Allied for grassroots angling

Competitive bass fishing has always been fueled by grassroots initiatives. Even though the eyes of fans are regularly focused on the top-level professionals in the sport, the bulk of participation occurs locally and regionally. And grassroots anglers comprise the largest collection of competitive bass anglers – and fans of the sport – in the industry.

That makes grassroots anglers, like those who participate in B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments and chapter events, a powerful force for bass fishing.

Companies such as Mercury Marine recognize the influence of Nation anglers’ passion for the sport, which is why Mercury and fellow industry leaders Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, Nitro Boats and MotorGuide have a long history of mutual support of the B.A.S.S. Nation through the B.A.S.S. Nation Alliance program.

The Alliance was established 20 years ago as a way for participating brands to collaborate on lucrative prize packages, rebates and discount programs for the B.A.S.S. Nation state chapters and members. In return, participating members and states collectively represent those brands during competition, through conservation programs and in youth initiatives.

In other words, it’s all about cooperation and mutual support to benefit all parties involved.

“What I love about the program is it reaches across all age levels,” said Michelle Kilburn, senior manager of competitive angling at Mercury Marine. “We not only have adults; we have college and high school anglers and the Junior B.A.S.S. Nation members. And it lets us get involved with the premium, most loyal B.A.S.S. members.

“I think, too, that it really represents the most avid anglers. They work for a living, and this is their recreation. It’s their weekend hobby; their pastime. But they’re obsessed with it. When you talk to them and you hang around with them, they’re passionate and dedicated people. So it’s pretty cool.”

According to B.A.S.S. Nation Director Jon Stewart, the Alliance program is so well received that all but one state chapter participates.

“It’s a great program, and there are opportunities for everybody. It gets the state some free product that they can give away at events or they can give away to their state team, or at their youth tournaments or fundraisers,” he said. “There are also discounts they can take advantage of over and above the free product. And then there are rebates. Probably one of the biggest things for the states is the rebate program.”

The rebate program rewards state chapters thousands of dollars for connecting boat buyers with Alliance member companies. States can also purchase a fundraiser boat for a rebate. Then they can raffle it off or use it as a prize boat to attract local anglers to a fundraising tournament.

There are even great discounts for individuals who purchase boats and engines from Alliance brands.

“It has been a very beneficial program to all parties for both sides, I think,” added Stewart. “That’s what’s made it so good and why it’s lasted so long.”

Another exciting component of the Alliance program is that it rewards excellence on the water. For instance, the top-finishing eligible team at the B.A.S.S. High School National Championship earns a Ranger or Triton boat with a Mercury engine. Adults who are eligible can earn great cash prizes for winning B.A.S.S. Nation post-season events – up to $55,000, in fact.

Eligibility varies a bit from adult to youth events. It generally involves wearing an Alliance jersey on select tournament days and running Alliance-brand equipment, as well as participating with a state chapter that’s registered with the Alliance program.

But then, the Alliance program isn’t just about cash and prizes, nor tournament results. While those opportunities are great for anglers keen on pursuing higher levels of competitive fishing, Stewart estimates that half to maybe three-quarters of B.A.S.S. Nation anglers participate in chapter activities just for the excitement of fishing and the comradery of the club. Many are there to support youth anglers or to contribute to conservation causes. So, the real driving force behind the Alliance is the chance to help build and support those local initiatives, and to recruit and retain more participants.

“I think that there are a lot of companies that have gotten away from supporting the grassroots-level angler like the Alliance still does,” said Stewart. “The grassroots anglers of the B.A.S.S. Nation are very loyal. Very loyal. So when a company or companies like the Alliance group show the support that they have, I think it shows in the boat sales and all the other stuff that those companies are getting.

“Especially nowadays, with what we’ve gone through the last couple years, with the number of people getting into the outdoors skyrocketing; the B.A.S.S. Nation numbers are up on the adult side. And I think a lot of it has to do with the support of companies that are still supporting the B.A.S.S. Nation, like the Alliance group.”

Kilburn agrees, but goes beyond that. It’s about more than just support, she said. It’s something bigger.

“In my experience, I feel like this is the most passionate group there is, through and through. And they’re die-hards,” she said. “Some of those guys have been state directors or part of this forever, as long as I’ve been here, and that’s been almost 20 years. It’s just so cool. It’s such a family.”

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of Alliance membership for you or your state chapter, click here or contact one of the B.A.S.S. Nation state directors where you live.