Editor’s Note: Mark Menendez, 55-years-old from Paducah, Kentucky, has earned more than $1.25 million in his fishing career. He’s fished competitively on the Bassmaster Elite Series (https://www.bassmaster.com/elite) for over than 29 years and has competed in several Bassmaster Classics. Menendez is a former real-estate agent who’s followed his dream and his passion to live his dream and support his family through his fishing. The true test of any athlete in any sport isn’t just about how great they are, but how long they do it. He has 34, top-10 finishes in the tournaments he’s fished. To learn more about Menendez, visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/TV-Show/Mark-Menendez-Bass-TV-2033832306840265/. And, according to Menendez, “To compete on the highest level of bass fishing, anglers must understand that their fishing is a business”
I believe my strength in competing on these highest levels of bass fishing is due to my being versatile. I also have talent or luck – whichever you prefer to name it – in developing relationships with sponsors and working hard for sponsors. I spend from 80–100 days a year just working for my sponsors. Fishing is the vehicle to get me to the sponsors, and my actual job is working for and with my sponsors. I’ve learned that if I have a good year of fishing, I can get plenty of good exposure for my sponsors. If I’ve had a bad year of fishing and get little or no exposure, then I’ve had a bad year for my sponsors as well. However, the years I’ve had bad years, the relationships I’ve made with my sponsors have come through for me to be able to pay my bills and meet my financial obligations. In other words, when I’ve gotten my name in magazines and talked about the products I’ve used, and when I’ve been on television working with my sponsors – that is what’s carried me through the bad years. And, if I’ve had a good year working with the media, that also has helped my sponsors.
What many professional fishermen don’t understand is that working with the media and sponsors, and putting in the time when the sponsors need your help is the way a professional fisherman earns his money. The advantage of setting-up a business model like this is that when you do have a good tournament, that’s a bonus. When you don’t have to worry about making a check in a tournament and having enough expense money to get to the next tournament, you’ll generally fish better, catch more bass and finish better in the standings than when you know you have to make a check, or you’ll be eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for the next week. When you’ve got a good relationship and work hard for your sponsors, you have a much-more secure feeling that the mortgage and the light bill will be paid for your house and the expenses for your tournaments will be paid. Then you can fish worry-free. You can take some risks on the water to try and finish better in the tournament that you won’t take if you have to worry about paying the bills. I’m convinced that the long-term friendships a fisherman makes with his sponsors are the most-critical ingredient to being able to fish at his best.
Many people ask me, “How do you get sponsors?” What most newcomers to the sport of bass fishing often fail to realize is that getting a sponsor doesn’t have anything to do with you and what you want. It’s all about getting that sponsor’s logo or product featured either in digital print, a magazine or newspaper print, on television or on the web. Sponsorship is also about finding other anglers who can work with a sponsor and help promote their products. Sponsorship is about continual branding for the sponsors with whom you work. Getting sponsors is like building a pyramid. You start with a solid foundation. Then when you reach the Elite Class of bass fishermen, sponsorship is much easier to obtain, if you fish well. I do numbers of seminars, which give me a lot of exposure. And again, that’s working for sponsors. I also believe in being willing to work for sponsors for nothing, until you’re good enough to start being paid, receiving a product discount or getting products for free.
To learn more about bass fishing, check out John E. Phillip’s book, “Catch the Biggest and the Most Bass in Any Lake,” at http://amzn.to/Xd7qez, available in Kindle and print versions, and Click here for the Audible link. If necessary, copy and paste link into your browser.
Tomorrow: Needing an Education to Bass Fish Professionally with Mark Menendez