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 

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-10-top-10-patterns-from-toho

Top 10 Patterns from Toho

At the halfway point of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the event would be a JT Kenney runaway win. Kenney’s “red-dot” bedding program appeared to be unstoppable. But then things changed drastically: The warm-up ended, the full moon began to wane, heavy clouds took up residence over central Florida and the fairy tale of scripted plans in a multiple-day tournament came to a screeching halt. By the end of the event, several other patterns on Lake Toho quickly closed up Kenney’s seemingly insurmountable lead (12-10 after two days and 12-8 after three). When the final weigh-in came to an end, the top three places were only separated by 1 pound, 5 ounces. Patterns that involved current, shell beds and even docks helped close the gap. Here’s a look at some of the other top 10 patterns from the week. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-kenney-connects-the-dots

Kenney Connects the Dots

Mercury pro JT Kenney was as confident as he could be early in the week at the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Toho. He had an incredibly refined plan built on a series of precisely placed waypoints. The waypoints marked isolated spawning areas within beds of lily pads. In the first two days of competition, Kenney looked unstoppable with limits weighing 29-14 and 22-9, respectively, to build a lead of 12-10. On day three, Kenney looked human. His limit of 14-5 could have left the door open – but after weigh-in Kenney’s lead shrank by only 2 ounces. And today, it looked as if the king, despite a massive lead, was about to give up his crown. Kenney weighed in only 9 pounds, 4 ounces. But that was enough. The Florida pro squeezed through by an 11-ounce winning margin to win the first Tour event of 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-kenney-on-cruise-control

Kenney on Cruise Control

For those who don’t believe that professional fishing is a game of offense and defense like any other sport, consider JT Kenney’s strategy for the last three days of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. The first two days, Kenney ran pure “offensive plays” on key, precise bedding areas to run up the score. Today, he ran more “defensive plays” to protect his lead. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 3

When the Walmart FLW Tour event started at Lake Toho on Thursday, the story lines were all about spawning fish and catching bedding bass by working soft-plastic baits around isolated pad clumps. Today, the buzzwords changed to current, shell beds and reaction baits such as spinnerbaits and lipless rattlers. The change in vernacular is associated primarily with the weather. While a warm, balmy day one allowed leading pros to score big by blind bed-fishing, today’s lower temperatures, nippy northeast winds and dull gray skies caused a significant shift in productive tactics that led to a shakeup on the leaderboard. As already revealed, leader JT Kenney had to resort to a spinnerbait to adapt. Others in the top 10 have found consistency in the currents of the Kissimmee River or have adapted with new baits. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-kenney-crushing-the-field

Kenney Crushing the Field

Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho saw JT Kenney extend his lead to 12 pounds, 10 ounces over second-place pro Stacey King with a 22-9 limit. Kenney has lived near Toho for some time and prepared meticulously for this event – it appears to be paying off. Fishing in Kissimmee all day, he managed another strong bag on a day when weather changes caused many in the top of the ranks to stumble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 2

At halftime in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury, it’s looking like it could be a runaway by tournament leader JT Kenney. Of course, it’s bass fishing and anything can happen, but the latest frontal system rolling through Florida seems to have certainly stymied the bed-fish bonanza that many expected. As a result, the most productive areas from the last two days have been beat down by fishing pressure and are not recovering or replenishing very well. Here’s a look at how the rest of the top finishers managed to overcome challenging conditions on day two to stay at least within striking range of the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-jt-tees-off

JT Tees Off

There was fuel, and there was flame. The fuel was in the form of a delayed largemouth bass spawn on Lake Toho that had been pushed back for several weeks due to low water temperatures and high water flows through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The biological clocks of Toho’s bass have been ticking, so to speak. The flame was in the form of a fast warm-up over the last three days, a full moon occurring right now and water temperatures rising nearly 10 degrees in the last 72 hours. At the day-one takeoff of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury this morning, everyone held his breath for the combustion that was about to occur. And when fuel met flame there were a few fiery flare-ups, but not of the size that many expected. In all, the 20-pound mark was reached by seven anglers on a warm, balmy day that had five-alarmer written all over it. Exactly why the bite was not as good as expected is still in question. Many pros reported a vanishing act of bedding bass that had just started to show up during practice, but have now disappeared despite highly favorable conditions At the top of the standings are Florida ace JT Kenney and Missouri veteran Stacey King, who checked in with 29-14 and 28-1, respectively. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 1

Lake Kissimmee produced the bulk of the top-10 catches on the first day of competition, but not all of them. Still, it seems that anglers believe the time lost to traveling through the lock from Toho to eventually get to Kissimmee is worth the gamble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-01-toho-s-mojo

Toho’s Mojo

Rob Newell breaks down the Kissimmee Chain lake by lake for a complete preview of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-cifuentes-wins-co-angler-title

Cifuentes wins Co-angler Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – Imagine traveling FLW Outdoor’s fishing circuits as a co-angler with legendary pro Larry Nixon…practicing with him…rooming with him…and just talking bass fishing 24-7 with one of the most decorated bass fishing pros in the modern world. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-collins-collects-rayburn-title

Collins Collects Rayburn Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – When Tournament Director Ron Lappin asked pro Albert Collins what it takes to win a Rayovac FLW Series event on Rayburn Reservoir, Collins immediately responded, “Weighing in 17 pounds a day.” READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-29-reeltime-report-kentucky-lake-day-4

Reeltime Report: Kentucky Lake, Day 4

Skip Johnson wins and Rookie of the Year Jason Lambert takes second. READ MORE »

/news/2014-04-26-acree-wins-co-angler-division

Acree wins Co-angler Division

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – What’s the fastest way to learn the most about bass fishing? Become a co-angler in FLW Outdoors events. READ MORE »

/news/2014-02-10-reeltime-report-lake-okeechobee-day-4

Reeltime Report: Lake Okeechobee, Day 4

Brett Hite wins on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/news/2014-01-11-jaeger-wins-co-angler-division-of-rayovac-flw-series

Jaeger wins Co-angler Division of Rayovac FLW Series

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – For the last two years, Rex Jaeger of Hamilton, Ohio has been plugging away in Rayovac FLW Series events hoping to make a top 10. READ MORE »