Nobody said itíd be easy.
In fact, when it comes to trying to make a living in the fishing profession, almost everyone says itís quite the opposite.
Iím not new to the financial realities of the sport, and honestly Iím just thankful to be able to beat the odds so far, but it certainly hasnít been a walk in the park.
A challenge that I think is the most difficult amongst this profession is the inconsistent income, which makes paying the consistent bills a looming fact of life. With that in mind, Iíve needed to get a little creative to stay afloat between paychecks.
When I was a kid, and my fatherís career was cooling down a bit after MASH, I remember that his primary income was from his wildlife art. He was, and still is, a talented artist, and I admired how he could utilize such a gift to make ends meet.
I too had a knack for drawing, which I was beginning to realize during high school, but as it is with most highly focused people, I only had time for one thing Ė fishing. Once I made the move back to Florida to pursue my fishing career, I donít think I made as much as a sketch for almost a decade.
Fast-forward to present, with the short-term move to California, I find myself with a little more time and a little less disposable income. With some newfound free time I thought I might as well keep myself busy with my old passion for art, which I could fuel with my passion for fishing.
The author got a surprisingly positive reaction to the first piece of art he'd produced in many years.
The result was my first drawing in years, with the subject (of course) being a largemouth bass.
With no intention on making a penny off of the piece, but rather just curious how others would react to it, I did what anybody would do these days Ė posted it on Facebook. The result completely took me by surprise. I immediately started getting a bunch of requests from people who wanted to buy it. At that moment I realized I might be onto something.
Since that first drawing, I have made several others, with each one improving on the last. I have begun selling them in a limited edition series of prints with custom framing, and business has been pretty good. Itís at the very least keeping me busy. To see more, click here.
I guess the apple truly doesnít fall far from the tree.
A Social Endeavor
I've never been a real big fan of social media, as Iíd much rather be casting a line and weighing in bags of bass. However, social media is a necessary part of the business landscape these days, and I realized I needed to take it more seriously.
Iíd always kept a modest social media platform. Iíd liken my activity to opening up a bank account and keeping the minimum balance in it. I opened up accounts with the popular platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and then lastly Instagram, but I never truly applied myself to any of them and only made an occasional post.
My ignorance of the power of social media changed after Sweetwater hit the air and I was responsible for helping to grow its social media reach. Not unlike fishing, I realized that the business of social media is a very unpredictable and humbling, and oneís success is affected by a multitude of factors.
At present, I am not only working on improving my own personal social media platforms, but Iím also co-managing Sweetwaterís page, and I have contracts with several sponsors for generating content for them.
Overall, it has been a surprisingly time-consuming task, but has also been financially rewarding, giving me a much needed cash cushion in the lean times.
Guiding has always been an intriguing business proposition to me. I love fishing and I love teaching, and I certainly donít mind making money, so guiding has always had a sort of allure to it.
Working for the lodge in Alaska since high school has really taught me how to be a good guide Ė because guiding is only partially about the fishing Ė but I never really embraced it down here, as I've always been so focused on the competitive side of fishing.
Once again, faced with a need for extra income, guiding was an obvious choice.
I began offering bass trips to Northern California destinations like the Cal Delta, as well as the local lakes in the Bay Area, but oddly enough, most of my guiding has taken place on the salt.
Since I have a captainís license collecting dust when Iím not in Alaska and I live in the coastal town of Santa Cruz, I thought Iíd see if there was a need for a captain for the local charter boats. Turned out there was, and I started running a boat for a charter company called Chartle Charters, primarily for inshore rockfish, lingcod and halibut.
Itís been pretty fun, actually, and itís been a great opportunity to learn a new skillset in fishing Ė not to mention boating Ė since Iíve never before captained a 34-foot, twin-screw diesel converted commercial fishing trawler. Say that five times fast!
The Grind Continues
Though Iíd like to sit here with my hands pecking on this keyboard and tell you that that the money is rolling in, the reality is that it rarely does at the level that Iím currently at in the sport. In fact, I know a good majority of the guys on both the Tour and Elite side find themselves working a side job of some sort. It is simply a tough way to make a living.
However, one thing I can tell you with a great degree of confidence is that I wouldnít rather be doing anything else with my time, and if while Iím climbing the rungs of the sport I need to diversify myself a little, I donít have a problem with that at all.
In the end, I'm lucky to have so many options and I'm fortunate that those options keep me in the game.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).