Gearin’ up with Bass Pro Shops

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

Did you ever wonder how Bass Pro Shops’ regional sales staff knows so much about the products they sell?

Well, one reason is most of them fish and use those products. But another reason is happening this week at a convention center in Destin, Fla.

Bass Pro invited the tackle and marine department managers of its 57 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada into Destin for a workshop presented by the manufacturers of the products it carries.

Previously, those presentations were given entirely by company representatives. A few years ago, Strike King asked me to help make some of those presentations, and today, nearly every other major company does the same with its pros.

After the detailed, classroom-type presentations, department managers return to their respective stores and conduct in-house seminars with their sales personnel.

It’s a huge and valuable undertaking. While Bass Pro Shops executives recognize that anglers shop their retail stores for value and broad selections, they also understand the importance of providing fact-based information to customers.

Believe me, I learned that at a young age while working at my brother’s D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo, Mich. Customers drive long distances to shop there because of the knowledgeable staff that use the baits and can talk their language.

I and other pros participating at this conference are outlining key features and subtle differences in our lures and products, how we use them and why they are effective.

What’s the difference between a Strike King 6XD and a 5XD? When do you use one with rattles and one without? What colors do I use in certain environments?

That’s the type of information we pass along to the managers.

Store managers are divided into smaller groups with whom we conduct private sessions, by region. This enables me to talk to the guys from the Northeast who want to know how to apply Strike King baits in clear water for smallmouth; store managers in the Gulf region about our saltwater baits as well as those bass lures that catch redfish; and department heads from the mid-section of the country, who have a different focus.

Not every Bass Pro Shops store carries the same products, as most choose those lures and gear best suited for the waters within their immediate area.

Strike King also makes specialty lures sold exclusively through Bass Pro Shops. My KVD Swim Jig, Tournament Grade Spinnerbaits and a rattling version of the KVD Square Bills are good examples. Bass Pro has been one of my sponsors since my early pro days and several companies with whom I work offer the huge retailer exclusive items to foster the relationship.

Of course, I’m also available to discuss my signature line of rods and reels and other products carried exclusively by Bass Pro Shops as well as Quantum tackle and the HydroWave, which Bass Pro Shops began to carry this year.

Thursday night I delivered the keynote speech to the entire group in which I talked about the state of the industry and how the regional stores can help build upon this great business we all share.

This week’s program exemplified how bass pros provide added value to sponsors and promote the sport. It’s not only about catching fish and winning tournaments.

It’s all about the attitude.

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