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This is a blog I’ve been thinking about writing for some time. I think I’ve held off for so long because I realize that this can be a touchy subject in the fishing industry, and I’m not sure exactly how to put my thoughts into words on this subject. However, I’m going to give it a shot and throw out my two cents on the subject of becoming or being part of a pro staff.
First of all, what does being pro staff mean? Well the “pro” in “pro staff” doesn’t stand for “professional”. Instead, it stands for “promotional”. You are being compensated from a company in one way or another for PROMOTING their products. You would think that companies would seek out actual professionals to promote their brands but that is not always the case. As an example, I want to share with you all my beginnings of when I was exposed to the pro staff world.
When I started really getting into bass fishing, I watched bass tournaments, youtube videos, began attending sports expos, joined fishing facebook groups, met other local anglers, and if there was anything else fishing related I paid attention to it. One thing I noticed in all of this was the sponsorships. At the start, I thought that all these guys fished for a living, were getting paid to fish from their sponsors, and I wanted to be just like them! I was just starting out so figured my best shot to “get my foot in the pro staff door” so to speak would be to reach out to smaller fishing companies about pro staff opportunities. I wrote emails to brands I had never heard of to see if they had any openings on their teams, and boy did they ever! The majority of my emails came back with positive results offering me a position on their team without having to really do any interview process. There was even one company that sent me back what seemed to be an automated email saying “Congratulations on becoming a member of our pro staff! Attached you will find all the terms to our agreement.” In another case, I was offered a position from someone after simply asking about a pro staff position. They asked that all I do in return is fill out their application form for their records! That’s like asking someone to fill out a job application after you’ve already hired them!
Now let’s go back to the “attached you will find all the terms to our agreement” quote I mentioned. All of these companies I reached out to had ridiculous one-sided terms. I think one of the worst deals I came across had the following terms: “Must order at least $200 worth of product annually. Must display company logo on jersey, towing vehicle, and boat. Must include links to company website on any content created featuring products” My compensation in return for doing all of this was a 10% discount on all their products. It would also be worth pointing out that this company regularly had 40% off discount codes posted to their Instagram page. This is a company that will literally give a pro staff position to anyone, and many people are willing to buy in so they can finally be a member of a pro staff.
My advice to all the anglers out there is to resist the temptation. Do not attach your name to a brand or product simply for a discount. I know I was a little tempted with my very first offer but knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do. If you are interested in becoming part of a pro staff, I think a good first step is to take a look at the things you already use when you go fishing. Does a certain brand find itself in your tackle box more than others? If so then that might be a good company to reach out to. Even if these are huge names in the business, don’t be intimidated to reach out to them. They may sponsor anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series but they may also have regional positions to be filled by local guys such as yourself.
One last thing I’d like to mention is that we all fish differently and have different things that are important to each of us as anglers. This doesn’t mean to only search for sponsorships from the BEST products out there. You may not be able to afford the best products out there even with a discount! What it does mean is to search for sponsorships that are the best products for YOU. That way when you get in an argument with someone who says “These reels are better than those reels”, you can reply with “You may be right, but for my money these are the reels that work best for me.”
Coyute, CO 12/11/2018 11:04:48 AM
"Resist the temptation." Good advice. There are so many suckers that get scammed by these pyramid schemes. I have met some really nice people and exceptional anglers that turned into complete bags because they got a 15 percent off deal from some hobo lure company. Most of 'em are pretty average anglers like me. But once they get a few decals and ghetto sponsorships, they think they are the Colorado KVD. It's actually pretty entertaining in a sadistic sort of way.
Dan Swanson, CO 12/11/2018 11:55:46 AM
Great points. Make sure you are being duly compensated for the promotions you do. Resist the temptation to buy a custom jersey with the logo of every company you can think of even though you have no financial relationship (yes, people do this, even funnier is they have competing companies on the same jersey).
Dan Swanson, CO 12/11/2018 12:40:27 PM
I’ll add that you are expected to actually do promotions for these companies. That’s the job. You need to determine what your free time is worth. Are you working for minimum wage or worse? You might be better off getting a part-time job at your favorite sporting goods store to get the employee discount and to make money to pay for your gear and entry fees.
Scott Brands (Skookshunter), CO 12/11/2018 12:51:58 PM
Thats a good point Dan. I could have gone deeper down the rabbit hole on this subject but wanted to make it an easy read without writing a novel. Another thing I may go into in the future is where the balance is between promoting a product and going overboard. With the flood of pro-staffers these days I think most of us are getting tired of being advertised to with the deceptive sales pitches. To effectively promote a product takes a little bit of finesse. Instead of writing a blog saying "BUY THIS NEW KAYAK!" and turn people off, I may just post a video of me fishing out of that kayak utilizing its features without saying a word and include a link in the description. That way people don't feel like they're being advertised to but the information is there for them to explore if they're interested
panfishin, CO 12/11/2018 5:49:30 PM
very good read Scott! I always find these types of articles or videos interesting to see peoples perspectives. I really liked Chad Hoovers series on this that he did a couple years ago.
Scott Brands (Skookshunter), CO 12/12/2018 7:32:00 AM
I don't think Ive watched Chad Hoover's videos on the subject but I'll be sure to check them out!
spinn3r, CO 12/13/2018 8:35:37 PM
Interesting article, Scott. I'd never thought about how these relationships work, but clearly anything unilateral should be avoided.
I appreciate your comment about about how things (should) be promoted. When I picked out a kayak, I chose the Cuda 12 based on specs and suitability, not advertising. Good informational videos, rather than unsupported promotion, can be the difference for a lot of customers.
pikeNcolorado, CO 12/20/2018 7:40:40 PM
Good Stuff. Definitely some things I haven't thought about.