Bill Lowen was wanting to give back to the bass fishing community in this Year of the Fan, and the light bulb just flipped in his mind.
“I was lying in the camper, just thinking of something to do,” said the longtime Bassmaster Elite Series angler from Indiana. “For me, I get a big thrill giving back. I was just lying there and I thought, ‘How cool would it give away Bassmaster memberships to some kid in the crowd?’”
So while on stage at Elite weigh-ins this season, Lowen gave away a one-year membership to a lucky youth in the crowd. It pleased most everyone in the audience as well as many viewers.
The idea springs from his youth, when he fished from a rock on the bank of a creek. He said he was fortunate to be afforded a childhood in the outdoors and to dream big.
“I say this all the time, all I wanted to do is be like Denny Brauer and fish the Classic one day,” he said. “I was always looking at Bassmaster Magazine. Somebody was always taking time out of their schedule to take me fishing or hunting, whether it was my father, family or friends. My buddy who died, his parents helped me, so I like to give back.”
A one-year membership, which costs $30 but is now only $15, includes a subscription to Bassmaster Magazine, a B.A.S.S. ballcap, a tips book and DVD and a tackle bag. Five-year and lifetime memberships are also on special.
Depending on if he was going to make the cut, Lowen would scour the crowd for a benefactor on Days 2 or 3, having the kids stand up and yell for it.
“I always wanted to do it on a Saturday,” he said. “I guess the really cool thing for me was to see how excited they were. ‘Holy cow, I’m getting a one-year membership.’ How I look at it, if we can get ’em young, hook them now, that’s a great thing.”
Lowen said he enjoyed seeing the excitement of the kids, their faces lighting up when they were chosen.
“The one that stands out the most was at Cayuga,” Lowen said. “I picked two kids out of the audience that had Yamaha hats on. They came up there and I was trying to get one of them to be the loudest, hooting and hollering. They were kind of bashful.
“Out of nowhere, here comes this crazy kid out of nowwhere. He’s screaming and hollering, yelling and being loud, ‘Me! Me! Me!’ I ended up giving all three of them memberships.”
Lowen’s plan steamrolled through the season, and he even got sponsors on board. While he made Championship Sunday early in the season at Lake Hartwell, and just missed it when he finished 11th at the St. Lawrence River, he developed bigger plans for a final-day appearance.
“If I had made a Sunday, Xpress Boats was thinking about giving away a lifetime membership,” he said. “So I’m still playing around with that, and I’m still trying to work with Yamaha and Xpress and all them at the Classic to give away a handful of them.”
After a fruitful year, in which he finished 11th in Toyota Angler of the Year points after climbing as high as second, Lowen qualified for the 50th anniversary Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk at Lake Guntersville March 6-8. And fans, especially young fans, might want to be there with their loudest voice.
The “Dollar” Bill Lowen membership plan might just help inspire or create a future pro angler.
“It’s gotten good reaction — fans cheer for this like crazy,” he said. “It was a good deal, and I got a lot of good responses from it all year.”