Walleye First Tournament Series Gary Parsons

 Nov 10th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Nov 10th, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Gary Parsons has always been a visionary.  He has always done it his way.  Many years ago, he gave up a lucrative dentistry practice and stepped into the pro fishing ranks full-time.  His assessment of competitive walleye fishing is more like a president’s state-of-the-state speech.

 This story will be presented in two parts.  The first deals with walleye circuits and tournaments.  The second will deal with his views on the trials, tribulations and what it takes to become and remain a full-time fishing pro in today’s game.  First, some reasons Gary deserves the industry’s attention when he speaks. 

He was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Angler.

He has been the Number One walleye pro angler, based on the Walleye First website ranking system for many years.

He has been Angler of the Year three times when fishing the Professional Walleye Trail; won the Team of the Year title on the Masters Walleye Circuit when it was the Manufacturer’s Walleye Council; and earned North American Walleye Association Angler of the Year honors.

    He hosts The Next Bite TV show and segments for many other TV shows.

    His website receives 30,000 unique visitors per month.

    He has 11 major walleye tournament wins.

    He has been featured in more than 900 magazine articles.

    He started fishing with his dad, a consummate outdoorsman and teacher.

    His son Chase is a full-time walleye angler and major tournament winner.

 His sponsors have supported him for the nearly 30 years he’s been in the business: Mercury Outboards, Nitro and Tracker Boats, Bass Pro Shops, MotorGuide, Berkley lines and hard baits, AMSOIL, Lowrance, Mustad, Off Shore tackle, Smooth Moves suspension seat mounts, FinTech, Fishouflage, Gemini Sport Marketing, Oakley, AIM and Next Bite Media.  He is proud of the sponsorship and support of wife Mary.

“I think the future is guarded,” Gary said, “And, competitive walleye fishing in some form will always be there.”  He cited the many “bar” tournaments that were in vogue for years prior to the circuits and feels there will always be places for tournament anglers to fish.

 He said AIM and MWC tours are “doing mediocre,” and the FLW is “just fine.”  Then he explained his feelings fishing the FLW tour for the first time in 2011. “It was weird at first fishing the FLW, because when they began this format, I felt the contingencies would kill the sport by hindering individual sponsorship opportunities,” he said.

 But, he found many “positives” to fishing the FLW once they relaxed individual sponsorship (product and clothing) restrictions.  He said, “I really enjoyed the experience, as did Chase and the two other members of our traveling group, Keith Kavajecz (Gary’s brother-in-law) and Tom Kemos.”

He noticed the anglers accepted him as another competitor.  He made some great new friends and renewed many old acquaintances from the days when all pros fished only one circuit.  “There are some really good sticks; it was fun fishing with and against them,” he said.  The welcome he received from director Sonny Reynolds did much to relieve any pre-season anxiety.  “I liked the web coverage for my sponsors, but the final day TV filming controversy needs to be addressed,” he said.

Mostly, though, he enjoyed the fact that while fishing the FLW he didn’t have to go head-to-head against walleye pro Mike Gofron at every tour stop.

 “Yes, the FLW was the most prominent tour in 2011, and as long as the National Guard is involved, they have a tremendous future,” he said.  “With the National Guard as headliner and Mercury as an outboard sponsor, the FLW immediately was added to my list of places to fish.”    Gary said there are lots of pro walleye anglers loyal to Mercury, and they now have the green light to step into this tour.

He has felt ever since AIM unveiled their format of Catch-Photograph-Release that is has been the best venue for pro anglers.  “Other tournaments still have the PR nightmare with killing fish.  That is NOT the case with AIM,” he said.  The weigh-in crowds at AIM are as big as any other event.  The 2012 CAN-AM is already full on both sides of the border.

 “I don’t know exactly what AIM has in mind, but I speculate they may go with a number of specialty tournaments next season rather than a full-blown circuit.  AIM needs more anglers to participate,” he said.

The MWC has been a good circuit since 1985, he noted, and their affiliation with the Cabela’s NTC was a good move.  “They keep rolling along, and everyone should know there are many top-notch talented angling teams competing on this circuit,” he said. 

There are many large state and regional circuits, some big-time individual tournaments like the Merc National, many charity tournaments, and of course, the age-old “bar” tournaments.  “All offer opportunities for anglers to perfect their skills on a competitive level.  I started out this way, and to become better, I recommend walleye anglers practice by fishing at all levels.  Support as many tournaments as possible next season,” he said.

Gary Parsons can be reached at [email protected].  His office phone is 715-264-3017, in Glidden, Wisconsin.

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