While most people in their early 20s are still figuring out what to do with their lives, 23-year-old Philip Jarabeck has already accomplished his goal – being a professional angler. After wrapping up his first season as a pro on the Walmart FLW Tour, Jarabeck doesn’t plan on making a career change anytime soon.
It all started in the small town of Richfield, Pa.
“Growing up I went fishing with my father a lot,” said Jarabeck. “A lot of people think that because David Dudley is my uncle that I learned a lot from him – which I have – but my fishing hero has to be my dad. We would fish mostly small ponds and lakes but occasionally we would go to the Susquehanna River. I just loved to get out with my dad wherever we could go.”
“I guess I was kind of blessed that my aunt got married to David when I was 10 or 12,” said Jarabeck, who is also on the Castrol team. “After meeting him I realized what could happen if I kept working hard to take my love for fishing to the next level.
“I spent the next eight or nine summers traveling to tournaments and practicing with him. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about fishing but even more importantly I learned what it takes mentally and physically to fish professionally.”
While spending his summers traveling around with Dudley was fun, Jarabeck knew he had to start making some money.
“My uncle David actually ran a charter fishing business in North Carolina before he really started to fish tournaments as a career. Once he started fishing full time he let his father run the business. David told me I should get my captain’s license and if I did I could go to North Carolina and run a boat for him. It’s kind of funny actually because I had my captain’s license before I had my driver’s license in high school. Three days after graduation I moved down to North Carolina to start running charters when I was 18.
“I did that business for about two years before I thought it was time to move towards my passion of bass fishing. With being around David for so long I developed a pretty good relationship with Castrol. They decided to bring me on as a co-angler to fish the FLW Tour. Even though I was fishing as a co-angler my goal was to still make it on the pro side. That is all I ever wanted to do.”
Jarabeck spent 2011 and 2012 getting his feet wet from the back of the boat. Over that time he racked up five top-10 finishes. Jarabeck finished 19th in the points race in 2011 and followed that up with 12th in 2012.
When the 2013 season rolled around he knew it was time to step to the front of the boat. Castrol kept him on as a team angler and Jarabeck headed down to Okeechobee to fulfill his life’s dream.
“I was extremely excited when I stepped up on the deck of my boat at the Big O. I understood what it meant to be in this situation from watching David and it felt right.”
Jarabeck went on to finish in 10th place at his very first tournament as pro on the FLW Tour. Despite a bumpy remainder of the season, his 54th position in the points at the end of the year was nothing to be disappointed about.
“Not one time this year did I feel uncomfortable. I was very comfortable with the decisions I made even though I didn’t have the best finishes. David told me to be confident and be relaxed. To make it in this sport you need to be consistent. I fished all six Tour events and an EverStart and out of those seven tournaments I took home four checks. That helps me stay confident and know I’m doing OK.
“I know that the more time I spend on the water the easier it will be to make decisions. This is a sport that is always evolving and it’s encouraging to know that I am constantly getting better. I just need to keep doing the best I can and good things will fall into place.”
Even with it being the slow time of year for many pros, Jarabeck still manages to keep busy.
“I work for a company called Commercial Steel Erection (CSE) right now doing different things for them. But otherwise I try to stay in the outdoors as much as I can. I love to camp and hunt when I can but my favorite thing to do is go striper and steelhead fishing. My family and I take a trip around my birthday every year which is coming up at the end of the month. It’s just a nice break from everything and we have a great time.
“I have to say that there is no way I could have arrived where I am without the people I have around me. I can’t wait for next season. I look forward to each lake on the schedule but I am going to take them one at a time. My focus right now is on Okeechobee. When I step up on the front deck next year at the first event I know I will be better than I was before.”