Alaska is the only state in the nation void of bass, but for Miles Burghoff, it might as well be the bass capital of the world. “Alaska and its people are some of the biggest motivators I’ve had in my life” noted the rookie pro and current leader of the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race. “I immediately found out that you either sink or swim. There was more to myself ... my confidence ... my ability to do things.”
To understand Burghoff’s epiphany, however, we must first learn of his dedication, for it may supersede any pro I’ve interviewed.
Early on, Burghoff found himself stuck in the same rut as much of America’s youth. “I had no real motivation,” he said of his high school years. “I certainly didn’t realize I had ability to do anything out of the ordinary.”
Burghoff’s family life was far from ordinary, however, as he grew up in California, the son of a famous Hollywood actor. But the road was hardly paved with gold. “We actually had very little money after my parents divorced,” Burghoff added. But still, in his father, Miles witnessed potential.
“He showed me anything is possible. Someone I knew could do something so off the wall; but (he found) you really have to go all in.”
Maybe it was his father’s inspiration, maybe it was fate, but, for some reason, Burghoff decided to take a job in Alaska immediately following high school graduation. In fact, he left that night.
Facing a hard summer of late nights and early mornings, Burghoff found himself being tested. Through self-reliance, he passed. It was through this period that he undoubtedly learned he could do anything he set his mind to.
Since his initial Alaska trip, Burghoff’s life reads like a career manual for becoming a bass professional. At age 19, he packed everything he owned in his truck and moved into a small travel trailer in south Florida, specifically to be near the world famous Stick Marsh bass fishery. “I knew immediately I had to learn to fish all over, especially in places I was uncomfortable with,” Burghoff commented. Stick Marsh seemed like a nice place to warm up to Florida.
Burghoff’s next move was north, though slightly, to the greater Orlando area. There he attended the University of Central Florida and studied the Kissimmee Chain as hard as his marketing courses. His tournament career expanded to include multiple divisions of the BFL circuit (he’s fished seven to date), as well as college fishing, where he earned a national championship in 2011.
Florida was a flash in the pan, however, as Burghoff transitioned to Alabama to be near Lake Guntersville. Then, as is the case with many young men, his plan was altered a bit while chasing a girl who later became his wife. A quick move back to California was followed by another to Florida, and yet a third to Tennessee.
Most recently, the couple moved into their new home near Lake Chickamauga. Burghoff’s primary motivator? “Truthfully, I didn’t have a lot of TVA experience.”
Fast forward, and Burghoff is quickly on his way to a successful career as a professional angler. Hard work and extreme dedication have provided him a good sponsor base, an expanding television and media presence and, most recently, the No. 1 spot on the FLW Tour.
“Winning Angler of the Year would be massive; it would be huge. It’s motivating me more than anything now. But I admit, I’m not tested at the Tour level yet, so no one really knows where it’s gonna go."
But as I quickly learned, Burghoff need not concern himself where he finishes the race. Far from fishing techniques or tournament prep, Burghoff’s secret lies in attitude. While mum’s the word with most leaders in a tight race, Burghoff revels in the attention.
“Honestly, I like talking about it," he said. "Why not enjoy it as it’s happening?”
Even more so, Burghoff professes a need – almost a calling – to activate others in their approach to life, whether that be fishing or whatever comes their way.
“Those people sitting at home, that’s who I want to send the message to. To get people more interested in taking a chance on themselves. I wouldn’t have done it had I not seen people around me achieving so many things through hard work and passionate activities.
“It was so profound to me. It’s harder when you get older (due to family commitments), so you need to do it now. I’m still in the process; I’m still not a success. I’ve learned over the years to enjoy the process. It’s still fresh in my mind and I love to share that.”
Will Burghoff win the FLW AOY on his first try? Maybe; he’s certainly not going to roll over and lose it. But the names chasing him are a literal who’s who of FLW – including Martin, Cox and Dudley – so he has his work cut out for him.
In the end, I’m not sure it really matters to Miles. For his goal in life isn’t to prove what’s possible, but that it’s possible to try.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)