January 27, 2014 by Todd Hollowell
(Editor's note: Starting immediately, FLW Tour pro Todd Hollowell has agreed to make regular blog contributions approximately once a month on FLWOutdoors.com. Going forward, bass-fishing fans will be treated to a wide array of blogs from a host of different FLW Tour pros on FLWOutdoors.com leading up to the 2014 season and beyond.)
We're just a few anxious weeks away from the Walmart FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee. Thanks to a new and innovative rule change from FLW, there is one question that seems to be on a lot of minds. It has nothing to do with the umbrella rig, or the new 30-day restricted access period, or even some of the Elite Series anglers crossing over to fish the FLW Tour this year. But rather, the question that many are asking is: How will FLW's new social media rule impact the 2014 season?
If you have not been made aware yet, FLW implemented a new, never-seen before rule that now allows the use of cell phones "for pros to post social media updates." Up until this point in time, pros have only been able to use cell phones to communicate with lockmasters on certain river systems where locking is allowed or in emergency situations, such as an equipment failure. FLW has taken an aggressive step forward in trying to bring the sport closer to the fans by implementing this new rule. Now, it's up to the anglers to turn this into a positive rule change. Anglers can now access Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites while the tournament is going on. So I'm anxious to see how it plays out this season. Are you?
Unlike many sports that are televised where fans can watch the game unfold, there is no possible way to logistically film 180 anglers during the course of a tournament day. One of the most popular online features from FLW over the past few years has been the "On the Water Updates," which has included Twitter updates as well. These updates have kept fans informed on how anglers are doing as the tournament day progresses, and arguably has brought the fans closer to the tournament without actually being there. However, there is a finite number of FLW reporters to do the updates and they can only reach a select few anglers that are in the area of the lake that they are covering. There is a constant challenge in trying to bring the fans to the sport, as fishing is a uniquely and predominantly a participant sport - one where people enjoy fishing more than they do watching someone else fish. I think FLW is on the right track with allowing social media updates for people to follow their favorite angler and get updates throughout the day. And it's these types of progressive-thinking ideas that will continue to drive the sport's future and expand its reach to its fans.
There are a lot of FLW Tour anglers who have a loyal following of fans and that have a strong social media presence. Guys like Tom Redington, Wesley Strader, and Travis Fox all have a strong online following and are from different regions of the country - and there is no doubt that their fans will appreciate getting updates from them during tournament days. The pros who embrace the new rule stand to gain new fans from this platform that FLW has created. Does that mean that pros who don't embrace social media will lose out on something? Not necessarily. But it's hard to argue the power of social media for those that use and understand it.
Now, the real question is: How will anglers use this new rule change to bring updates to their fans? Will there be any negative repercussions from the rule? Will anyone abuse the rule and how so? These are questions that have been on my mind the last few weeks, and I certainly don't have the answers. In fact, I'm not even sure how I'm going to use this new rule change during the course of my day. I've tried to take time to learn Facebook and Twitter over the past few years and have become somewhat efficient with it. However, I'm on the fence on how much time I will actually spend using it during an eight-hour tournament day - after all, each minute spent updating a social media status is a minute that could be used to make a few casts. I'm guessing you can count on one to two updates from me during the course of the day. But I'll be interested to see how much others send updates. Will you see my top secret bait of choice? Probably not. Will I give away my location for where I'm fishing and catching fish? Probably not. Will this take away from people watching the weigh-ins on FLW Live? Probably not.
I think this will be a good change and one that helps fans connect with anglers during a tournament - but only time will tell. What do you think about it?
Todd Hollowell has fished as a pro on the FLW Tour since the 2012 season and is currently the host of the Bass Dr. television show on the World Fishing Network (WFN). To read more about Todd Hollowell and his latest exploits, check out his website toddhollowell.com.