UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Smith Mountain Lake

What Success Looks Like

What Success Looks Like
Eric Jackson

Eric Jackson

(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.)


We all view success differently. In fishing, one obvious form of success is winning the tournament. That certainly is the classic and a critical component to success, but only one person can win any tournament. What about the other 164 competitors on the FLW Tour? Are they all failures?

This article is about taking control over your own success and the happiness that goes with feeling successful. First, let’s get some definitions out of the way. “Success” and the outward trimmings of success are two different things. Success IS internal, and one person’s view of it isn’t the same as another’s. Outward trimmings of success are totally different than real success. Outward trimmings are what others see, such as money, fame, a big house or being popular in a crowd.

Anyone who reads about famous people knows that many people who have outward trimmings in abundance don’t feel successful, but feel like failures. Drugs, family issues, depression can all be found with people who look successful on the outside just as often as those who don’t appear successful.

Somebody once showed me a study that put professional bass fishing at the very top of the list of high-stress jobs. This isn’t surprising, as the odds of winning a pro tournament are not very high, and those who have won expect to win again, yet it might be years before that happens. Mark Rose became the first fisherman in the 20-year history of the FLW Tour to win back-to-back tournaments this year. He stated very clearly that he expects to finish in the middle and the bottom again sometime soon, as that is the way this sport goes. Mark has a good understanding of what success is about, and he would say he was successful long before he won the first two events of this season.

Let me give you two quotes that I believe provide the strongest guide for being successful, and for being happy.

“The secret to success is constancy to purpose.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“True happiness ... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

Notice that neither happiness nor success in these quotes has anything to do with goal achievement. However, if your worthy purpose is to be a pro fisherman, and you want to be successful, staying on that project (constancy) is the secret to success. You will gain the knowledge and skills, and see tournament success over time, which are your outward trimmings of success. You will also be happy in that you are in it for the long haul, and committing to something important to you is one way to stay happy.

A short-term approach of giving it a try and only continuing on if you succeed doesn’t work. Our sport has too many facets to it to get them all down quickly. Those rookies that seem to do so well usually have already cut their teeth on local tournaments, and while they are rookies on Tour, they are not rookie tournament fishermen.

This is all theory, so far …

Here is a practical guide to being successful as a tournament fisherman today, while you work toward an AOY, tournament wins or championship wins.

 

1. Set your priorities related to your life and how tournament fishing fits in.

Mine goes like this: 1. Wife. 2. Kids. 3. Kayaking/fishing. 4. Business.

Find solutions for assuring that each of your priorities can be taken care of the best you can, and that those solutions aren’t mutually exclusive. An example: I bring my wife and kids in an RV to go to kayaking/fishing events, so we are all together and can have a life together, even when I am fishing/kayaking. My wife’s priorities are me, kids and then gardens/chickens, so she also is happier being with me on Tour.

 

2. Know that you can’t get everything you want right away and that the journey – not the end zone – is the reason for the commitment to the sport.

You will spend 1,000 times more of your time along the journey than you will in the end zone. Winning a tournament isn’t worth an unhappy journey. A happy, meaningful journey creates the sweetest wins.

You will make less money, spend more money and take more time than you expect. You will need to set expectations related to money that are functional and that everyone you affect can agree to.

Even as experienced as I am with this one, over the past 30-plus years as a pro athlete, I have a hard time admitting just how little I might earn in prize money from time to time.

You can’t put a timeline on success. If you’d asked me last year how many top 20s I would have had, I would have said three. I had zero, and zero checks. If you’d asked me before this year how many top 20s I would have, I would have said three, plus one top 10 and five checks. I have fished three tournaments this year without a check yet.

I will be winning money, winning events and seeing my name on the AOY leaderboard on the home page of FLWfishing.com during my career, but I can’t tell you exactly when yet. For that reason, I had better be planning for the long haul. I also had better learn to enjoy the ride I am on today.

Don’t count on winnings to make it financially. It is much easier said than done to earn enough support from sponsors to cover all of your expenses, and even harder to live off of them, too. However, success on Tour is much easier to achieve when you are fishing to win, or do the best you can, and you aren’t making every cast as if your next meal depends on it.

I have lived for more than 15 years as a poor professional kayaker, with a family that struggled every day to put food on the table. Even then, I never entered a competition with the idea that the winnings would be my supply of money. I found other ways to get food, and treated prize money like a bonus. This makes being successful as a professional fisherman much more in your immediate control. Over the years I have borrowed a lot of money to bridge the gaps. I have never regretted that, and am so lucky that I never gave up when things got hard. Eventually I become a leader in sponsorship earnings in my sport, and the prize money followed as well.

 

3. Know that this is a team sport. Yes, you are competing as a solo pro, but by bringing a team of people along for the ride, will you be more successful and happier, too.

FLW as an organization is a great example. This is a group of people doing their best to make the organization fly each year. If they are not successful, the anglers can’t be successful, and even worse, they can close their doors forever. I take an “ask not what your organization can do for you, ask what you can do for your organization” approach to my relationship with FLW.

Anglers who are desperate for every advantage and believe their success is linked to withholding information to prevent others from doing well are on the wrong track. Helping others catch more fish will help you catch more fish. Get out of the mosh pit of selfish non-helpful anglers and do what you can for others. Don’t expect anything meaningful in return, but it will come. Winning a tournament without any help is much more difficult. Yes, you will help others that don’t reciprocate well from time to time, but you will become closer friends with the high-quality characters on Tour by being a genuine, honest, dependable, helpful person that can be counted on. Those quality people will have your back, and you won’t be going it alone.

As far as sponsors go, there are only so many moments that FLW can give you on stage to plug sponsors. Focus on what you can do all year long, during the offseason, and think of sponsorship like a job that you report to each week, or each day, not only during tournaments. See my sponsorship article related to that for detailed information on how to get and keep sponsors.

 

Eric Jackson

Find success

If you are like me, you don’t like losing. I don’t like being ranked 117th after three events like I am today. I want to be ranked No. 1, like you do. But I wouldn’t trade my current career as a pro for the career of anyone else on Tour today.

Losing in tournaments and being successful can be accomplished at the same time, and this article’s objective is to help you redefine success, while increasing your chances of achieving the win at the same time.

There are always times that are stressful and hard, and I beat myself up over getting a zero on a tournament day. But that lasts for only a few minutes as I know that I want to be doing this and that this is part of the deal, at least for now. My wife greets me with a kiss and a “sorry, you’ll do better next time.” My son can’t wait to play with me, and I have wonderful friends who are supportive. I always seem to get a good word of encouragement from Bill Taylor, the tournament director, as well. “Eric, good job. You are getting better at each tournament,” he tells me.

If this is the foundation I have to work from, then I am all in. Of course, I, too, dream of winning that final weigh-in at the Forest Wood Cup and sharing with everyone how I caught my big bags of fish to take the championship. In the meantime, I’ll be having a blast, learning as fast as I can, and am there with help if you need any.

Tags: eric-jackson  blog 

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