January 19, 2001 by Rob Newell
OperationBass.com unveils newest feature designed to help anglers with the business side of bass fishing
Sponsorship - it is a topic that many tournament bass fishermen want to know about, yet it remains the most shrouded subject in the sport. In bass tournaments, the rules are understood, the payouts are obvious, and the scales don't lie. After the hot air rises and the smoke clears, it is evident where the chips have fallen and who has lost and who has won.
This is not the case in the sponsorship game. Deals are done behind closed doors and terms and conditions are not public information. As a result, speculation begins and rumors start. Misinformation leads to the embellishment of facts, which leads to confusion and unrealistic expectations. Pretty soon, professional anglers begin to sound like a band of handsomely paid rock stars gallivanting across the country reeling in millions of bucks every year from sponsors and endorsements, which is probably the main reason why the topic of sponsorship piques so much interest.
Enter The Bottom Line. The Bottom Line is a monthly column designed to help clear up misconceptions about the business side of bass fishing. The column will routinely focus on a variety of sponsor-related matters - one of the most pressing issues in the industry - as well as provide anglers with a host of practical information about the business side of bass fishing. Every month, The Bottom Line will venture into the bass fishing industry seeking useful tips about the professional side of bass fishing and present those findings to you.
A word of caution: If you are looking to sign a $100,000 fishing deal tomorrow, or want to know who is getting what from which companies, chances are this column is not for you. However, The Bottom Line will address important and timely topics, such as the importance of public speaking skills, developing local contacts to national companies, establishing your first boat deal, differing levels of sponsorship (product, incentive, retainer), exploring electronic communication possibilities for marketing yourself, portfolio writing, quarterly report writing, time management between fishing and sponsor business as well as keeping a sponsor satisfied.
In short, these are things that every professional angler must deal with on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Sources for this column will include both professional anglers and people who work in the fishing industry. It is also designed to give anglers a realistic look at what is involved with sponsorship and, perhaps more important, what sponsors are looking for in a fisherman.
But before The Bottom Line officially kicks off, it might be fun to debunk some myths about sponsorship in the fishing industry by analyzing a few common misconceptions.
Myth: You don't have to catch fish to get sponsors. Reality: You do not have to catch fish to get sponsors. But you have to catch fish to keep sponsors.
Myth: Professional bass fishermen get free boats and trucks. Reality: Professional anglers get to borrow boats and trucks.
Myth: Professional anglers can receive $100,000 or more each year from a company sponsorship. Reality: Rarely, if ever, do anglers receive such lucrative contracts.
Myth: Professional fishermen get $1,000 a month for each patch on their shirts. Reality: Wishful thinking.
In reality, free boats and high-dollar sponsor contracts are simply not that prolific in the bass fishing industry. Only at the top levels of the sport are there fishermen who get paid well by companies on a consistent basis.
For the most part, professional anglers who have paying sponsors have worked hard to acquire such lucrative contracts. They did not just call up a company and ask for money. They have proven their fishing ability with solid career performances. They have sharpened their public presentation skills. They have committed themselves to countless seminars, boat shows and appearances. They have done their fair share of resume building, portfolio preparation and quarterly report writing. In short, they are working professionals. And they work hard.
To be sure, the tournament bass fishing market is undergoing a bit of renaissance period. Thanks to a sudden interest in competitive bass fishing from out-of-industry companies such as Land O'Lakes, Poulan and Pepsi Co. - in contrast to traditional longstanding industry sponsors such as Ranger Boats, Stren and Lowrance - there is now more opportunity in the sponsor market than ever before. Consequently, there is more competition among fishermen for sponsors. And that is why this column was started - to better prepare those who are serious about the business side of bass fishing and pursuing sponsors.
In the first (Feb. 6) edition of The Bottom Line, Jerry McKinnis - who doubles as host of The Fishing Hole and producer of the FLW Tour television series - will provide some advice on how to turn small exposure opportunities into positive impressions. In subsequent columns, rising bass fishing stars such as David Walker and Marty Stone will share the secret of how they learned to turn their catches into commodities.
The Bottom Line will appear on the E-zine home page of OperationBass.com the first Tuesday of each month.
Rob Newell is a freelance outdoor writer from Tallahassee, Fla. He has been actively involved in tournament bass fishing and the professional bass fishing industry, both as participant and a writer, for more than 10 years. He currently fishes as a co-angler on the FLW Tour and contributes to OperationBass.com, Bass Fishing and other fishing publications.