Mark Courts: Proud to be in the National Guard Boat
Mar 8th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Mar 8th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Add up the $359,402 Mark Courts won on the tournament trails, a Championship victory, other tournament top finishes, fishing with and against the best, running coast to coast for 12 years, and he will point with pride to his greatest catch. Fishing Saginaw Bay in 2002, he met Vicki; proposed at another Michigan tournament three years later and married in 2006.
Living in Harris, Minnesota, Mark has seen more and more road miles, especially with his ride in a National Guard wrapped boat and truck last year and in 2011. “Less than 50 percent of this business is based on fishing. There is just so much ‘business’ involved and that alone is a full-time job,” he said, “Seven or eight years ago, 70 percent was based on fishing. The tables have turned.”
After turning full-time pro, he has loved every second of the journey. His previous occupation was a dog trainer for family-owned Lockeridge Kennels. He still has three hunting dogs, and maintains his edge by training three to five dogs each year.
Instead of being in the field, he’s on the water, or likely in a lab or conference room with engineers and product specialists. “I love designing and tweaking about everything I get my hands on,” he said. He and pro Jason Przekurat are in the midst of some prototype soft bait minnow and crawler development, with many trips to the Berkley test tanks. Final field-testing will take place this season with an expected roll-out in fall. Mark said, “My first sponsor was Berkley when I was fishing a tournament on Lake Okoboji. They approached me – that was in the days when sponsors did that.”
He has been heavily involved with the MinnKota team, incorporating what he’s learned on the water (depending on the product to win money) and what the public shares with him. “I can pass along what I know and what I hear directly to the people who can make the improvements and build an even better product,” he said.
Mark and Vicki run 11 tournaments for their Central Minnesota Bass League on Thursday nights and some Saturdays in and around the Twin Cities. “I have a passion for bass, and this gives me a break from walleye fishing,” he said.
Due to his constant sport show and boat show presence and his ability to sell boats, he forged an early alliance with Lund Boats, and is proud of the relationship that jump-started his pro career. His current schedule includes 30 to 40 “show days” annually. His boat sponsor since 2006 has been Ranger Boats, which fit his FLW tour plans.
“Today, with the social media of Facebook, email, websites, web interviews, and the ability to comment and help people in so many ways, I could sit all day behind a computer, and some weeks it seems that way,” he said. “But, companies know the value of pro anglers being marketers with a strong social media presence. It seems that promotions and marketing are what many sponsors want, and I wasn’t hired just to fish.”
He does live web cam feeds directly from tournaments, a venture he has with Jason Przekurat and Scott Steil at onwaterlive.com.
Last year he fished from a National Guard wrapped boat. That came about after fishing with and talking with National Guard officials in 2009. He fished with 15 to 20 soldiers at year-end, met the Minnesota command, talked about a “wrap,” and other marketing plans, and expanded the marketing plan to three soldier appreciation events in conjunction with FLW on the Detroit River, Lake Erie and Gull Lake last season.
“I think it’s vital to give back to our soldiers,” Mark said. He also does many joint events at high schools with the recruiters, and said, “Kids relate to fishing, and I can talk with them about the Guard.” He also does a number of major sport shows with the National Guard boat and attends many photo shoots and media days. Minnesota is the number one Guard recruiting state in the nation, he said.
The Guard tie-in has expanded significantly, and they are now the title sponsor of the FLW walleye tour. “This is a big hit for the walleye industry, and will bring more people to the tour. The top guys will be fishing together again, and this year will be like the good old days,” he said. “With Lindner Media filming the tournaments again and me fishing against Gary Parsons and so many friends, I can hardly wait.”
Mark was really excited to have played a part in the early soldier appreciation days, because in 2011, there will be 26 such events in conjunction with FLW tournaments. “We will be able to touch more soldiers than ever, and I’d like to see this program continue to grow,” he said.
Positive signs are already evident with more industry support of walleye tournaments, more entrants, and good boat and tackle sales, so that Mark is ready for a successful season. The coveted Angler of the Year title has eluded him, and after finishing runner-up to Paul Meleen on the FLW tour last year, he said, “Angler of the Year would mean more to me than anything else.” He has been getting ready, and has been spending six days a week in the gym. “I want to be in shape mentally and physically to win,” he said.
Mark cited the three top lessons he’s learned working and fishing as a pro angler:
1. Give 110 percent.
2. Be honest to sponsors.
3. Always stay positive.
Mark Courts’ current sponsors include the National Guard, Ranger Boats,
Evinrude, Humminbird, MinnKota, Cannon, Berkley Trilene, PowerBait and Gulp, Pflueger reels, Dobyn’s rods, Northland Tackle, Navionics, Costa and On the Walter Live.
To contact Mark Courts: Cell: 612-801-6054, or [email protected].