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How Mark Davis Became a Professional Angler

Mark DavisEditor's Note: Mark Davis, 38, of Mount Ida, Arkansas, who won the BASS Masters Classic in 1995 and the Angler-of-the-Year title in 1995, 1998 and 2001, never has had a career outside the fishing industry. "My dad said I've never had a real job," says Davis, who is known today as one of the top bass fishermen in the nation and ranked 3rd in the world for bass-fishing expertise, according to, which rates anglers according to events won in the past two years with bonus points given to winning the BASS Masters Classic or comparable events.

Question: Mark, how did you get started fishing.

Answer: When I was a youngster, my dad had a boat on the lake. He also had a motorcycle that I could ride back-and-forth to the lake. So, as soon as I was big enough to ride the motorcycle, I went fishing almost every day. I'd even play hooky from school and go fishing.

I had a friend who was a guide, and he told me one time, "Mark, why don't you start guiding fishermen?" I really didn't have any confidence in my ability to guide people to fish but this gentleman just told me, "Mark, all you've got to do is to take folks fishing, let them catch most of the fish and when they get through fishing, clean the fish for them, and then send them on your way. You need to take care of the folks, make sure they have a good time and be safe with them."

Well, a few days later, he gave me my first guide trip. I took some folks crappie fishing for four hours, and we caught 24 crappie. At the end of the trip I got two, $20 bills. Remember, I was 15-years old, and $40 was more than most men made working all day long at that time. I said to myself, "This fishing for money is the life for me."

Mark DavisI guided all the way through high school. Then my dad had a heart attack at the end of my senior year, and I put off plans for college for a year. Guiding fishermen proved to be so profitable for me that I never went to college. Next I started fishing tournaments every time I could get enough money to enter one. I became a professional angler when I was 21, and I've been fishing for a living ever since.

Question: What kind of money were you making while guiding when you were a teenager?

Answer: When I got out of high school and started guiding fulltime, I was making $20,000 a year, which was really big money 20-years ago. I was living at home and didn't have any expenses. Of course I was guiding 200 days of the year.

Question: What was your big break in fishing?

Answer: When I was 31 in 1995, I won the BASS Masters Classic as well as the B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title. That was the year that I could finally quit guiding and strictly fish competitively and work for my sponsors. I haven't guided since 1995.

Question: What were you doing to become Angler of the Year and win the BASS Masters Classic?

Answer: Three ingredients made the difference in my fishing performance that year. I lost 100 pounds of weight and got myself in good physical shape, which enabled me to fish better and longer. The second thing I did was put tournament fishing first and guiding second. Before 1995, I'd book a lot of guide trips around my tournaments. I didn't pre-fish any tournament. As soon as a tournament was over, I'd come back home and start guiding. I wasn't putting enough time in my tournament fishing to be successful.

Mark DavisBut in 1995, I made tournament fishing the foremost thing in my business. I pre-fished tournaments and got an intimate knowledge of each body of water I was competing on before the tournament. The third thing I did was I turned my career over to the Lord. I'm convinced that those three things enabled me to have the kind of career I did in 1995. I continue to follow those three aspects of my life today.

Question: In 2001 you won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year again. How?

Answer: I won that title in 1995 and 1998. In 1998, the tournament fishermen had to fish a lot of different types of water. Because my strong suit is versatility, I believe I was able to adapt to change better and faster than some of the other anglers. I don't really care how I catch a bass. I don't consider myself a flipper and a pitcher, a crankbait specialist, a spinner bait fisherman or a worm expert. I'll just do whatever I have to do to catch a bass.

In 2001, I caught the biggest string of bass in my career, which was also the second biggest stringer of bass ever caught in a B.A.S.S. tournament. Those five fish weighed a total of 41 pounds. I caught those fish on Lake Toho in Florida on a Strike King tube bait while sight fishing. I can remember a time in my fishing career when I didn't sight fish. I told myself that I couldn't see well enough to sight fish for bass and that I really didn't like to sight fish. But I've changed my philosophy to do whatever I have to do to catch bass.

Mark DavisTen years ago, I would've said "I don't like sight fishing, so I'm not going to do it." I've got a different attitude towards sight fishing today. I believe to be a successful tournament fisherman, I have to be versatile and try to learn every technique that will catch a bass. I think versatility and being able to adapt to fishing conditions easily and quickly is what has allowed me to win the Angler-of-the-Year title in 2001.

Question: How many times have you won the Angler-of-the-Year title?

Answer: I've won the B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title three times -- 1995, 1998 and 2001. Bill Dance has won it three times like I have, and Roland Martin has won it nine times.