Angler integrity

Last week I blogged about a few ways I like to catch fish in the transition period. I shared some of my favorite techniques to help more anglers catch fish during this time of year. I also promoted a few of the brands of lures I use for those techniques. There were a few comments made in response to that blog that gave me the idea for this week's blog: angler integrity.

As professional anglers we have several jobs. First and foremost, we have to catch enough fish to win enough money to our pay bills and survive. Second, we need to promote our sponsors which help us make fishing for a living a reality. Lastly, but no less important, we need to promote the sport and help others enjoy the love of fishing and the outdoors. These three jobs overlap in many ways, which leads to questions about what a reader or viewer should believe.

Here's the question I get asked all the time, "Do you really use (insert company name here)'s product?"

Generally, I just answer yes and maybe explain a little about why I like their product, but let's discuss this a little deeper.

During tournaments, promoting a product that we are using makes sense. Everyone wants to know how we're catching them. Telling anything but the truth is a very bad idea because it is nearly impossible to not have the truth come out. B.A.S.S. has incredible photographers and video camera crews, and they are almost literally in your face most of the time or at least when you're doing well.

Whether we like it or not, the truth about whatever products we are using is going to come out.

When working with the media for interviews, articles and videos, almost every pro will include their sponsors' products where applicable. That's a part of our job, and our sponsors expect us to do that. I personally will never lie or state that I used a product I did not use. I only partner with companies that make products I really use and wholeheartedly believe in. It may not be the only product of the type that I use — ultimately, I have to use whatever is going to put fish in the boat but if I talk about a product, it's something I like and that I use with money on the line.

I try to show integrity in everything I do and especially when I represent my sponsors. It wasn't that long ago that my integrity cost me a sponsor.

Here's what happened: After a tournament, a reporter asked me the exact bait I was using. I keep it generic, but he pressed and I told him the bait, which was not a product made by one of my sponsors.

As a result of that, I lost that sponsor, but I would do it all over again because it was the truth. All of my sponsors know that I will use what I need to use in order to catch fish and that I won't lie about what I'm using. Yes, I may offer a generic answer if my bait is not a sponsor product, but I'll never lie about it. It's the difference between saying "I was using a black and blue jig," and "I was using a black and blue jig made by XYZ Company." I'll gladly say the sponsor's name when I can because it's the truth and I want to help the companies that are working with me.

Before I end this column, I want to add that I (and I think most other pro anglers) want to help other anglers. None of us started off as professionals. We all gained information and fishing knowledge from others. By sharing information I give back and share my love of fishing with others.

The last thing I want to do is tell fellow anglers, fans and the people who follow our sport to go spend their hard-earned money on something I don't believe in. I want you to catch more fish, I want you to buy more products, I want you to come out and see the events and cheer us on.

And when you do, I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

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