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Chef angles for career switch to pro fishing tour

Posted by admin on May 8, 2011

5oz_MiamiHerald_250.jpgAnthony "5oz.' Hunt in the News.

Not one to rest on his success, Anthony continues to push for the next step in his fishing career: The Professional Tour. Here is the latest news on his quest reported in the Miami Herald.

May 06, 2011 | By Susan Cocking, The Miami Herald

For four years, Anthony Hunt, upscale chef, has been preparing for a career as a professional bass fisherman. Fishing for a living is something he has yearned for since childhood, growing up in a family of chefs in Laurel, Del.

Through four years of culinary school in Baltimore and San Francisco and another decade in the culinary profession, he's ready to jump from getting paid to cook fish to getting paid to catch them.

The 34-year-old Tamarac resident and father of three boys has fished as a co-angler, or amateur on the FLW Tournament circuit, winning $5,000 for third place at February's Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. One of a few African-Americans in bass tournament fishing, Hunt's moniker is 5oz, representing the amount of weight by which he lost a chance to compete in his first national event back in 2004.

"Every good superhero needs a name. I took it and ran with it," Hunt said, smiling. "The goal is not to blend in."

A well-known chef and consultant who helped launch high-profile restaurants like Karu & Y and the Four Seasons in downtown Miami, Hunt is planning to switch careers next year.

Already, he's had some success marketing himself to what are known as "non-endemic" sponsors — companies that have nothing to do with the recreational fishing industry. He sends them both his cooking and fishing résumés and promises them media exposure at fishing tournaments, trade shows and sportsman's seminars. He may be the only fisherman to score a sponsorship with renowned tattoo artist Ed Hardy's fashion line.

"Four years ago, I was getting a lot of no's. Now, not too many no's," Hunt said.

inset200x250.jpgRight now, Hunt is getting only free products from his sponsors, including Ed Hardy, Damiki Baits, Kaenon sunglasses and Bass Pro Sites. He'll be talking them up at ICAST — the fishing industry trade show held in July in Las Vegas — and at the Forrest Wood Cup, the FLW's most prestigious tournament held in Arkansas in August. He hopes to recruit a boat sponsor — a company that will pay for his bass boat and decorate it with logos. The image would be beamed nationwide if Hunt catches a lot of fish in a major tournament. He also is introducing his own "5oz" line of bass baits.

Meanwhile, committing to a touring career requires cash. Tournament entry fees, travel expenses and boat maintenance costs can run up to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

As a private chef and consultant, Hunt brings in $80,000 to $100,000 per year, and he's setting some of that aside for next year's tournament trail. If he fishes well, he stands to make a lot more as a bass pro than he did as a chef; several anglers at the top of the FLW and Bassmaster circuits have surpassed the $1 million mark in career tournament winnings, not to mention additional income from product endorsements and personal appearances.

But first he needs to generate some "5oz buzz," and one way is to gain maximum exposure on social media.

Hunt and Adam Schulze, a Hollywood videographer, are producing a television show they plan to shop around to YouTube, Facebook and outdoor cable television channels, called "Practice Day with 5oz." Practice days are routinely designated by professional tournaments ahead of the main event so that competitors can get a feel for the fishery and the geography of the lake or river system.

"Fishermen are constantly practicing," Hunt explained. "Even if we have a bad day, it's still practice, picking up the knowledge you acquire through a day [on the water]. If you forget, you're gonna be short come tournament time."

Recently, Hunt rented a bass boat from Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina in Clewiston for a taping session on Lake Okeechobee. Bass fishing has been red hot on the Big O, with low water levels and a thriving habitat contributing to record tournament weights.

herald200x250.jpgWith Schulze recording his every cast, Hunt began plumbing a spur canal leading to the main lake using an assortment of his sponsors' products — plastic frogs and worms, swimbaits and buzzbaits. He picked away at a few small bass here and there, but nothing fit for a tournament scale. The bites seemed sporadic and tentative.

"These are a lot of post-spawn bucks," Hunt said calmly. "Then where are the females? We are going to go find them in a minute. If I were fishing a tournament, I'd be out of here already."

Another few minutes of casting produced five keepers in the 1- to-2-pound range, but no larger "anchor" fish.

Hunt pulled in the boat's bow-mounted electric trolling motor and used the outboard to cruise to the edge of the main lake. He redeployed the trolling motor, and idled amid stands of Kissimmee grass, casting a large bent-bodied TruLife swimbait that resembled a baby bass.

A couple casts later in the same area with a pumpkin-colored Damiki buzzbait, Hunt was rewarded with a solid 7-pounder.

"Stay on, stay on!" he admonished the fish as it bent his rod nearly double.

Seconds later, he flipped it onto the deck of the boat.

By late afternoon, Hunt had released about 50 bass. The pair returned their rental boat to the marina, and shot some video of Hunt holding up the two largest fish and extolling the virtues of his sponsors' products. They plan to do some more taping before releasing the final production.

If that doesn't work out, Hunt has a couple other ideas. Think "Chopped" or "Top Chef" on the Food Network.