It’s easy to become oblivious to things outside of our daily norm. By that, I mean our primary focus often confuses us into thinking that ours is the only game in town. Take competitive bass fishing, for example.
Each and every day, you, me and all the other fanatics check dozens of media sources for news on competitive bass fishing. We revel in the fact that our pastime is the most important in the outdoors, far exceeding the passion for panfish or fervor for fly-fishing. At least, that’s what we’ve been told.
From the lickity-split salesmanship of Ray Scott to the statistical boredom of freshwater focus groups, we’ve been taught to believe that bass fishing drives the industry and fuels the dollars behind important programs across the board. We influence boat builders and congressmen alike, and our passion is responsible for most of the advancements in fishing.
Furthermore, we’ve become accustomed to believing that the pinnacle of our sport – the professional tournament trails – represent the highest level of fishing in itself, and drive the North American industry further and faster than any other factor. Without the stars of B.A.S.S, FLW and MLF, manufacturers wouldn’t stand a chance to sell nearly the gear, or derive remotely the profit, that they pose to gain with support of this organized cause.
Consider these facts:
> Twice as much money is spent in the US on boats other than bass boats, than is spent on any type of boat fitting that description.
> As much money is spent on bait than on all lures and flies combined.
> And nearly as many people fish from the bank than all the anglers who fish from any type of boat.
Furthermore, consider the viewpoints of those selling fishing equipment and repeatedly being asked to support organized bass fishing in terms of sponsor dollars. Consider what they’re thinking now that they’re being solicited by three major organizations rather than two. Ask yourself how you would market their products.
I was again reminded of this viewpoint after a number of calls to my daily business partners, during which we discussed the best ways to promote their gear and the shortcomings with the current model.
Quite frankly, the creation of the newest professional tournament trail is putting a major wrench in their plans. While MLF easily holds the greatest star potential and most recognized athletes, other than a current television show and predicted live presence, in some ways it offers less media than the other top circuits. No magazine, little current digital platform, and no proven on-site presence (aka weigh-in festivities, Classics, Cups, arenas, etc.)
Again, looking at it through the eyes of a drooling BassFan, I’m loving it. Live broadcast and TV is all I need, but then again, I must remind myself that I’m a minority. What about the family renting a cabin up north next summer, or the dozen anglers currently standing on the bank at my local park? What does an investment in professional fishing offer them?
Another case in point: As the year winds down, and discussions focus on plans for 2019, it’s apparent manufacturers are concerned more for the average angler than the all-in bass nut. Time and again, I’ve heard that an important plan for next season will be showcasing products for occasional anglers rather than those consumed by fishing. For example, introducing shallow-water anchors to anglers in moderately priced aluminum boats, or high-end fishing rods to crappie anglers. In other words, manufacturers plan to spend more time, effort and money appealing to anglers other than hardcore tournament bass participants and fans. That's the exact opposite of the tour model.
I wonder why that is, and how it will affect us all? Are the major fishing supply companies simply tiring of the pro bass song and dance?
Perhaps there’s nothing to worry about. The biggest proponent of professional fishing now appears to be Bass Pro Shops, a worldwide retail leader that clearly drives a vast portion of the fishing industry all by itself. Will it be able to convince manufacturers of the importance of our favorite pastime? It'll have the leverage.
As fans like us wait for further details of the MLF plan – complete with venues, participants and rankings – those in control of the majority of funding also wait. It will be quite interesting to monitor their decisions.
(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.)