Daily Limit: Stirring pot gave Foutz push in industry

Elite Jacob Foutz has surged for a great 2024 season after stirring up controversy in 2023.

Jacob Foutz made a brand for himself by posting a controversial video that he didn’t really have a brand. That, and really catching them of late.

Foutz, a 25-year-old from Charleston, Tenn., is among the hottest anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He’s made the cut in eight consecutive tournaments and stands seventh in the 2024 Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, with hopes of bigger things to come.

After last season, Foutz related his struggles in a YouTube video, “What the pros don’t tell you about the fishing industry.” Long told to concentrate on catching fish and companies will come calling, Foutz said he found tournament angling has become more influencer-based – it’s about having a following and moving product.

“Your brand is more important than catching bass,” Foutz said. “Is it my fault that I don’t have a big brand? Sure, it is.”

In the video, Foutz detailed expenses to fish the circuit and wondered out loud how long he could continue with a pittance of sponsorship help. Foutz’s grievances about the monetary stresses of a pro angler received varied responses, riling up some and hitting home with others, specifically tournament anglers in the same boat.

“A little bit of everything — support, pushback and guys in the middle,” Foutz said. “I was really just trying to share my experience, give young guys a realistic expectation of what it costs.

“I wasn’t trying to shed negative light on the industry. It was more or less that it’s not an easy industry to be a part of.”

That video went viral, receiving around 75,000 views. It also garnered  3,500 thumbs up and tons of responses, which have since been disabled. Foutz well remembers the negative reactions.

“Stuff like, ‘He’s not good.’ ‘He’s just complaining.’ ‘Doesn’t belong.’ ‘Just quit,’” he said. “I heard ‘just quit’ a lot of times. If I wanted to quit, I wouldn’t have put the video out.

“I wasn’t too afraid to put it out there. I had a thought of what it could possibly turn into, but I didn’t think it would turn into such a big deal.”

Bryan Brasher, executive editor of Bassmaster Magazine, responded with a column, “Foutz was off, but let’s give him a break.” He wrote that Foutz’s take was somewhat naïve — it’s long been said anglers must create value to obtain and keep corporate partners.

Foutz, who lost a sponsor after the video, has since embraced that.

“Talked to a lot and learned a lot more about how it works and things I can do to add value to these companies that might want to be a part of my journey,” he said. “I have to be more active on social media and be available to work an event or shoot some content.

“They have to see a return on their investment, in some form or fashion, that’s the biggest thing.”

Foutz seems to have found a niche in pulling back the curtain. His subsequent posts detailing expenses and winnings — videos he deemed as providing some “drama” — have performed better than his fishing tips. In all, his 16 YouTube videos have had more than 250,000 views and 2 million impressions, monster increases for him.

After taking some heat, Foutz is now enjoying the aftermath of being candid. He’s gained sponsorships to help pay more than half his 2024 Elite entries, and fans responded to a unique GoFundMe offer.

“Fans have actually supported a good chunk of it,” Foutz said. “They can get their name on the side of my boat, and I’m giving away a bunch of guide trips.”

Those trips will be on his home fishery of Chickamauga Lake, where he competed for Bryan College. As a 19-year-old freshman there, Foutz teamed with Jake Lee to win a college regional and the college national championship. Foutz then won the Classic Bracket to qualify for the 2018 championship on Lake Hartwell.

Jumping into the St. Croix Opens, Foutz made the Elites after the 2021 season. Despite four cuts and two Top 10s, Foutz finished 49th in points his rookie year. In 2023, he was 68th in AOY, but he finished strong on the Northern Swing with three cuts and two Top 10s.

That momentum, which came before his videos, continued in 2024 with five consecutive cuts, including a third-place finish at the St. Johns River.

“I went from missing eight cuts in a row to making eight cuts in a row, and I had three Top 10s in that stretch,” he said. “Everything is clicking right now. I really do feel like I have a couple more really good ones in me, if not a win, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. I really like three events left.”

The season resumes June 13-16 in the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Lake Wheeler. It’s in his wheelhouse, Foutz said, noting top four finishes on Tennessee River’s Pickwick and Chickamauga lakes. Foutz isn’t so hot for Alabama’s Smith Lake, but he likes his chances in the northern smallmouth swing to Lake Champlain, where he was eighth last year, and the St. Lawrence River.

“Smith is the only one I’m nervous about,” he said. “I don’t like spotted bass, and I don’t like blueback herring. We’ll figure it out. Definitely looking forward to the last two. Catching smallmouth is kind of my favorite thing in the world and something I think I’m best at.”

With 383 AOY points, Foutz is 95 back of leader Trey McKinney. He realizes that’s a lot to make up, but he’s feeling confident about the decisions he’s making on the water, so who knows.

“Just being in seventh, that’s a big deal for me mentally … feeling I belong again,” he said. “It’s nice to feel you have a shot at Angler of the Year going into the last four. I have to have a lot of things go my way to make up 100 or so points, but it can definitely happen.”

With his positive outlook, Foutz also said he sees a blue trophy on the horizon.

“I feel like I’ve got a win coming on. I really do. I felt that way since about St. Clair last year,” he said. “I’m just fishing good. I just feel like I’m due for a big one. I’ve been close a handful times and just haven’t connected. My confidence tells me that it’s coming.”

At the least, Foutz wants to stay hot, post solid finishes and reach his second Classic. A top 10 in AOY would be great, but a top five would help his brand even more.

“I’m just really confident right now,” he said. “I feel like I can get to the highest level. I feel I have the skill to do that, but it’s just taken me a while to get going. I think I’ve reached a point where I’m getting there, making eight cuts in a row. There’s not many who do that.”

Foutz hopes to keep putting good keepers in the box, and while there will always be detractors, he plans to keep stirring the pot.

“I don’t really care what people say about me. I know what kind of person I am and what I stand for. People who don’t know me can say whatever they want,” he said. “I think it’s all good. Most of the critics have gone awful quiet.”

Catching them seems to do that.