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The Road to Rock Star: Meet Mark Rose

from Full Limit Outdoors

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The world of professional bass fishing is a constantly changing landscape. A particularly noticeable element of this landscape that frequently changes is the faces of the participants. This is a sport that is fueled by “up and comers.” There are thousands and thousands of people out on the water every day who aspire to be the next big thing in bass fishing. Some of them make it to the big game and find out that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Fierce competition, ever-increasing expenses, time on the road away from home, the pressure to produce income and many other factors, typically thin out the herd. Then, there are others who persevere and rise to the top. Their game becomes better at the same time opportunities are afforded. They meet the hardships and adversity of their chosen lifestyle with an uncompromising vigor that almost forces their success. They are the pros that you read about, hear about, and know by name. Suddenly, we find ourselves with a group of anglers that can be sub-categorized within the moniker of “pro." My opinion of these categories is as follows:

The Newbies – This group is comprised of the relative new-comers to whatever organization that they are competing in. They have been pros for probably three years or less. Most likely they have qualified for the big leagues through some sort of “farm system” such as the federation, Bassmaster opens, the Everstart Series, and now possibly collegiate fishing. They are looking to come on strong and make their mark. This group of anglers represents about 20% of the field of today’s pro scene.

The Grinders – These anglers have been playing the game for a while. That could mean a few seasons, or they could be veterans. They typically have not won a major title such as an AOY or Classic or Cup Championship. They have more than likely won a mid-level event or two and could have even won a single top-tier regular season event. A member of this crowd could possibly be a favorite to win on their home water or when a certain technique comes into play. They aren’t yet marquee names and could just as easily disappear as become superstars based on finances, sponsor dollars and sometimes a little bit of luck. This contingency represents roughly 70% of the total field of professional bass fishing.

The Rock Stars - This group represents the upper echelon of the bass fishing elite. These guys have won multiple tournaments, titles and championships. They are backed by the biggest sponsors with the best deals. They have a broader fan base due to increased media coverage as a result of noteworthy performances. They are generally a few years into their tenure but not necessarily. They are household names and withstanding something dramatic will be around for a while. This is realistically less than 10% of the pros on the road today.

Regardless of their chosen association, the members of these three groups are prevalent and recognizable in today’s professional bass fishing line-up and they’re all good anglers. The awesome thing about sports and competition is that the success of an individual is often limited only by their own ability and drive. Also, those two variables can be altered either way. For instance, an angler can “practice” and become more proficient at certain techniques. Or, an angler can gain focus or momentum that positively affects their drive. Either of these scenarios can have a positive influence on said angler’s season or even their career. I like to think of it as the development of an athlete. Some have enough talent and tenacity to get to the game, and that’s good enough, while others keep building upon the foundation that got them there. That’s why some veterans stay in the “Grinder” category, while others become “Rock Stars."

I’m going to exclude another potential facet of angling stardom which is popularity. It can definitely come into play in one’s career and boost their momentum, but for the sake of tangibility, I’m not going to dive into that shark tank. Rather, I want to feature a prime example of an angler who has taken every step up the ladder from Newbie to Rock Star. He has continuously gained momentum, skill, fan base, and net worth. Not only net worth as far as his bank account is concerned, but also to his sponsors, the sport, and his faith. The angler that I’m referring to is Mark Rose.

Mark’s story began long before his string of outstanding and consistent tournament finishes which include 31 top 10 tournament finishes and 5 wins. It began long before his recent FLW Tour victory at Pickwick. It began long before his current ranking of number two in the world in the Bassfan World Rankings. Mark’s story began in small town USA and is similar to the beginning of many other aspiring anglers.

Mark grew up in the rich outdoor heritage of the Mississippi River delta of eastern Arkansas. His grandfather provided for his family through the bounty of the delta. He hunted, trapped and was a commercial fisherman. The next generation of Roses carried that same outdoor spirit in their blood as well. So, it came as no surprise that Mark would find himself captivated by those same wild tendencies that were tradition in his family. Mark was afforded many outdoor opportunities as a youngster through his father and grandfather. His time with his grandfather often found him squirrel hunting, running trot lines, and trapping. It is to these that he credits much of his skills and success as an outdoorsman. In Mark’s words, “This was the foundation that planted the seed for the outdoors in my life.”

Not uncommon amongst pro anglers, Mark found other avenues growing up that catered to his competitive nature. Baseball was a big part of his life and he even went on to play baseball at Arkansas State University. Although his baseball career ended his senior year of college, many other doors would soon be opened. Walking through these doors would eventually lead Mark to find himself where he is today; a devoted Christian, family man, and professional angler.

