PAA Conference Offers Valuable Advice
Whatever measure of fishing success used: winnings, honors, tournaments fished, days on the water, years in boats, knowledge or skills, the panel of professional anglers assembled on stage was impressive. They answered questions during the National Professional Anglers Association Annual Conference held in Minneapolis on January 7th.
Robert Blosser, Mark Courts, Mike Gofron, Tom Neustrom, Gary Parsons and Jason Przekurat shared their tips for success in business and in tournaments. Answering the first question dealing with advice for beginners, Blosser said, "Put a 5-year plan together, compete in local and regional tournaments, learn and surround yourself with good people." Courts chimed in and noted he is still a young guy on tour, but has 12 years under his belt.
"The industry has advanced tremendously in that time with electronics, boats, motors, tackle and tactics," he said. But, keeping current with the technology is only one part. Courts was adamant that to move into the ranks of pro anglers, individuals must learn all the tactics and spend time on the water.
Gofron and Parsons fielded a question about their walleye success. Gofron said, "I still can't believe I've done all this." He said a pro angler must have the support of his family. He said, "It's important to stand behind and know your sponsor's products, spend time on the water and work hard." Parsons said, "We all put our pants on the same way, but winning proves to ourselves and our friends what we can do on the water."
"Is it still fun?" a conference attendee asked Parsons. He said, "I'm one of the luckiest persons on earth to have enjoyed God's outdoors my entire life. I have as much love for it today as I did in those early years. I have no regrets, because I've been blessed to be in the fishing business. My work is my love." He transitioned from being a dentist to a full-time pro angler, but admitted if he could do something different, he would have been a better father.
Regarding the much-talked about aquatic invasive species issue, Neustrom said, "I feel it's the responsibility of all anglers and boaters to do all they can to slow down the spread of these invaders. Tournament sponsors and contestants will face and must adhere to intense rules coming. All fishermen should follow their lead."
Time management during tournaments was the question for Przekurat. Efficiency and being prepared is the key, but making game-day decisions is the difference maker. He said, "During my really good FLW run, I did it on gut instinct. When to go or stay was based on a feeling." He advised anglers to watch time of day when walleyes bite on a spot. Even if the fish are present, but not biting in the morning, check back in the afternoon. "I like to find my own out-of-the-way spots and fish by myself," he said.
Adding to these comments, Blosser said, "I spend 120-plus days on the water every year just to keep my techniques sharp." Courts said, "Pay attention to details." Gofron said, "To prepare and research a new body of water, buy my book!" He also said he watches current flow, rising/falling water, and does much pre-fishing at home before heading to a tournament. "My favorite spot to fish is the Missouri River. It's different every time," he said.
Neustrom was asked about a severe injury a few years ago and how he overcame this potential career-ending episode. "Doctors told me I would never be back guiding. I worked more than a year and am back full-time guiding, which is another way anglers can make it in the fishing business," he said. "I now have more passion and thank the Big Guy upstairs for what he allowed me to accomplish." As a guide and while talking with tournament anglers, he said, "The NPAA is so strong because we all work to promote the sport."
What would it take for top anglers from all circuits to fish an event against each other? "That would be great, but what about the really great anglers who don't have the money to compete?" Przekurat asked in return. Parsons said instead of one mega-event, "Tournament anglers should fish as many tournaments at all levels as possible. Support each other."
This pro-panel workshop could have lasted all winter. The comments became conversation-starters the remainder of the weekend. Other news, including stories from the recently concluded NPAA Annual Conference will be discussed and shared on the NPAA website and in future news releases.