FLW Tour.

Tags: luke-dunkin  blog 

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