By Steve Graf
Recently, I watched a great YouTube video by Elite Series Pro Chris Zaldain. He and his wife, Trait, host a YouTube/Podcast show called “Zaldaingerous,” and I came across a 1 hour 44 min video in which they dove deep into some of the issues facing professional bass fishing. This episode featured Elite Series Pro, Matt Herron, who happens to be a good friend of mine and is never short on words. If you want the truth and perspective of a guy who has made a great career for himself, then Matt is the guy you want to talk with. He will not sugarcoat the issues and has sound advice on how these issues should be dealt with.
In this particular episode, Matt breaks down some of the problems and situations pertaining to professional bass fishing. Matt, Chris, and Trait talk about rules, sponsorship dollars, polygraph testing, the 2019 split, the new open series, and the Tony Christian scandal. If you’re an up-and-coming young man and want to know how to be a pro angler, you better make the time to sit down with Matt Herron. He will not lead you to believe that being a full-time professional angler is easy. If anything, he may have you second-guessing yourself before you walk away. He’ll probably ask you, “Are you sure you want to do this for a living?”
The first topic they discuss is the fight over sponsorship dollars and how the pool has shrunk. He referred to his days of starting on the FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Tour (2003) and how FLW ruined and burned so many non-indemnity sponsors like Tide, Walmart, Gastrol Oil, Land-of-Lakes, Kellogg’s, and many more. FLW did not deliver the exposure they promised all these major sponsors. When FLW folded, all these potentially great sponsors dropped out of the professional fishing market and left only never to return.
The market of companies out there looking to provide assistance to an angler has shrunk dramatically. Matt points out that today, it’s almost impossible for an angler to make it on his own without solid financial backing. He makes light of how mommas, daddies, or grandparents with deep pockets are footing the bill for these young anglers to try and make it. They do okay for the first couple of years, which is all they are guaranteed. Then, the 70% that don’t make it leave the sport with thousands of dollars of debt up to their eyeballs!
Next, Matt, Chris, and Trait talk about polygraph issues. He and Chris both would like to see more anglers polygraphed after an event and have some of the questions revamped. Matt talks about how he personally knew an FBI investigator and how the FBI conducts a polygraph test. He talks about how the wording of questions is critical to catching a cheater. Then they brought up the Tony Christian scandal that rocked the professional bass fishing world when Tony was caught cheating in an FLW Tournament after his “honey hole” was discovered and investigated. It was discovered that he had made a special basket, put it in the water, and stocked it with bass. The basket allowed for his bait to enter the basket, catch a bass, and exit while the lid closed as the fish came out of the basket, retaining all other bass waiting to be caught. Tony was eventually banned for life from fishing as a professional angler and has virtually disappeared.
I could go into all the topics they discussed on this episode, but if you want to hear the undisclosed side of the professional bass fishing world, check out the episode yourself. Go to youtube.com and search “Zaldaingerous.” The husband/wife team of Chris and Trait Zaldain interview the anglers that fish the Bassmaster Elite Series. They do a fantastic job of introducing their fans to the harsh reality of being a professional angler. There’s no topic or subject that’s out of bounds as Chris and Trait are excellent hosts with a wealth of experience themselves as professional bass anglers.
Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget your sunscreen. Also, make sure to schedule regular dermatologist appointments. If you don’t have a dermatologist, find one!