UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

It’s Not All About Sponsorships

It’s Not All About Sponsorships
Luke Dunkin

(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


“How do you get sponsors?”

“I would like to thank my sponsors.”

“Bro, I have so many sponsors.”

If you’ve been around competitive bass fishing for more than a minute you’ve probably heard any or all of the above several times. Sponsorship consumes most tournament anglers, young and old.

We all long to have the jacked-up wrapped truck hooked to the wrapped Ranger bass boat proudly displaying the logos of all the companies that give us loot. From the time we weigh in our first bass, we know that we are all just one social media post away from endless crankbaits, braided line, depth finders and supermodels. That’s how it works, right?

Unfortunately, it does not, and if anyone tells you it does, I’ve got an exotic all-inclusive resort inside my beard where you can stay for a week.

I have a unique perspective on the sponsor game. I’ve seen a little bit of everything: the good, the bad and the downright ugly. I’ve had my own experiences with it as a sponsored touring pro, and then during my 12 years at T-H Marine helping with its pro-staff and marketing.

Do I know it all? Not even close. Do I have some insight? You bet.

There’s so much to the sport that goes on after you catch a bass. There are thousands of people that do so daily. That doesn’t mean you get sponsored or even deserve to be. The companies of the industry can choose just about anyone they want, and so you must prove your worth. At the same time a company that is sponsoring an angler needs to hold up its end of the bargain. It’s very much a two-way street. It’s about trust, working hard and growing relationships.

I get a ton of questions form younger anglers about how to get sponsors. A lot of these guys are just starting out in the sport and are super-excited. It’s a sign of the sport’s rapid growth, and that’s a very positive thing. I just hope that most do not let the jerseys full of logos, ideas of free product, and endless fame and fortune take away from why we all started fishing: the fish.

Hooking big ones right in the face. Watching a 5-pounder smash a buzzbait. Seeing a giant on a bed. That’s why we all started. That’s why we all still do it. It’s a love. It’s an obsession. Do not lose that. There’s a time and a place for business as you climb the ranks in the bass fishing game. It will all come. Trust me. Everything happens in due time.

I used to get caught up in it when I was a teenager. I thought that’s what I needed to be doing – calling companies and telling them all about Luke. Most were very nice, but less than receptive to my requests. I wish I could have known then that these companies receive hundreds of requests each day. Everyone had the same story as me: “I like to catch bass. Can I have some stuff?” I wasn’t a blip on their radar, and rightfully so. I got what I deserved – NOTHING.

Fast-forward to February 2017, and I’m partway through a new season in which I’m fortunate enough to work with several amazing companies. These are companies that I signed sponsorship agreements with over the offseason, and that 17-year-old me could never have dreamed would ever look my way. They’ve teamed up with me for my sophomore year on Tour, along with the great partners that believed in me from the start. Do I deserve it now because I fish the FLW Tour? Nope. Not even close. Am I very fortunate? You better believe it.

You see, being a professional bass fisherman doesn’t entitle you to all the free baits and boats you can shake a flipping stick at. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t. We are still just a bunch of dudes out here trying to hook a bass, weigh him in and win some cash. It’s our choice to be here. The stakes are just a lot higher. For this opportunity, we put everything on the line. We spend our family’s hard-earned money and miss things at home. When a sponsor chooses to help with that it should not be taken lightly. They are investing in you. They may not be on the water with you from daylight until dark, but the good ones will always have your back if you have theirs.

So, whether you fish the Tour, T-H Marine BFL or FLW High School Fishing events, always keep one thing front and center in your mind: BIG OL’ BASS. You know, the kind that keep you up at night, setting the hook in your sleep. If you’re like me I’m sure they stay there morning, noon and night. Add a pinch of hard work to those dreams, and you’ll be just fine. Trust me, I’m a “professional” dreamer.

Tags: luke-dunkin  blog 

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My plan going into the Mississippi River event is pretty simple. I’m going to have four rods on the deck of my boat: Two flipping sticks and two frog rods. In my experience in western Wisconsin, that’s what will work the best for me to get big bites. READ MORE »

Guiding and Mentoring

Guiding and Mentoring

Now that we are back on track with fishing, and hopefully developing some normalcy to our lives again, I am excited to keep going with what I started talking about at the beginning of the year – mentorship of young anglers. READ MORE »

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

There’s a big change coming to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. READ MORE »

Fishing with Confidence

Fishing with Confidence

This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament. READ MORE »

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Like everyone else, I had concerns about when we would be able to resume our 2020 season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Probably a bigger concern was what the rest of the season would look like. READ MORE »

