As if fishing and competing against the best anglers in the world wasn’t hard enough for nine months of the year, the three-month off season isn’t any easier. Mastering the on-the-water aspect of fishing takes years of learning, competing, adjusting and fine-tuning your craft. The offseason business in bass fishing seems like a new world each and every year no matter how long you’ve been a professional.
Looking back at a calendar, I’m reminded that the fishing part of being a professional fisherman is probably the easiest part of the job. The business side of the sport gets tougher every year with the quality and quantity of anglers hitting the fishing scene. Going into my 11th season as a professional angler, the sponsorship world has changed significantly from year one.
Many companies have different goals when selecting anglers. Most, if not all, hope their pros are successful on the water and are relevant at the top of the standings. Then there are numerous other categories anglers can fulfill. From social media, fishing shows and expos, conducting seminars, media exposure and even a personal connection. Some deals are signed, sealed and delivered outlining both sides of the agreement. Meanwhile some partnerships are made by a simple handshake. Knowing every aspect of a company before talking partnership will prepare you even more so for the agreement that may result.
The offseason always seems rushed. That’s the nature of the beast. We compete all year and two weeks after we put the rods down and load the boat for the last time, companies are getting ready to allocate budgets for the next season. For me, sponsorship has never been an easy task. The offseason is by far the hardest endeavor as a professional angler. You want to wind down and spend time with family, there are holidays approaching and vacations to be taken. Yet you’re just getting started. Finding a balance is something every angler has to figure out for themselves because there is no “how-to guide” for fishing partnerships.
Every year I plan ahead and believe it will be the best offseason yet because of my preparedness. And every year everything seems to come together at the same time no matter what. Everything seemed delayed this year, yet I managed to get my 2019 Nitro/Mercury package faster than ever. I can’t thank those partners enough because they take care of us anglers and often show how reliable they are during this process.
Probably the biggest key for partnerships in my eyes is compatibility. I’m not looking for the biggest check or who will give me anything I want or need, those things are nice, but matching goals and personalities will make the year much better. When I look for a partnership it has to reflect who I am. They have to understand who Stetson Blaylock is and what I stand for. Some of those partnerships are hard to find at times but are the most rewarding when I do. Knowing who you are as a person and angler is a huge step before approaching companies or fielding phone calls.
One of the biggest wins an angler can have in this industry is partnering with a company they believe in, but also one that believes in them. It goes both ways and has to if you want a long and positive relationship with partners.
When it’s all said and done, I enjoy building those relationships and preparing for another year of fishing for a living, which is a true blessing. My truck and boat wrap and jersey are underway, and I can’t wait to share that with the fishing community when we hit the water at the St. Johns River.
If there was one lesson I could pass along to younger anglers about partnerships in the fishing industry it’s this: No one in the industry owes you anything, you have to earn everything you get. Whether it’s 10 percent off lures, free product or even money, it’s an investment from a company. It’s not free from the company. Someone has to pay for it and that someone is you. You have to work hard for everything you get, or it will be gone as fast as it came. Providing value to your partners is crucial, almost like you are one of the employees at their headquarters.