While I have never been much of a fisherman, plenty of people are. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one out of every eight Americans fish. Included in that group is Macon native Clayton Batts, who has made fishing his occupation.
His great aunt and uncle Nanny and Bubba (Leila and Arthur Jackson) got him started in fishing at the age of 3, and he fished his first bass tournament at age 10 with Tom Mann, a renowned fisherman, in Eufaula, Ala. He got his first bass boat when he was 15 and began fishing local tournaments.
The 2000 FPD graduate, who received a business management degree from Georgia College in 2005, became a regular in the Bass Fishing League in 2006 while he was working with local retailer Home Décor and Big Bite Baits.
He moved into fishing as a full-time profession in 2009 and for the past two years has fished on the Everstart circuit. Batts equates the Bass Fishing League to Class A baseball and the Everstart Circuit to Class AAA. More than 150 fishermen compete in the Everstart series, which includes lakes in the Southeast.
This year, competition took place at Lake Okeechobee, Lake Guntersville, Lake Seminole and Lake Santee-Cooper. Batts finished 25th out of approximately 200 and qualified for the Everstart Championship, which will be held in November on the Ouachita River in West Monroe, La. The top 40 from Everstarts five regional divisions -- Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western -- qualify for the finals. Prize money for that tournament is $125,000, with the winner taking home $50,000 along with a fully rigged RangerZ528 with a 200-horsepower outboard motor.
Batts best finish in one of the Everstart tournaments came at Lake Eufaula in 2011 when he placed fifth, which was good enough to earn him $8,000.
He said many of the tournaments that he fishes in require as much as a $4,000 entry fee, but taking part at lower levels reduces the entry fees and prize money accordingly.
Batts says he has fished a lot from the back of the boat this year. That means the angler in the front of the boat has paid the $4,000 entry fee and he has paid an entry fee of around $800.
Batts fishes in competitive events virtually all year long. In a recent FLW open tournament in Michigan, he had a fifth-place finish (winning $2,688) after bringing in a five-fish limit for three days that weighed a total of 53 pounds, 7 ounces. The top prize of $20,000 went to an angler whose catch totaled 55 pounds, 2 ounces, for three days.
Batts said he has fished in snow, rain and in temperatures that have exceeded 110 degrees.
Professional fishing and professional golf are similar in the way prize money is awarded.
It can be really good or very bad financially, Batts said. If you finish in the money, its good. If you dont, its bad.
Batts said that it is hard to be successful without a title sponsor, and he has several companies that he is currently in conversation with and hopes to have one on board soon.
He says while professional anglers are extremely competitive and secretive on the water, they are like a traveling family when not in competition and help each other out when needed.
His 2013 schedule calls for him to fish in all the Everstart tournaments as a pro (boater), six FLW Tour events as a co-angler, with plans to go completely pro (boater) on the FLW Tour in 2014. The FLW Tour is named for Forest L. Woods, founder of Ranger Boats.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org