UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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 

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