Golden Handcuffs

I occasionally hear from Elite Series pros who profess to want out of the tour-level rat race. I’m not talking bottom feeders who regularly finish in triple digits, but rather anglers who’ve been at it a while and who are consistently competitive. Several of them make the Classic nearly every year and a few are considered stars. I think that most fans of the sport would be very surprised to learn two of the most recent ones, although in the interest of privacy and my own career longevity I don’t feel comfortable disclosing their names.

Now, of course, some of their statements could merely be posturing or sour grapes. Even people who love their jobs most of the time at some point dream about quitting and either sitting on the beach for the rest of their lives or taking up something else, like llama farming. The tour level pros have an especially tough hill to climb, with 80 grand in expenses every year with no guaranteed tournament income – for many it does not make financial sense. On top of that, many say that they hate the driving, the sometimes-crappy accommodations and being away from their families for long periods of time.

So why don’t more drop out when they still have more in the tank?

The first factor is that some of them aren’t serious in their complaints. The second is that many of them don’t know what they’d do with their time and to make a living – this is all that they’ve ever done and all that they’ve ever dreamed of.

Right now, though, there’s a third factor that’s been growing in importance. Simply put, it’s incredibly hard to get into the Elite Series. One bad day, or even a bad portion of a single day, in a slate of three Opens is enough to booger up your chances of qualifying or re-qualifying for the Elite Series. Look at the all-stars who’ve had trouble finishing in the top five at season’s end – names like Shin Fukae and Anthony Gagliardi. Even a hammer like Brent Ehrler didn’t make it on the first try. It’s that tough. If you’re in the Elites now, and you think that there’s any chance you want to be there at some point in the future, the best way to ensure that’ll happen is to keep your butt firmly seated rather than engaging in a speculative game of musical chairs.