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Professional Debut in Review
Part 3

by Andrew Buss

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Mickey Thomas weighs in fish during the B.A.S.S. Southern Open on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. Thomas has learned that being a professional angler is a whole lot more than just fishing.After a disappointing finish in the 2007 B.A.S.S. Southern Opens, Edwardsburg, MI angler Mickey Thomas is hungry and confident he’ll show measurable progress in 2008.

The Opens gave Thomas a new perspective in many ways including a deeper understanding of fish patterns. “I’m much better at breaking down bodies of water now,” he says, “I come home now to smaller bodies of water and develop patterns quicker and more efficiently.”

He recognizes differences between his local bodies of water and those of larger lakes. For example, patterns don’t change as frequently on the larger lakes. “On lakes (close to home), because of their small size, you can pattern in a short time,” Thomas continues, “but these lakes have multiple patterns and conditions which makes it more difficult to determine the most dominant pattern to win a tournament.”

Mickey Thomas waits his turn to weigh fish. In just a year, Thomas transformed from a feared, local tournament fishermen, to a professional with a wrapped boat and signature tournament shirt.He recognizes differences between his local bodies of water and those of larger lakes. For example, patterns don’t change as frequently on the larger lakes. “On lakes (close to home), because of their small size, you can pattern in a short time,” Thomas continues, “but these lakes have multiple patterns and conditions which makes it more difficult to determine the most dominant pattern to win a tournament.”

That confidence will serve as a building stone for his professional career.

Thomas learned several principles about pre-fishing which he’ll employ next season. He’ll spend considerable more time tossing baits that cover water faster. In turn, this will offer an opportunity to see more of the lake so he can make better adjustments when conditions change.

This adjustment in preparation is not by coincidence. He saw, in action, the biggest difference between amateurs and professionals, “Work ethic, is hands down, what sets them apart. They make the most of their time in practice.”

Thomas met a variety of people while touring the country fishing. Excellent communication skills and a sincere interest in people have garnered a faithful following and multiple sponsors in just one year as a professional.He also learned to employ and suggests anglers to, “Familiarize yourself with new bodies of water and apply new techniques as often as possible.” He continues, “Practice figuring out patterns.” And equally as important, “Practice techniques you’re admittedly weak in.”

“This game is 90% mental and only 10% physical. But if you don’t have the physical, the mental is obsolete.”

“Sharing spots” between anglers is ethically debatable for many, but Thomas witnessed anglers “share spots.” This is not a new phenomenon as he’s also seen it employed locally on his home waters. He acknowledges it can be helpful, but ultimately says, “It still comes down to having the skills to make the right adjustments.” In his mind, it’s much more advantageous to, “Spend time on the water with better fishermen, and compete against better competition.”

As Vice-President at JSI Inc., in Elkhart, IN, Thomas is a skilled businessman and is now quickly gaining a reputation as a marketable figure in the public and to companies wanting to invest in the fishing industry.

After a single season in the Opens, he has already gained sponsorship with Shimano, Gamma, Moose Tracks Ice Cream, Deka Batteries, Mercury/MotorGuide/Lowrance, D & R Sportscenter, and Galaxy 1/Dish Network. He adds, “I am especially grateful for Galaxy 1’s CEO, Bob Byrd. He is not only a business partner, but a true friend.”

Thomas cautions others to never take sponsors for granted. He spends his off-season solidifying these partnerships and seeking others he believes in. While establishing his identity on the water, his confidence never wavers, and as a result, potential sponsors see an angler growing with a skill in communication and an ability to connect with people.

Thomas looks forward to competing professionally in 2008: “I have lots of room for improvement and I will.”Despite not cashing a check, success, he also learned, comes in a number of ways, “Recognition is a big deal,” he clarifies, “Being in a position to gain the recognition of being a professional is rewarding in itself.”

The season also put him in position to develop relationships with other professional anglers, but also with war veterans and children, which he especially enjoys. He readily acknowledges, “I love kids.”

Traveling back from the event on Santee Cooper, he found himself at a Wal-Mart gas station 10:30 at night signing autographs, giving out tackle packs, and taking pictures with a child who recognized him. “I never meant this to get any attention, but it ended up in the local newspaper and Galaxy 1 recognized this as the perfect representation for their company, but actually, I was just being myself.”

After 2007, Thomas despises the question, “What happened?” But it was never a matter of what happened, rather; it’s a matter of what he learned and where the confidence in him will lead, “The more you evaluate a situation, the more you learn.” His confidence has only grown from both the experiences on the water and the many new relationships he’s gained. He walks into 2008 with confidence and certain success in the future.


Read Part 2 of Professional Debut
Read Part 1 of Professional Debut

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