Every pro angler, or aspiring pro, needs sponsors. But not every sponsor is created equal. Some are top shelf, others bargain basement; some offer product only, others pay cash. Those are the ones worth pursuing.
In this 3-part series we'll look at how the top companies select their paid pro staff positions. Part 1 will detail a lure company, Part 2 will detail a boat company, and Part 3 will do the same with a nonendemic company. Each featured company is a top shelf mainstay of our industry.
Part 1: Strike King Lure Company
"Out first consideration is fishing ability," says Strike King Marketing Manager Chris Brown. "If you aren't fishing after the last cut, and catching fish on a consistent basis, no one will be interviewing you. We want our paid pro staffers out front, in the media. Catching fish is the only way they can do that over the long-run."
He continues to say, however, that catching bass is only the first step in the process. The second step is marketing ability.
Brown describes that as being an intelligent and articulate interview, being able to answer the same question over and over as if it's the first time it's ever been asked and being cheerful after a tough, disappointing loss. It's also about manners, courtesy, personal grooming and appropriate attire.
"Our anglers are expected to be professional. That means using correct grammar, using clean language and answering questions honestly and accurately while promoting our products whenever possible. And, we expect them to look the part. That means being well groomed and wearing clean clothes. They should be ready for media photos whenever possible.
"And, anglers should know that marketing ability will go a long way toward making up for lesser fishing skills, a bad tournament or a bad season. Marketing ability is very important."
Third, Brown wants anglers with character. Character means being professional and moral in private as well as in public. He selects anglers who are trustworthy, reliable, honest and carry solid reputations in the community. Others need not apply.
Fourth, he looks for anglers who understand the business — and know that this is a business.
"I want anglers who know about our products, what they'll do and what they won't do. I also want them to know about our competition. If there's a better product out there we want to know why and how to make ours better. We want reliable, business savvy feedback from our pros.
Finally, he looks for anglers who fit with the team.
"We ask just about everyone about an angler before we talk to them about possibly joining our national pro staff. I want to know what the other anglers think about them, what writers and fishing communicators think about them, and what retailers think about them.
"And, we want to know that they want to fish with, and for, Strike King. I'm not looking for someone who wants a paycheck. I can find that angler anywhere. I want someone who truly believes in our products and wants to improve himself or herself and Strike King. Then we'll talk about a paycheck."
To fully appreciate what the Strike King Lure Company looks for when selecting a national pro staffer consider how he summarizes his own standards. "I want the next angler who'll give Kevin VanDam a run for his money — on and off the water."