Just two short years ago, Zack Birge’s day job consisted of working full time as a wind turbine technician in his home state of Oklahoma, troubleshooting and fixing enormous windmills during the week while entering qualifying fishing tournaments in what little spare time he had on the weekends.
Fast-forward to present day, and Zack “The Iceberg” Birge is kicking off his second year on the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour, effectively trading his toolbox for a tackle box and building a promising professional fishing career in the process. In the little time Birge has been a part of the FLW Tour, he’s racked up two tournament wins, earned the title of 2015 Rookie of the Year, and taken home over $178,000 in career earnings.
Life on a professional fishing tour may sound like easy living to some, but according to Birge, it’s a demanding season of traveling the country and competing in tour events. “[Traveling] is an everyday thing,” says Birge. “We’re always on the road going somewhere.
[The event] we’re heading to right now is in South Carolina at Lake Hartwell – I’m pretty excited about that. It’s the same time of year as the [Lewis] Smith Lake event was last year, and I almost won that. [Hartwell] is the same type of lake, same setup, so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping I can do well there.”
Given the remarkable success Birge has had on tour in a relatively short period of time, we had to know what his favorite rod and reel setup was when competing in bass fishing tournament events. “I use Falcon rods. My favorite all-around rod is a 7’4” heavy action rod and I can pretty much put anything on there I want and fish anywhere I want with that. This year [I’m using] a smaller reel, and anywhere from 14 to 16-pound fluorocarbon line, and that’ll basically do about anything you wanna do with it.”
There’s no doubt Birge has a passion for bass fishing, but the relentless tour season can take a lot out of any pro fisherman, which is why Zack makes sure to take time during the offseason to recharge his batteries by focusing on airborne game. “When it’s fishing season I’m off at tournaments and in 100-percent game mode, but when we’re finally done for the season, I’ve had about all I can handle for a year anyway, so I try to get as much hunting in as I can all through the fall and winter. That way when January comes around I’m fired up and raring to go again.”
A little bit of dove hunting early season before moving on to ducks and geese to wrap things up is enough to get Zack ready to kick off the next FLW Tour year. There must be something to his method, too, considering his rapid rise to the top in the world of tournament bass fishing.
If you’re following the FLW Tour in 2016, be sure to keep a steady eye on Zack Birge, because unlike the inspiration for the nickname his hometown friends gave him long ago, this iceberg moves pretty fast.