Mark began fishing tournaments around the age of 14 with his Uncle Skipper. They would fish local events on the waters surrounding their home. Mark was a self-described “Bubba” fisherman. If he weighed in a fish in his formative years, there was a better than average chance that it was caught on either a spinnerbait or a jig. This type of fishing experience made him very proficient at shallow water target fishing as you might expect from someone who spent their childhood casting into the oxbows and sloughs off of the Mississippi River. This would also turn out to be a double-edged sword as is the case with most one dimensional fishermen. As Mark recalls, he fished several tournaments while a member of the Mid-South Bass Club. He didn’t expand his arsenal of techniques very much, but he does credit Billy Doyle as a mentor to him at that time. Billy taught him a great deal about the strategy of tournament fishing.

At this time he was also fishing several events on the local Redman tournament trail. Admittedly, in this phase of his life he was working a full-time job in attempt to provide for his family and his tournament finishes reflected his lack of practice time. Mark’s day job was working for the Boy Scouts of America. This job was very rewarding and provided for his family, but didn’t allow him the two crucial elements that drive most pro anglers which are fishing and competition. It was around this time that Mark began planning for an upcoming tournament on his home waters. With a little backing from his dad and some scratching and saving, Mark entered an FLW event on the Mississippi River. At his first step up to bat in the big leagues, Rose scored a third place finish which allowed him to cash the biggest check at that point in his career. This, along with a lot of prayer, led him to quit his full time job and concentrate on a full time fishing career. According to Mark he “scratched by for about nine years.” During this time he was fishing the Everstart Series, FLW events and some BASS Top 150 events. His level of consistency would have placed him in the aforementioned “grinder” category. He would always manage to fish well enough to get by, but not well enough to get ahead.

One winter, about five years ago, after the tournament season had concluded, Mark was taking account of his abilities as most professional athletes do. He was mentally evaluating his strengths and weaknesses in an effort to determine where his focus should be placed when working on his game. He was a good shallow angler and that style of fishing had kept him at the pro level. However, all he could think about was how certain fishermen were able to locate schools of fish offshore that afforded them fresh fish over a multiple-day event. Rose decided that was where his focus would be placed and the transformation into an accomplished offshore angler would soon follow.

It was during this period that he met and worked with fellow Strike King regional pro-staffer Keith Amerson and Pickwick ace Randy Haynes. They both shortened Mark’s learning curve and propelled his knowledge of “ledge” fishing. Mark read everything that he could get his hands on, watched every show pertinent to that style of fishing and spent every available minute sneaking off to Pickwick, Kentucky Lake and other noted structure lakes. He would scour the ledges with his Lowrance electronics and was rapidly learning how to locate and catch offshore bass. All of this education would soon come together to parlay into his biggest win at that point in his career, an FLW Series event on Pickwick Lake. Mark used a Strike King Sexy Spoon to win that tournament, targeting schools of bass holding on offshore structure and from that event, he was hooked. He has become so intrigued by structure fishing that he claims he has had to remind himself that some fish still live around the bank. The one time shallow spinnerbait slinger has become an offshore plug chunker.

Mark credits much of his success as an offshore angler to the arsenal of lures that Strike King, his longest-running sponsor, has given him. Rose says “Strike King has the most diverse and experienced pro staff in the industry when it comes to different types of water and species of fish. This fact lends itself to Strike King producing the best quality lures on the market at a price point that everyone can afford. Aside from that, they are designed right and built with the best components. The other Strike King pros and myself are constantly involved with design and can take a concept and lend input towards its practical application. I am a lure tinkerer and I’m sure I drive the designers at Strike King crazy, but they allow me to make suggestions until I feel like the product is right. Rose, whose involvement with Strike King dates back to his Redman days, claims to have made every cast of his pro career with Strike King Lures as one of his sponsors.

Another critical aspect of Mark’s coming of age and confidence as an angler is owed to his faith. One of his mottos is “I fish as hard as I can; I honor God in the process, and I leave the results up to Him.” Rose says he doesn’t worry about being behind by a few ounces at the end of a tournament day. “When I do this, I can lay my head down at night and know that I’ve done my best,” Rose says. This confidence is undoubtedly evident in his recent string of tournament finishes.

Mark Rose has evolved from a Newbie to a Grinder to a current-day Rock Star in pro bass fishing. He is a family man; devoted Christian; integral part of the Strike King pro staff; self-described “student of the sport”; and a force to be reckoned with on the FLW Tour. His tournament results speak for themselves. His desire to learn coupled with his work ethic will ensure that he is a Rock Star for years to come.


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