Service yard saviors: Ian Smith


All photos Craig Lamb

Ian Smith had never traveled outside the state of Florida until he went to work for JL Marine Systems in his hometown of Tampa. While working a summer job at Power-Pole, the maker of shallow water anchor systems and accessories, he was mystified by the vagabond lifestyle of pro anglers.

He would soon get his wish of joining them. In the sport fishing industry — and especially the tournament side of the business — travel goes with the job. You go to the water because it sure won’t come to you.

For two summers, Smith worked in production roles at company headquarters. He soon embraced the company’s transparent, open-door culture that encourages employees to continue their career growth from within.

A tournament support representative job became available and Smith applied. After two years on the road he is well on the way to earning his road warrior badge as he crisscrosses the country at tournaments. 

Here’s more about what he does for Power-Pole, including a lot of travel. 

When did you go to work for the company?

When I was 16 years old. I’ve been here 11 years now.

How many weeks do you travel?

It all depends. This will be a six-week nonstop road trip. It can be longer depending on who goes to the event and where they are located. (He was interviewed at the 2019 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell.)

Describe your job.

My job is to support any and all of the anglers who use our products. I do repairs, software and firmware updates, and whatever they need to keep on the edge and stay competitive. 

What happens when you roll into town?

What I do first is scope out the service yard. It’s really important to find that space because it’s different at every site. Because there is no blueprint like you have at an outdoor show, we have to determine the layout on our own. The idea is to make it so there is a continuous flow through the yard. The goal is to get everyone in and out so there is no bottleneck. And also get them in and out as soon as possible.

What’s your daily routine?

On practice days I arrive at the service yard around 8 a.m. and stay until the last need is met. During the competition it’s one hour before takeoff. Quitting time all depends on the repairs and who needs what done. Sometimes I stay late to help the other service techs. 

Do you make service calls on the water?

I can but really prefer to do the repairs at the trailer. Everything I need is there, and it’s so much more efficient to make the repairs.

What’s inside your rig?

It’s a 22-foot enclosed box trailer. I basically have just about everything needed to service what we see most. Pumps, switches and other parts are inside.

What is a tool you cannot do without?

Believe it or not it’s my cellphone. I can do emails and all the usual things. I can also do firmware updates on products.

Your favorite breakfast place is what and where?

We like to support the local places. Hotel breakfasts get old as much as we on the service crews are on the road. 

As a road warrior do you have any quirks at hotels?

Consistency. I like Holiday Inns and Hampton Inns. Those are the brands the crews favor. I’m not too keen on motels. If I had to stay in a motel I’d just as well sleep in the service trailer, which I have done. 

What do you like the most about your job?  

The travel. Going to all of those places where I dreamed of going when I worked in production. It’s also really nice to be able to manage yourself out here on the road. You treat your space like your home office or shop. You have your own personal workspace, and you want it to be run a certain way. Being the best at what I do to service our customers. That’s all what I really like about the job.