Fishing Evolved: Bertrand Embraces the Dream
Every morning when Bassmaster Elite Series pro Josh Bertrand begins another day, he reflects thankfully on his career as a professional fisherman. He realizes all too well that anglers around the world dream of fishing for a living, but only a few see those dreams come true.
“I am really, really happy to be doing what I do, and never want to take it for granted,” says the 27-year-old Berkley pro staffer from Gilbert, Arizona.
For Bertrand, the road to bass fishing’s national stage began the moment his father first put a fishing rod in his hand. “I’ve always absolutely loved fishing,” he explains. “It’s just something I naturally enjoy doing. When I was really little, I fished with my dad and grandpa every chance I got, for any species. I’d even fish off the dock at my grandparents’ lake house for hours, catching nothing, just loving it.”
When Bertrand was eight years old, his family moved from New Hampshire to the Phoenix area. “I began focusing on bass because that was the main species in the lakes around my new home," he recalls.
Soon, he says, bass became a total obsession. “My dad took me fishing every weekend because I loved it so much,” he says. “I also have a competitive nature, and when I was 13, I started entering local club and bass federation tournaments.”
His passion continued through high school, where his future career plans revolved around the sport. “After graduation, I became a full-time fishing guide because that was the quickest way to start making a living doing what I love,” he says.
He kept fishing tournaments, too, and soon tested his skills in larger regional events. In 2010 he raised the bar again and entered the Bassmaster Central Opens. “I had a tough year,” he says of competing in Open events on the Red River and lakes Texoma and Amistad. “Structure fishing in Arizona lakes like Canyon and Roosevelt doesn’t prepare you for shallow-water grass and river fishing.
“I realized I still had a lot more to learn, so I took a year off from the Opens to bring my game to the next level,” he continues.
The strategy paid off. He had a stellar season and qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series, where he’s enjoyed consistent success through the 2014 and 2015 seasons, including twice qualifying for the prestigious Bassmaster Classic.
“Making the Classic is a huge deal, and I’m very proud to have made it two out three years while still getting my feet wet on the tour,” he says.
Along with qualifying for the Classic and getting to fish for a living, Bertrand savors the opportunity to share his passion for bass fishing with the next generation. “I’m a bass junkie, and love to share fishing techniques I learn on the trail with other people, especially kids,” he says.
Of course, competing in the Elites has its challenges. “The travel is really difficult,” he admits. “I’ve been married a year and a half, and my wife is very supportive, but it’s still tough traveling to tournaments in the central and eastern states. I have to get creative to enjoy more time at home, like leaving my truck and boat in different parts of the country while I fly back to Arizona.”
Extended travel also means Bertrand has to take planning and organizing to a whole new level. “You’re not packing for one tournament, you’re packing for five at a time,” he says. “Research has to be done way in advance, and everything has to be kept organized and in good shape throughout the season.”
Looking ahead to his fourth year in the Elites, Bertrand is characteristically eager and optimistic. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he says. “We have an interesting schedule that’s not really in a western offshore angler’s wheelhouse, so it will definitely push me out of my comfort zone. If I fish hard and do well, I’ll be very proud.”
Beyond 2016, Bertrand’s future goals include continuing on his current course. “I want to keep getting better and also fish more aggressively, learning to go for the throat a little bit more and not just fish for a check,” he says. “More than anything, winning an Elite event is the number one thing on my radar. That would really be a milestone.”
Qualifying for the Classic again is another goal. “It keeps me fishing hard from the first cast to the last, all season long,” he says. “Even if you have a bad day and are sitting in 90th place, you have to come out swinging the next morning because moving up a couple places means more points toward making the Classic.”
Whenever he needs a boost to tackle another morning, all Bertrand has to do is consider his day job. “I always dreamed of fishing a national tour, helping other people catch fish, and working with great sponsors like Berkley,” he says. “Seeing these dreams come true makes me want to work as hard as I can every single day, because I want to do this forever.”