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. For the first time in my pro career, I’ve been home for much of the spring, and while it was great to fish local waters and get some projects done around the house, I’m ready to get back to fishing tournaments. READ MORE »

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Recently announced changes to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit have me extremely excited to get the season back under way. Specifically, a good number of the Major League Fishing anglers will be fishing the remaining three Pro Circuit Super Tournament events with increased payouts. This makes these truly the most lucrative five-fish-limit events in the country, with potentially half of the tournament field being paid $10,000 or more. READ MORE »

My Line-Thru Addiction

My Line-Thru Addiction

Pollen is in the air, on the water and covers my boat on a daily basis. When this happens, it means one thing to me – the bass are on the bed. Now, most people are all giddy about sight-fishing, but that’s not my deal. I can count on two hands how many fish I’ve caught truly sight-fishing. What comes to my mind during this time is swimbait fishing, but more specifically, one kind of swimbait in particular – a line-thru swimbait. READ MORE »

Making the Most of Quarantine

Making the Most of Quarantine

At the beginning of this year I was excited about the opportunity to fish the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Bassmaster Elite Series. I was most excited about fishing the spawn in March and April on some of my favorite lakes. When the schedules for both circuits were first released I was feeling very confident about doing some sight-fishing on Santee Cooper, Eufaula and Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »

The Real Reason I love Spring

The Real Reason I love Spring

Fishing for a living is awesome, but when spring comes it can be tough. April is always a busy month for tournaments – and the fishing is usually fantastic – but I really love to turkey hunt and tournaments can put a damper on that. READ MORE »

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

From spending some quality time with my wife, Katie, and my dog, Doppler, to organizing my life and fun fishing, there are numerous ways that I have been able to take advantage of our current social responsibility to participate in “social distancing.” READ MORE »

Encouraging the Next Generation

Encouraging the Next Generation

Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didn’t have the outlet to the outdoors that a lot of our youth enjoy while growing up. It often takes hours to travel out of the city due to traffic, and there were no lakes within walking distance from my house. So it’s not like I could swing by the pond after school. READ MORE »

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

When selecting a new rod, I consider several elements: action, power, length and components.  Different rods will fit the role, depending on the type of lure, cover and fish species you are targeting. READ MORE »

Always Go Down Swinging

Always Go Down Swinging

Greg Bohannan's late father, Kenny, taught his sons to never take a third strike looking. "If you take the pitch and don't swing, you never give yourself a chance," he'd say. With that lesson in mind, Greg took his cuts at Lake Martin and gave himself a shot to win. Even though it didn't work out, he knows that at least he went down swinging. READ MORE »

How to Catch Your New PB

How to Catch Your New PB

Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event. READ MORE »

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Without a doubt, during a tournament day I always get a question from my Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Marshal about why I have both left- and right-handed Abu Garcia baitcast reels. I get comments about the same thing from multiple social media followers if I post a picture that shows my reels. The remarks originally surprised me, but not any longer because of how frequently I see them. READ MORE »

Carrying Momentum into Florida

Carrying Momentum into Florida

Despite the solid start to the year, and the confidence that comes with overcoming adversity, Miles Burghoff knows very well how a good start to a season can either create positive momentum, or open the door to complacency, which often can result in a loss of motivation and focus. With the Harris Chain event kicking off this week, he's determined to keep that focus and motivation. READ MORE »

New Year, Same Feel

New Year, Same Feel

Ending 2019 on a bad note wasn’t how I pictured last season going. I was in contention to qualify for the FLW Cup going into the last FLW Tour event on Lake Champlain, but after coming in 97th at the finale I finished the season 51st in the Angler of the Year points and missed my chance for the Cup. Not going to lie, it stung a little bit and made for a LONG drive home, but it also made me hungry for 2020. READ MORE »

Vlog: Rayburn Recap, Practice to Pattern

Vlog: Rayburn Recap, Practice to Pattern

Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Josh Douglas and his wife, Bri, created this baller recap video from Sam Rayburn and the first Pro Circuit event of 2020. In the video, which includes footage from practice and the tournament, Josh dishes on how he used his practice time to eventually uncover a productive trap pattern that helped him earn a 42nd-place finish, which is a big improvement on the 114th he posted at Rayburn in the 2019 FLW Tour event. READ MORE »

Why You Shouldn’t Second-Guess Your Gut

Why You Shouldn’t Second-Guess Your Gut

In tournament fishing, you can beat yourself up for days with the “what if” scenarios that cause you to second-guess your gut. Well, in this case, I guessed wrong. I finished the Lake Champlain event in 145th place. It knocked me all the way down to 60th in points and out of Cup contention. READ MORE »