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Greg Huff, NAFC Social Media Editor
NAFC Staff Blogs
It's almost always the first question I get after telling people what I do:
"You get paid to fish? How'd you get so lucky?"
I sometimes ask myself the same question. Nine months into my new career as social media editor at North American Fishing Club, I still sometimes pinch myself. I have, to be sure, a Dream Job.
That said, I must note that I don't actually get paid to fish. Although the occasional fishing trip -- sometimes during office hours -- is part of the deal. So yeah, caveats aside, I’ve got a Dream Job.
How did I get so lucky?
Like any angler that lands the Big One, I like to think luck is the crossroads of preparation, ability and opportunity. So when people ask I how I got my job, the first thing I always say is "I applied for it a year and a half before the position existed."
I’ve always been a journalist. It wasn’t until the summer of 2009, however, that a light bulb went off – I wanted to be an outdoor journalist.
I was miserable working tons of unpaid overtime editing articles about school board and city council meetings, producing videos about small-town parades and the like. Why couldn’t I put to use my decade’s worth of media experience to write, edit, photograph or film fishing-related media?
I’ve always been passionate about fishing. I grew up with a rod & reel in hand; piloted a motorized canoe solo at age 8; dreamed of catching a Minnesota Master Anger-worthy fish like my dad had. As an adult, I moved from Nebraska to Minnesota for the 10,000 lakes and named my band Lazy Ike & The Daredevils (in honor of two vintage lures I fondly remember fishing with as a child at my Grandpa & Grandma Huff’s northern-Minnesota cabin on Crane Lake).
As I matured, married, and tired of many pursuits that occupied my later 20s and early 30s, fishing became my favorite escape, hobby, avocation – why couldn’t I make it my vocation?
I mentioned this to my sister, a PR executive who also moved from Nebraska to Minnesota, drawn by the waters.
“Look up all the companies in the Twin Cities metro that do outdoor media and cold-call the top person there, invite them to lunch and ask them how one might break into their field,” she said.
“Those guys are busy – you really think they’d meet with me, a nobody?” I asked.
“You’d be surprised,” she said.
So I followed her advice, emailing NAFC Executive Director Steve Pennaz (I’d been enjoying the magazine and Club membership for years) as well as Ron Schara and a videographer at his production company. Ron Schara, along with his sidekick, a black lab named Raven, hosts “Minnesota Bound,” an outdoors program much loved in my home state. Both NAFC’s headquarters and Ron Schara Productions are located in the Twin Cities metro area – and both within 20 minutes of my home.
To my surprise – but not to my sister’s – my “cold call” emails resulted in a lunch meeting with Steve Pennaz and a studio tour and brain-picking session with the Schara Productions videographer. I showed each some fishing-related videos that I shot and edited for the newspaper website I worked for at the time.
Steve’s advice for breaking into the business was essentially to keep doing what I’m doing and get it out there, via a website, youtube, etc, and to continue making contacts with and building relationships with people in the industry.
The videographer offered some professional pointers to improve my camera angles and video editing, but offered encouragement and a compliment or two as well. “Your instincts are good, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get better,” he said. “Put this stuff on the web and try to get noticed – bring it to people’s attention. If and when a job opens up, you’ll have something to bring to the table.”
I took their advice. I devised a five-year plan.
I began by befriending a few regional tournament anglers who brought me on their boats to shoot video. It was a win-win. I got experience filming and editing, they got videos for their websites and/or blogs. Exposure for an angler’s skill and sponsors is key, especially for upcoming tournament competitors.
I worked on getting good at editing fishing footage. I worked on it a lot -- sometimes 6-8 hours an evening after coming home from my day job. My wife would often say, “You had better get a job in the fishing industry soon; you’re burning yourself out.” Or something to that effect. I had on headphones most of the time, editing video – couldn’t hear too well.
I posted videos on youtube, on a website I created, on my angler friends’ websites/blogs. They didn’t get tons of traffic, but they got the ball rolling.
Then I started a podcast about professional tournament fishing. I applied for a media credential in order to get phone numbers and email addresses for the bass pros I enjoyed reading about and watching on TV. I got those contacts and cold-called those pros – would they be interested in appearing on an iTunes-based podcast hosted by a passionate bass-fishing enthusiast that no one’s ever heard of?
