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Do you believe credentials are important? Does where you have been, what chairs you have sat in, your education and past experience play a role in the future? When do credentials matter and when are they less important?

If I am having complicated surgery, have a legal problem or am wanting my car fixed correctly, I want someone with credentials doing the job. Credentials do mean something and even though platitudes and politics have a way of usurping them at times, to most of us they are very important.

“Been there, done that” does have value and just because many get to dance around them, their value in most cases will not match up. Fishing has the same quandary.

Similar to credit or experience, how do you get credentials if you don’t have them? Are there good credentials and bad ones? Experience has a role, but how do you get credentials that will help? Nothing is free and for the most part life doesn’t allow us to skip steps. You have to earn it.

In professional fishing there is a bit of controversy/discussion on what designates a professional angler and what separates them from a promotional angler. The difference is significant and without a tour card, a fancy vinyl wrapped boat and truck and a tournament jersey can be the line of demarcation.

For our sport to get where it needs to be, we have to find a way to separate the “true” pro from the “wannabe.”

Tournament fishing is a relatively young sport compared to other professional sports. Jackpots, derbies, wildcats and club events are all good and add to participation levels, but those who fish these events are really not pros.

Simply put, anglers here do something else to make a living. They fish for a few bucks, may work a few shows for manufacturers and may even speak to organizations, but they are not professional anglers. Many are very successful and some make a large amount of money fishing.

Those who fish the top tier, FLW Tour and BASS Elite Series, who derive at least 50 percent of their income from fishing, are professionals in my book. It truly does come down to credentials. Also, a Tour Card is needed.

For the record, promotional anglers are very important to our sport. They are the lifeblood to some companies and many work their tails off helping to endorse and sell products.

Just like in baseball, where you have major and minor leagues, fishing has multiple levels. Often they are confused.

Major leagues: These are Top Tier anglers who have been through local and regional levels and have qualified to compete at the top level. BASS has the Elite Series, FLW has the FLW Tour and Major League Fishing only takes the top level pros.

You cannot buy your way into these levels and although there are some gray areas in qualification, this group is the top of the food chain in professional fishing. These trails are national in scope and high-dollar entries and payouts.

Developmental leagues: Second-tier minor leagues is not a derogatory term and the anglers who fish this level may be just as good as those at the top but might have circumstances that keep them from competing at the top level.

Finances are a big part of that as it does cost a lot to participate at the top tier. Trails included here are the FLW Costa’s and the BASS Opens. They are national trails, but schedules are more regional in scope with lower entry fees and competitive payouts.

Minor leagues: Still top-notch anglers, but they compete at the local and state level for the most part. Aspiring younger anglers also get their starts at this level. Leagues include FLW Bass Fishing League, BASS Federation and numerous other regional trails. Good payouts based on numbers of entries.

Club level: Clubs are the starting place for most anglers where they compete on local bodies of water against buddies. Money can be won, but it’s mainly about bragging rights.

Write your successes and failures down. Build a resume. Credentials do matter. They separate the true professional anglers from those aspiring to be at the top level.

BNBC Classic

Brock Sauder and Bryce Wegman won the BNBC Tuesday Night Classic at Taylorville Lake with 21.92 pounds. They also had big bass of 4.81.

Terry Brown is President of, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to


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