I’ve been getting consistently published in bass magazines and on related websites for over a dozen years now, so even though I sometimes still feel like an absolute rookie, I guess that makes me an old salt. I came into the gig accidentally, with no contacts and no journalism experience, so I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way.
Another sign of my agedness-slash-experience is that every few months some would-be bass writer comes to me looking for advice on building a career in this space. Really, I’m flattered, and because so many people helped me when I was starting out, I feel an obligation to pay it forward. I wish there was a magic formula, or some button you could press, but it’s a little more amorphous than that. Some of them end up persevering, while others drop out after an article or two.
The first piece of advice that I always give is “Write every day.” It doesn’t have to be War and Peace of Infinite Jest. In fact, a 50- or 75-word snippet might help you just as much, but if you’re only writing when you have an assignment then you’re not developing your voice.
What about beyond that?
If you’re going to write about fishing, and bass fishing in particular (or any topic for that matter, but I’ll limit the scope to what I know), then you’ve got to go where the events are happening. You have to meet the players. You have to get into the arena. That can be tough if you have a full-time job like I do. It’s also an easy piece of advice to disregard since it seems like 90-plus percent of what we write can be done offsite. I’m telling you, though, if you really want to gather attention and opportunities, you’ve gotta be there.
No one told me this early in the game, but I nevertheless traveled to Bassmaster Classics (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009), ICAST and other events on my own dime. There was no grand plan, I just really wanted to be there. Eventually, others started footing the bill, or even paying me to be there, but at first it was nothing but an investment in myself. Eventually you might get to the point where you have more opportunities to go places than you have time to accept.
Once you’re there, you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities crop up that you never would have expected. If you’re a writer, you’ll develop ideas and meet people who can implement them. If you’re a photographer, at some point you’re going to have a picture that someone else needs and that they’re willing to pay for. It’ll increase your profile exponentially. The media sessions and resulting articles will justify the trips, but you’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll earn and learn as a result of rides to the boat ramp, beers in the hotel bar and chance meetings in elevators. You don’t get any of that staying at home.