Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: James Niggemeyer has been a professional fisherman for 5 years. Most people don't understand how difficult competing on the bass circuit and paying all your expenses are, as well as earning enough money to pay for your family's expenses. This week we’ll talk with Niggemeyer about his fishing career and how he fishes in the winter.
Part 1: What Costs Are Involved in Being a Professional Bass Fisherman and Why Fish the Red Eye Shad Now
Question: What’s required to be a professional fisherman?
Niggemeyer: Most people don't understand how much commitment, time and work are required to earn a living as a bass-fishing pro. Being a fulltime pro fisherman is a dream come true, but making a living being a fulltime fisherman takes a lot of tenacity and hard work. Most people don't realize what the expenses are per tournament. I think mine are actually lower than many anglers are. When we have a tournament, I camp in my self-contained truck camper, and I carry my own food to save on expenses involved with eating out. A campground costs 1/3 of what a motel costs.
Another expense is fuel for the boat and the truck. The amount of fuel you’ll need for the boat depends on what lake you’re fishing, and how far you have to go to find fish. I try to be frugal and cut costs wherever possible. I think that cost cutting is smart business, especially when your business is bass fishing. Entry fees also add-up. Each tournament in the Bassmaster Elite Series has a $5,200 entry fee just to compete. That’s a total of $41,600 to fish the entire season, which consists of eight events. Many competitors spend as much as $1,000 per tournament for gas, food and lodging, but I spend less than that. After covering all of my expenses, I have to have enough money left to support my family. When I'm not tournament fishing, I guide families and individuals who want to catch bass on Lake Fork in Texas. I offer instructional fishing trips where I teach the client tactics and tips he can take back to his home waters and use to catch bass there. I'll show my clients the best way to fish any lure, especially the new Strike King lures, to increase their odds for catching bass.
Question: If you're taking people out in January and February, what lures will you be fishing?
Niggemeyer: My #1 lure at this time of the year is Strike King Red Eye Shad. Most people think of January as wintertime fishing, but here at Lake Fork we often catch pre-spawn bass now. I believe some of these bass spend the entire winter months in shallow water. They often will be holding in the shallow hydrilla and milfoil. Catching fish on the Red Eye Shad is an easy way to catch bass this time of year. This tactic is much easier than fishing on offshore structure in deep water. Really, all you have to do with the Red Eye Shad is cast it and retrieve it, and the bass will eat it up. I like to fish the Red Eye Shad around the edges of grass and through the cutbacks in the grass.
Question: What color of Red Eye Shad do you like best at this time of year?
Niggemeyer: In January and February, I like to fish the 1/2-ounce Red Eye Shad in the orange-craw color. If the bass aren't biting orange craw, then I’ll choose gold-black back, the new gold sexy shad or chrome sexy shad. I like the gold-black back or gold sexy shad when I'm fishing an overcast day, or when the water is really stained. I like the chrome sexy shad in really-clear water and on bright days. Those colors will take the lion's share of the bass I catch each day. The orange craw usually catches the biggest bass.
Question: What pound-test line do you like to fish with the Red Eye Shad?
Niggemeyer: I usually like to fish 16-pound-test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line. Although you can throw the Red Eye Shad on line as heavy as 20-pound test or as light as 10-pound test, I think the 16-pound test is right in-between those other two sizes and gives a good feel with little stretch. Along with the milfoil and hydrilla, I'll also be fishing the Red Eye Shad beside docks and boathouses.
Question: How long do you fish each day when you’re guiding?
Niggemeyer: We usually go on the water about 7 am and come back about 5 pm. After we take a lunch break, that’s about 8 hours of bass fishing. The good thing about the Red Eye Shad is the bass will bite it all day long, but I’ve found we catch some of our biggest bass from 1-4 pm on Lake Fork in the winter, after the water has had a chance to warm-up. We usually have a breeze pick-up in the afternoon that breaks-up light penetration in the water and causes the bass to be a little-more active.
Question: What is the average temperature in January in your part of Texas? We know that section of Texas has cold fronts that mean really-cold weather, but what's the average?
Niggemeyer: High 40s to high 50s. We also may have some days in the high 60s, as well as some days below freezing. The weather tends to be warmer in January, but we usually have more rain in January than in February.
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