January 4, 2010 10:37:00 AM
It is no secret that the economy has impacted everyone. Jobs have been lost by the thousands and businesses have cut back and several have closed down.
Although this is no secret to anyone in our nation today, what is not seen as much is the impact it is having on bass fishing.
Football, baseball, basketball, etc.... have all been sports that have been followed on the television, in the paper and even going to the stadiums. Teams rise and fall in popularity based upon their success each season and most never think of the millions of dollars each team generates for the sport each season.
Fishing is no different. It took decades for the rise of fishing as a sport. It became so evident that major companies around our Nation started sponsoring professional anglers and the tournaments they competed in.
BASS was founded by Ray Scott in 1967. It started with a dream of taking fishermen and allow them to compete in a tournament format for cash and prizes. Now, the Bassmaster Classic is arguably the premiere event with the coveted title of the Bassmaster Classic World Champion.
In 1996, Irwin Jacobs started the FLW. This was another professional angler tournament trail that thrived over the years and included avenues for the weekend angler to compete for prize money as well.
Sponsors really started sponsoring anglers and tournaments to get the publicity they wanted. Professional anglers went from brand name logos on their boats and shirts to boats that were completely wrapped in colors and logos that glowed. You could look across the largest of lakes and see these boats and know that a professional angler was fishing in your area.
Local anglers will follow these professionals in their boats to see just what they could do different to make the fish bite. Spectators flood to the areas to see the weigh-ins and get autographs from their favorite pro. Weekend anglers start buying the lures that won the tournaments and the list goes on and on.
Just like when a professional football player helps sell a shoe like Nike, professional anglers help sell fishing products. Rods, reels, boats, etc... are all sold because of the popularity of the professional angler.
The current economy is in such a struggle that the long-time sponsors like Walmart, Kellogg''s, Land O'' Lakes and oil giant BP have all pulled their sponsorships this coming year.
Not only are professional anglers dropping out of the tournament season and even retiring, the sales on all the gear and lures will suffer. Several big name anglers are uncertain how they will make it through the year. With entry fees being $4,000.00 per tournament and then the cost of travel and fuel, it will be a grind to make the year a success instead of going broke.
People that can''t grasp this should think about this nation of ours without football, bowl games and the World Series. Face it, fishing is a sport that we can''t afford to see sink out of sight.
The Bassmaster Classic will be coming to Birmingham, Ala., in February. After reading some of the names of professional anglers that will not be competing this season, it makes me wonder just how many thousands of the spectators that pack the stadiums know how much stress the pro''s are under to cash in on the $500,000 check?
Kevin Forrester contributes an outdoor column to The Commercial Dispatch once a week. He can be contacted at [email protected]