UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Lake Sinclair

The Bottom Line

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.

Tags: business-of-fishing  rob-newell 


Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »


Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »


Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 2

At times, bass fishing can be a lot like real estate, where the three most important rules are location, location and location. The 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita presented by Walmart is starting to become a bit of a real estate game where location is the primary consideration in who climbs the leaderboard. And those mining the backs of creeks and tributaries are on the prime pieces of real estate. Consider that after day two, four of the top five pros are concentrating their fishing efforts in the back ends of creeks or rivers. All of these areas fit a classic late-summer, early-fall pattern where shad pack into the back of creek ditches that meander through shallow flats. READ MORE »


Wheeler Hunting History

It’s never been done before, and it hasn’t happened yet, but Jacob Wheeler is in prime position to become the first two-time Forrest Wood Cup champion in history. Wheeler, of Indianapolis, Ind., brought in a 16-pound, 2-ounce limit of Lake Ouachita bass on the first day of the Cup, which is presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 1

After day one of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, several things have come to light. For one, this event is not likely to produce a runaway win for anyone like it did when Scott Martin won here in 2011. Second, when the pros said Ouachita was going to be stingy, they meant it – only 29 of the 50 pros checked in limits today. Third, firm patterns are hard to come by on Lake Ouachita in August. Jacob Wheeler took the lead on day one in the event that’s presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. With the help of a 5-pound bass, Wheeler weighed in a limit of 16 pounds, 2 ounces, but he had to sample a lot of different areas for his catch. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

Considering the complexity of catching summertime bass on highly pressured Tennessee River impoundments, Michael Wooley’s winning baits at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga were pretty simplistic. His win came on a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm fished on a 1/2-ounce hand-poured shaky head with a 5/0 hook as well as a 3/4-ounce Strike King football jig teamed with a Rage Lobster. Both lures were fished on 17-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon. Wooley dragged his baits on a shell bed in about 13 feet of water that dropped off to a channel some 20 feet deep. Here is a look at some of the other patterns that were working at Lake Chickamauga. READ MORE »


Mammoth Win for Wooley

One spot plus two lures plus 92 pounds, 4 ounces of Lake Chickamauga bass equals a $125,000 Walmart FLW Tour win for Michael Wooley. Wooley, a second-year pro on the FLW Tour who hails from Collierville, Tenn., spends most of his fishing time somewhere on the Tennessee River, mostly on either Pickwick or Kentucky Lake. Despite his deep knowledge of Tennessee River bass, Wooley’s win on Lake Chickamauga was about as straightforward as it gets. There were no big flashy spoons, secret hair jigs or new must-have crankbaits involved in his victory. There were no mega-schools or timing of tricky rotations. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 3

While Michael Wooley has tapped a single hot spot for the tournament lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers at Lake Chickamauga, his competition has had to hustle both deep and shallow just to have a shot at catching him. His lead is now more than 6 pounds ahead of second-place pro Stetson Blaylock. The patterns working at Chickamauga right now are all over the map. Shallow grass, bream beds, middepth bars in bays, river ledges and even some long-lining are all represented in the top 10. Here are the details for the top five. READ MORE »


Wooley Takes the Lead

The last time the Walmart FLW Tour visited Lake Chickamauga in June 2013, the term “mega-school” was thrown around a lot. At this year’s Chickamauga event, which is presented by Igloo Coolers, you will hardly hear that term at all at the weigh-in. Michael Wooley of Collierville, Tenn., knows the difference between mega-schools and the “regular” kind. After sacking 26 pounds, 2 ounces on day one and 23-05 on day two to take the tournament lead with 49-07, Wooley says his fish are certainly not swimming in a mega-school. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 2

Two days into the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga, one thing is for sure: The ledge bite along the main Tennessee River drag has not been much of a factor among the top 10. When interviewing the top anglers, the words “back in a creek,” or “back in a bay,” or “back inside” or “up shallow” have been used a lot more than the words “on the main river.” That goes for tournament leader Michael Wooley and most of the pros chasing him into the weekend. For whatever reason, the main Tennessee River flow is not the headliner at Chickamauga this week, especially when compared to postspawn tournaments on other lakes in the chain, such as Kentucky Lake and Pickwick. READ MORE »


Billy Mac Smacks 29

A combo strategy of running deep and shallow patterns helped Bill McDonald put together a whopping 29-pound, 12-ounce limit in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga. McDonald took the day-one lead by 3 pounds, 10 ounces over Tennessean Michael Wooley, who brought in 26-02. While many pros say the Chick is fishing tougher than its reputation usually suggests, 15 pros still cracked the 20-pound mark. And 67 pros caught at least 15 pounds. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 1

The story on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga was not dominated by the mega-school juggernaut that occurred the last time the Tour visited “Chick” in 2013. Bill McDonald’s leading limit of 29 pounds, 12 ounces had nothing to do with a mega-school. In fact, two of his bigger bass – in the 7- to 8-pound class – came from shallow grass. This time around it seems as if the boats are spread out a little more compared to last time, when four- to six-angler clusters tried to share big ledge schools. Some pros say that’s because the current didn’t run until later in the day today, which had the main-river community holes off the pace of last time. Others believe a delayed spawn still has fish scattered from the bays to the river. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Lake Seminole

Clint Brown won the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole by targeting late spawners and obscure stretches of bank that received little pressure during the week. Here is a look at how the rest of the top 10 competitors fared. READ MORE »


Brown Rallies for Seminole Win

When the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Seminole started on Thursday, hot, slick conditions prevailed. The air temperatures pushed into the 90’s, water temperatures hovered between 80 and 85 degrees – summertime was on. Or was it? READ MORE »


Jeter Takes Co-Angler Crown

Call it a local’s sweep at the Rayovac FLW Series on Lake Seminole. While local pro Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., won the boater Division, his Bainbridge neighbor, Greg Jeter won the Co-angler Division to make it a local twofer. READ MORE »


Lake Seminole Day 3 Midday Update

Second place pro Clint Brown was gaining some serious ground on Reneau as Brown had boxed four solid keepers for about 11 pounds on his very first spot – all caught from protected backwaters with a topwater. READ MORE »


Reneau Grabs Lead On Seminole

Though Reneau has weighed in 15-1 and 20-7 over two days for a total of 35 pounds, 8 ounces, he says he is only getting about six bites per day. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 2

A shake-up occurred on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole. Day one was all about slow, summertime fishing in the lake’s deep timber. Overnight a frontal passage dropped water and air temperatures and left a north wind howling down the lake. As a result, the timber bite cooled off and those fishing shallower waters climbed up the leaderboard. READ MORE »