It’s been said having a Plan B can muddy up your Plan A. Miles Burghoff never had to worry about that. There never was a Plan B.
Not when he did a senior project in high school on what he wanted to do with his career. Not when he moved across the country to live in a trailer close to some of Florida’s best bass fishing. Not when he enrolled at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and joined the bass fishing team. Not when he was working in machine shops or waiting tables or guiding in Alaska. Not ever.
Every step, every effort was put toward a singular goal: becoming a professional angler.
“Since I was a kid, there was nothing I ever felt as passionate about as fishing,” Burghoff said. “You can fail at what you don’t enjoy doing. So, I figured, why not give it a shot at what I did love. So, I never had a Plan B. I was always doing everything I possibly could to reach my end goal.”
How that goal manifested itself in the first place is notable, as the Mercury Pro Team member didn’t exactly grow up in or even remotely around the sport. He started out fishing saltwater in Florida but didn’t catch his first bass until he visited the family summer house in Connecticut. Then, when he moved to California as a kid, Burghoff says bass fishing was his most consistent interest, but he initially didn’t realize it was something he could turn into a career.
That is, until he started reading fishing magazines, including one issue of “Bass West Magazine” that had pros John Murray, Mike O’Shea and the late Aaron Martens on the cover.
“That was my first time seeing anyone in a tournament jersey, and that got me thinking about a career in the sport,” Burghoff said. “I realized I could actually make a living fishing, and from then on I was hooked on that idea.”
So hooked that come his senior year of high school, when he had to do that senior project on his career aspirations, Burghoff did it all around professional bass fishing. As part of the project, he ended up creating a youth bass tournament that hosted 50 youngsters, which he says was quite enjoyable. But the real treat came via a letter he wrote.
“We had to interview someone in the industry we wanted to work in. So, I wrote a letter to Ray Scott (the founder of B.A.S.S.),” Burghoff said. “He not only got back to me, but he invited me to his place in Alabama to hang out with him and meet some industry people for three days. That opened so many doors for me and truly changed my life.”
Making the Right Moves
After that, Burghoff said there was no turning back. Once he graduated high school, he immediately moved back across the country to Florida to live in a 19-foot trailer. Why? Because he looked at every tournament trail and realized almost all of them started their seasons in Florida. He knew he had better learn how to compete in Florida to start every season strong.
That mindset of learning and his drive were only enhanced during his time as “a nomad,” bouncing between trailer parks and parking his trailer in friends’ yards during the four years he lived in it.
“I cherish my time living in that trailer because it kept me wanting to keep pushing toward my dream,” Burghoff said. “I mean, that trailer had everything I needed. There are people in New York City who would love having all I had, and I was super stoked about it. But it wasn’t a super comfortable camper. So, it kept me focused and wanting to be on the water.”
When he wasn’t on the water, fishing for the UCF team or working his way up from local to regional to national events, Burghoff was doing all he could to support himself and his dream. Sometimes that meant taking local odd jobs, and sometimes it meant going to, literally, the ends of the earth, heading all the way up to Alaska to guide for halibut and salmon at Baranof Wilderness Lodge.
Roughly 15 years since the whole journey started, Burghoff says it’s crazy to think about it all, like all the opportunities he’s had in the sport – fishing professionally with Major League Fishing and B.A.S.S., co-hosting the “Sweetwater” fishing television show, his guide service. But he also shakes his head thinking about how bold he was to move to Florida and now to Tennessee for his dream, or to approach people, even complete strangers, and ask for a chance to get a lot of those opportunities.
At the same time, he admits there have been many times when he could’ve given up and done something different. Fortunately, never having a plan B meant he never felt it was really an option to change paths. He was all about moving forward, and he still is. He’s still pushing himself toward bigger and better things.
“If you’d told me 15 years ago all of what I’d accomplish, I’d be ecstatic where I’m at, making a living all from fishing,” Burghoff said. “I’d be crazy excited to hear that.
“Now, I just want to keep on raising the bar; never really be satisfied. Because I haven’t won a major tournament yet. No angler of the year, yet. So, I still have a lot of goals. And those accolades are still ahead, but I’ve made such great headway. I never want to forget the perspective of that kid in high school, of the one who moved across the country to live in that trailer. Because then I remember, man, you’ve made it to the level you dreamed.”
If you’d like to follow Miles “Sonar” Burghoff’s career, follow him on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or visit SonarFishing.com.