The industry owes us nothing

Ish Monroe

There’s been a lot of internet chatter going on lately that has been frustrating. Several anglers and YouTubers have had things to say about our industry and what they feel about the sponsorship world out there. Some of the videos have claimed that the industry “lied to us.” All of them have been critical with people saying they haven’t been supported as tour-level anglers.

Let me state this as the main theme of this column so it is clear.

This industry owes us nothing.

Nothing. No guarantees and certainly no promises of wealth and fame once we get to the top levels of the sport.

We all earned our chance to be on the levels we compete on, whether it is the Bassmaster Opens, the Bassmaster Elite Series or another tour, but getting there was only step one. What we earned from there is the only guarantee we have, which is a platform made available to build our brands and our businesses by promoting our partners.

The first thing to realize is that we are not like any other athletes in the world. A better description of what we are is that we are a business that other businesses choose to partner with for exposure and sales. A logo placed by a brand on our jersey, boat and truck is done by agreement that has guarantees of compensation for us, but they come with responsibilities we have to consider.

Each of these brands have “deliverables” in their agreements with their promotional anglers or influencers. The amount of compensation they provide is decided by the company based on several factors, but key to them is how much visibility they get from that investment in us which helps influence sales. 

A company can decide an angler that generates a lot of brand visibility through media exposure and social media influence provides enough of a return. But ultimately what dictates the budget for partnerships and advertising is how much product is sold.

Here’s the key point: The partnerships that deliver the least amount of value in return are the ones that are first to be cut. The reality is, if you found yourselves on the chopping block when it comes to renewals, the most likely reasons are you didn’t live up to your contracted requirements or the company doesn’t feel you influenced brand visibility or sales enough to offer a renewal.

Yes, there are times when budgets get tough that can influence contracts and partnerships, but the truth is companies don’t generally get rid of the partnerships that have produced results. They tend to start with those who haven’t delivered enough.

We all have the same goals; we want to fish for a living. But there is a reason the anglers who have routinely made the best living in the game have the kinds of contracts they received. The main reason is, of course, the anglers have won the most, but they are also the anglers who work for their partners more than anyone else.

Even though they have won more events than most of their counterparts, winning is just a part of the equation. Winning is how we as anglers build our reputation amongst our competitors, and it leaves a legacy of excellence. But the most important part of winning is that it builds credibility giving the angler influence on the industry and its consumers.

You see, just winning does not equal sponsorship success. There are plenty of anglers who have won who have not had tremendous success in the business world. Those who win must work in order to capitalize on that victory. Those that combine winning with effort in the business world are those who have had the most profitable careers.

To get to the point: You can win and not have commercial or financial success, but on the flip side, you can have a steady career, win occasionally and make a few Bassmaster Classics and have a long and lucrative career by working hard for your partners — there are plenty of examples of that in this game.

I work harder off the water for my partners than I do on the water, and I take my job as an angler very seriously. I spend time at dealers and retailers for the brands I represent. I talk to consumers, I personally sell products and I make sure my partners know they can ask me to go anywhere they need me and do everything I can to deliver on those requests.

We have to stop complaining about what we don’t have as a group and work to maximize the opportunities we do have to build our businesses. We all have our own platforms, and we need to use those platforms to educate people and understand the products we represent and how to use them to catch more fish.

Instead of using those platforms to try and create clickbait for more controversy, do our jobs and prove our worth to the industry. Then, we can have the kind of careers and businesses we can grow old and retire in. This industry deserves our respect for the opportunities it provides us, but it doesn’t owe any of us anything that we don’t earn.