Temporarily transferring my obsession from bass to crappie, I was stumped. As evident by the fish camp’s cleaning table, locals were making fantastic catches, yet I settled for a handful of keepers. It couldn’t be this hard.
Google quickly led me to a YouTube video outlining the whole procedure. There, a jersey-wearing crappie ace went through the motions.
“You need to find a good spot with plenty of cover,” he said “and have a sensitive pole to feel the bites.
“But the key," he went on, “is this little jig. It’s called the Honey Hole. And it’s the speck-catchin’-est son-of-a-gun you’ll ever use!”
Glued to the video, I watched as the crappie killer boated back-to-back slabs after a few quick dips of the secret bait. It was pretty impressive.
Now I know the jig wasn’t the secret. I’ve fished long enough, and for enough species of fish, to realize that location plays the greatest role in success, followed by other factors like presentation, speed, sink rates and the like. The actual lure matters little in most fishing applications.
However, I was running low on some essential crappie items, so I popped around a few online stores and took a peak. Once there, I quickly ordered a couple Road Runners, a pack of add-on weedguards and a few bags of tubes.
And 25 Honey Holes.
Disgraced by my inability to see through the smoke and mirrors, I signed off and waited for the UPS man.
But this brings up a good point. My unfamiliarity with the world of crappies placed me in a different buying bracket – one which I don’t often find myself in when it comes to the bass market. Years spent chasing bucketmouths and smallies has taught me the principles addressed earlier: lures aren’t all that important. Sure there are exceptions, but most square-bills will do the job, so to speak.
However, when I occasionally switch pursuits – maybe it’s chasing crappies or redfish or even turkeys – I find myself enveloped with wonder, buying everything under the sun.
So I ask myself – and all of you – how often is this happening in the world of bass? And how important of a role do endorsements, sponsorships and social media recommendations play in swaying the buying public? As bass nuts, has our education surpassed our tendency for impulse buying? Or are there millions of us still out there buying Honey Holes, or ChatterBaits, at 1 a.m.?
I investigate this further due to recent interviews with professional fishermen on a similar subject. Two comments immediately come to mind.
“A company gets more from me, and the miles I drive with a wrapped rig, than they get out of a little logo on the shirt of a guy like Gerald Swindle …”
“An endorsement from a pro doesn’t sell a boat. When I give a marshall or a co-angler a ride, that's what sells a boat.”
In each case, we hear testimony from a professional angler who doesn’t believe in pure endorsements as a means of increasing sales. Original grassroots marketing – pounding the pavement – is perceived as superior.
So what’s your take? Do pure endorsements sell gear? Gerald Swindle is easy to pick on, so let’s stay with him. On his jersey I see a prominent logo for Dude Wipes. Further investigation finds that the product, with the sales mantra "Take it to the Hole," is a cleaning wipe for the discreet gentleman.
While I’m sure Swindle includes mention of his wipes throughout his weigh-in shtick, I’ve personally never come across Dude Wipes in the bass arena, don’t plan to, and really couldn’t care less. And I doubt I’m alone.
So how effective is that sponsorship compared to, say, a lesser-known angler’s complete truck and boat wrap, careening cross-country several times a year, making millions of impressions?
Let’s look at another example. Kevin VanDam probably sells more bass lures than anyone. Resistant at first, I’ve now joined the legions of bass fishermen buying KVD square-bills, deep cranks, jerkbaits and everything with the word sexy in the color code. VanDam proves, time and again through tournament dominance, that his gear is some of the best on the market. I’d wager that lure sales are in the millions this time of year.
Yet many of you may recall one of the world’s most famous lures that few of us likely bought. In the early 1990s, the Flying Lure set the all-time daily sales record for a fishing lure, grossing over $1 million in sales in 24 hours. I never held a Flying Lure, nor even saw one.
So how effective is the accepted pro bass endorsement and advertising method?
This time of year being the holiday season, when all of America will consider their buying options, how are we doing driving tackle sales? Are our methods still viable, or has social media taken the spot of the infomercial and continued to phase out relevant endorsements? Has flash-in-the pan overtaken tried-and-true brand recognition?
I’m not sure, and I’m surely not alone.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)