Each year, the Bassaster Classic combines the world’s most prestigious bass fishing tournament with a barn-burner of a trade show, equating to a win-win for us bass junkies. While there are several larger “sport shows” still left around the country, none are geared specifically toward bass like the Classic Outdoor Expo, and nowhere do we see as much hardcore gear.
As consumers rely on the event to get the inside track, manufacturers recognize such, and frequently introduce new products around Classic time. This year will be no different. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently got the inside scoop on one introduction that may change competitive fishing.
It’s called AtTheRamp, and it’s an app that's available now at the App Store, Google Play and www.AtTheRamp.com.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Software manufacturers, most notably those creating various apps, have been trying to infiltrate fishing for several years and, for the most part, have failed. We all know why: most are developed for needless applications by people who don’t fish. Or at least not like we do.
But AtTheRamp is different, as you’ll see. Developed as a record-keeping tool for bass clubs, the app performs its function flawlessly. But a secondary benefit of the app may be the pot of gold for us all.
To fully understand the potential for this product, it’s important to learn the story behind it and meet the man who’s devoted so much toward perfecting it.
Mark Wilfong is an avid bass fisherman and has been a member of several bass clubs. He’s also a software junkie with a law degree, living in the tech-hub of Ann Arbor, Mich. Long ago, Wilfong recognized the need for bass clubs to have a utility app to handle record keeping and act as an information center for their events – after all, technology was already handling daily chores for just about everything else in life. But Wilfong also recognized the difficulty in building such a product properly.
Wilfong wanted an app to handle tournament stats seamlessly. It needed to be fast, and it needed to do math – from simple functions like pounds and ounces to more complex mathematical formulas like dead-fish penalties and big-bass awards. The app needed to keep track of boat parings, Angler of the Year stats and boat-ramp info. It needed to give directions to the lake. And it needed to work for everyone, regardless of technological ability.
Wilfong immediately learned why such a product had yet to exist: building one would be a major undertaking, both in time and money. But he pushed on. Recent conversations with Wilfong educated me on the difficulty of designing such a product.
To sum up, apps can be built using two methods, or languages, that will work on both Apple and Android operating systems. But only through a native platform can each type of system seamlessly read and automatically update an app. Building using a native platform is nearly twice as expensive as other methods. But Wilfong insisted.
With “lots of business logic going on behind the scenes," Wilfong created a piece of sports management software disguised as an app. Anglers simply create their club and add members. Tournament directors add tournament data and results, and all club members have access. The app becomes an information center for tournament activities, keeps track of yearly stats, includes entry fee info; all the highlights previously mentioned, and it’s always at each member’s fingertips. In addition, it uses no annoying “push notifications” and sends no text messages or emails to users.
Sounds great, right? But there’s another side of AtTheRamp that may be the true gem – one that Wilfong considered only after he insisted on proper data management for clubs: the creation of an endless tournament log.
You see, unlike websites that require an administrator to enter tournament results, an app uses its users to create. So each time a bass club holds an event, they enter data right there on the spot. Data that we all can view.
By requiring a set number of verified users for each club, Wilfong eliminates the chances of fabricated data by a late-night hacker.
And boat ramp data is spot-on because locations are created by tournament anglers rather than from an outdated source. Anglers simply enter latitude/longitude data for the ramp; the app then automatically gives directions to users.
Therefore, as AtTheRamp grows, so does it’s relevant database being created by tournament anglers. Possibilities are endless; think tournament housing directory or tackle store guide. But even more important – I feel even greater than statistical management or area guide – is the database this product has the potential to create.
Have you ever traveled out of your comfort range and competed in a tournament on a new body of water? Have you struggled to get stats from local events held there in recent history? AtTheRamp will eliminate that. In fact, by having users enter all data, AtTheRamp has the ability to create an immediate database of all tournament results from every bass tournament ever held from this day forward.
I’ve tried the prototype and can assure you it’s incredibly fast and easy. It’s also totally free.
Wilfong’s slogan is “If you can use your phone, you can use AtTheRamp.” With technology seemingly everywhere but in bass fishing, Wilfong can’t see why AtTheRamp won’t revolutionize this aspect of our sport. I’m not sure I can, either.
We’ll see this week, as Wilfong takes his pride and joy to a 10-foot booth at the Classic Outdoor Expo, where he’ll cross his fingers – and find out if he’s right.
(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.)