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

Maximizing exposure

Savvy pros parlay strong fishing and communication skills into winning formula

Last month, communications expert and FLW Tour show producer Jerry McKinnis provided some valuable advice about exposure. This month's column features two anglers who have heeded that advice and launched fishing careers by making the most of exposure opportunities.

The bottom line in the fishing industry is a game of balance. In the sponsor market, fishing ability is meaningless without well-spoken delivery and presence; however, great speakers are worthless without a solid fishing performance record that commands credibility. Anglers who are sharp enough to enhance a respectable fishing performance with efficient communication are the ones who get sponsor contracts.

David Walker, 35, of Cannon, Ky., and Marty Stone, 35, of Linden, N.C., are anglers who have demonstrated an ability to turn their catches into commodities. Both anglers boast a tournament fishing record that is hard to deny as credible. Walker has made 10 top-10 appearances since joining the FLW Tour in 1996. Stone, who began fishing FLW events in 1997, has seven top-10 finishes. To add to their fishing credentials, Walker won Kellogg's Angler of the Year on the FLW Tour in 1999 and Stone has claimed a B.A.S.S. Top 150 victory.

Five years ago, the names David Walker and Marty Stone would have brought blank stares from most guys at a bass club meeting. Today, they are household names on bass fishing's most elite tours.

Both anglers have used the unique FLW format to jump-start their fishing careers. Long before they had paying sponsors, they recognized the value of stage and film exposure offered by the FLW Tour and took advantage of those opportunities. Demonstrating an ability to speak well during those first impressions paid dividends when these anglers sat down at a sponsor's dealing table.

What Walker and Stone have in common is an ability to describe fishing in a language both non-fishermen and fishermen can understand. In doing so, they have captured two audiences.

Both anglers avoid long-winded technical orations littered with fancy fishing jargon. They are not blatant product pushers; consequently, their fishing does not sound like an infomercial. They do not attribute their catches to dumb luck or happenstance.

Instead, these two effective communicators talk about the importance of strategy, decisions, lure choices, weather circumstances and other variables that affect their catch. As a result, their fishing has merit and legitimacy. Bass fishing becomes a clever craft of their own design and that is what gives their activity value to sponsors.

Stone and Walker claim that developing speaking skills in front of crowds and cameras is not something that comes with ease. Both anglers have worked hard to enhance their presentation styles.

Marty Stone admits to being terrified of crowds at one time, but he sent his stage fright packing when he was forced to speak in front of crowds during college. Stone, who has a degree in public recreation and park management with a minor in communication, says that presentations were part of his studies. After 20 major presentations, public speaking had become second nature.

Stone also has a personal presentations coach who critiques his moves - Robin Stone, his wife. Robin Stone has a degree in communication with a minor in media advertising. Since 1997, the Stones have watched Marty's camera performances repeatedly to find areas that he could improve on when speaking on stage or camera.

"She has helped me a tremendous amount with my delivery," admits Stone. "She is very objective about my actions and the signals they send."

Stone also pays particular attention to his autograph-signing interactions.

"To have some one ask you for an autograph is the greatest compliment in the world," says Stone. "As pro anglers we should be respectful and humbled by autograph seekers. That is what separates our sports from all others, one-on-one interaction with fans."

Stone believes the fear of public speaking can be overcome with practice. He recommends that anglers, who are serious about pursuing sponsorship, but are afraid of public speaking, seek out community college courses in public speaking.

While college experience is becoming highly favored among sponsors, it is by no means mandatory. David Walker has received his public speaking education through a hands-on training program, not a college classroom. Walker says being a camera boat driver whenever possible during the FLW Tour's early years made him a quick study on the art of presentation.

"Being around Jerry McKinnis and his camera crews has taught me an incredible amount about the importance of appearance and presence," says Walker. "When you watch a guy fish all day (as a camera boat driver) and then see what ends up on film, you start to get a feel for what effective communication is about."

Walker has also been a student at the weigh-ins and has made meticulous mental notes of how the crowd responds to each angler's comments.

"I like to watch the weigh-ins to see how the anglers present themselves and how the crowd responds," he says. "You would not believe how many of the same goofy catch phrases and one liners are said over and over again. Watching the crowd's responses to such comments taught Walker to avoid them and develop his own style and tone.

"I just answer the questions honestly and directly," comments Walker. "If I catch a big string and want to keep it quiet, I just say I do not want to disclose a location or a bait, instead of telling some gimmicky lie everybody else has heard a thousand times that day."

If you are serious about your bottom line, take a page out of the notebooks of David Walker and Marty Stone. Find creative ways to turn the smallest exposures into positive impressions.

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 Wal-Mart 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 »