UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Okeechobee

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

FLW's Presence Expanding in Korea

Last month, FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel, Vice President of Operations Dave Washburn and FLW Tour pro Scott Martin found themselves in Seoul, South Korea, on the invitation of FLW’s Korean partners, to visit the FLW Korea office, enjoy the culture of the country and observe what may someday prove to be one of the major building blocks of bass fishing’s growing global reach.

On Sept. 24, the trio – along with Martin’s son, Jacob, and his cameraman, Brandon Gordon – arrived in Seoul to meet with Jin-Soo Kang, the man behind FLW Korea and its burgeoning mission to spread competitive bass fishing throughout the country. Kang, who signed the agreement to partner with FLW in 2015, is a man who understands the intricacies of bringing competitive fishing to a culture that already fishes on a large scale. To Kang, FLW is a lifestyle brand as much as it is a fishing brand.

To that end, FLW’s presence has had an immediate and profound impact on bass fishing in South Korea. The 2018 FLW Korea Championship, which qualifies its top anglers to the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship, took place on Sept. 28 and 29 and featured a field of 68 anglers that was narrowed to 12 on the final day. Approximately 500 bank anglers lined the shores, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, to fish and to observe the championship event.

“The anglers fished on a lake that had never been open to recreational fishing before, and we had the final weigh-in at the 1988 Olympic rowing stadium,” Fennel says. “The stadium was full of fans. They had a great stage with a drive-through weigh-in for the top 12 on the final day.”

Martin, who has his own international presence as both an FLW Tour pro and as one of the most recognizable faces in fishing’s social media sphere, was on hand as well, signing autographs and observing the tournament up close. His face is adorned in the artwork in the halls of the FLW Korea office, along with many other legends of the sport, and the fanfare for his presence at the tournament was both impressive and unsurprising.

“I was very honored to have such a large fan base there in Korea,” Martin says. “It was awesome. As we do our thing here in the United States we forget there’s other fishing going on in the world, and to be able to see the amount of people that were fans of what I do was very humbling. I was very honored to have that kind of response.”

“It was fun to see Scott Martin signing hundreds of autographs and talking with all the anglers,” Washburn adds. “He literally has fans everywhere.”

Martin spent a couple days of the trip fishing as well. And while he enjoyed the culture, food and hospitality of Korea, the highlight for him was catching a 4 1/2-pound largemouth toward the end of his second day on the water.

“That moment right there, catching that fish, was one of the more memorable fish catches of my life,” he admits. “It was just a very exciting catch for sure. That was really, really the biggest memory I’m going to take from the trip.”

Catching his favorite species more than 8,000 miles from home was so special to Martin, in fact, that he hopes to return to Korea soon and maybe even participate in a tournament.

“I just look forward to going back, maybe next year, and fishing,” he says. “One of the things I’d like to do as an angler is I want to go over there and fish in one of their events. I think it would be amazing. That’s my goal to go back to Korea, fish in one of their tournaments and hopefully win the tournament. That would be neat to have a trophy sitting on my mantle next to the Forrest Wood Cup”

On its face, a tournament and an office are a modest start to a massive ongoing effort, but FLW has an international presence that extends beyond Korea. FLW has tournaments in eight countries to this point, and as Washburn points out, these are all steps toward much larger goals.

“FLW is, by design, becoming the FIFA of professional bass fishing, as we work alongside organizations like USA Bass and CIPS [International Confederation of Sport Fishing] in the pursuit of having bass fishing recognized as an Olympic sport,” he says. “We have a long way to go, but there is an incredible amount of enthusiasm behind the effort.”

It’s a necessary effort. Washburn points to the Baby Boomer generation that has buoyed the bass fishing industry for many years, and while that generation is still the backbone of the sport, an influx of young anglers is crucial to maintaining and growing both the fan base and the participation level in competitive bass fishing.

In addition to a tour of the FLW Korea office and observation of the championship tournament, FLW’s cadre got to experience the culture and hospitality Seoul had to offer, including some traditional dining, which Martin presented to his YouTube followers in videos on his channel (part 1part 2 and part 3).

“One of the most interesting parts of the trip was experiencing some of the local cuisine,” Martin says. “We ended up eating live octopus, and it was actually good. It was a little chewy, but it was good. Overall the food in general was really good.”

As a whole, the trip was both an entertaining foray into a wonderful culture and a reminder that FLW’s mission is alive and well, even halfway around the world.

“We create opportunities for people to go fishing and to do it competitively,” Fennel says. “This is another opportunity to grow the sport, and it’s working very well.”

 

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