Again, to my surprise, I got what I asked for. In my podcast’s first year -- with no sponsors, audience or fishing-industry bonafides at all – I interviewed more than a dozen marquee bass pros, including Kevin Van Dam, by most accounts the best tournament bass angler of all time. With no budget or promotion, the podcast’s subscriber list grew to several thousand by the end of the fishing tournament season.
Long story short -- the videos led to a small freelance job for Ron Schara’s production company. That led to the president of Ron Schara Productions bringing to my attention the NAFC Online Editor job posting and writing me a letter of recommendation.
I got an interview with Steve Pennaz. It had been about a year and half since I first met him for lunch and picked his brain about getting into the fishing biz. I mentioned our meeting, showed him a few videos, talked about the podcast.
I don’t recall if Steve mentioned remembering our previous meeting, but even if he didn’t, hiring me would make for a good story – one a stroryteller like him might appreciate. I hoped that would weigh in my favor. I’m not sure if it did or not, but I did get a second interview. And then a third.
After several excruciating weeks of waiting (my positioned had been eliminated at the newspaper group a week before Christmas 2010, so I reaaaaaaalllly needed a job at that point, Dream Job or not) I got the call.
I got the job. The Dream Job. I was going to get paid to fish.
Well, to talk and write about fishing, anyway. As NAFC’s social media editor, my job, for the most part, would be to talk fishing with the NAFC community via Facebook and Twitter and in web videos.
People working in the fishing industry – magazine editors, TV hosts, tournament pros -- are often asked “How do I get your job?”
My answer echoes the answer I received when I asked the same question – start doing it. Don’t expect it to fall in your lap. Chase it. Work for it. Every day. Every day, all day, if you can.
If it’s the only thing you can see yourself doing, start doing it. Keep doing it. Get better at it. Bring attention to it.
Eventually, someone might just pay you to do it.
-- Tight lines, Greg
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 10:28 AM
Hey Greg, nice article. You have proven so many times what my grand-parents and Mom used to say to me, if you want something , bad enough, go get it ,apply yourself, and eventually it will come around, good Lord willing.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 12:23 PM
hay there Greg ,,, you have proven to me you do know what you are doing and for sure also can fish ,,,Bass fish that is ,,, great wright up and wish you the best ,, trying hard to get up there to Bass fish with you but looks like can`t till maybe next spring or summer ,,, in joyed our fishing trip at Orlando Kissamee chain ,, and hope we can again fish like that ,,,, still wateing for video you shot then ... i know you are very busy ...and i know you will put something together for sure ,, keep up the great work and tight lines to you and your Family .. May God Bless .. Trophy Life member Bob Johnson
Saturday, October 15, 2011 2:15 AM
Dear Greg, great editorial that you posted loved it, really glad things worked out for you and your family, mostly you. Trying to do something you love to do and get paid isn't really all that easy, especially when it had to do with fishing. Most of the people who don't like to or just simpy refuse to fish would say its not a sport, but I beg the differ. Baseball, make millons unless its raining, boohoo, they get paid enough so why can't they get wet doing it. Football, yeah its physical, but those guys have relief on the sidelines when they need them. Bsaketball, besides running not all that physical in the area of a demanding sport. I could go on but really who wants to read about stuff they already know. My wife, some family and friends say that fishing isn't a sport, I sit back and laugh because they all bring up the major sports and then say to me what do you have to say about? My reply is, if your in a tournament pro or not, you don't fish you don't have a chance at the money, they can't just say " HEY BOB" come relieve me I need to dry off this rain is getting to me. The one thing I love about fishing is its all you, you make the choice where your going, what your using, how to present it colors and so on. Really what I'm trying to say is fishing of the most demanding sport mentally and physically, and if someone you know does not agree take them out on a cold, damp cloudy day hands them a pole point to your gear and say "here, have at it, go catch something, anything". You'll find they will be amazed at the fact the fish don't just jump up and in the boat our on the shore you actually have to work for them. The best thing I've done was get my kids interested in fishing, its giving them alot more patience, confidence and slows them to make decisions when choosing a lure. Right or wrong its there decision. I think my wife would agree when I say its a good practice to teach young children. Sorry to go on, but I just love to fish and think that everyone should try out atleast once before they say its not a true sport, it's one of the true first sports there were next to hunting. Thanks for your time and reading my post.
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