Classic Bass Champions Tour Tournament Director Mark Schutz was in attendance this past weekend at the annual National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) Conference, being held in Wisconsin Dells.
With great weather and angling greats such as Kevin Van Dam and Al Lindner speaking, anglers flocked to conference which recorded its highest attendance ever.
Bassmaster Elite Series Pro and bass fishing icon Kevin Van Dam, aka KVD, spoke in length about the hard work and dedication it takes to become professional angler. With a high number of high school anglers in attendance Van Dam urged the importance of young anglers getting a marketing and/or sales degree, as these skills aid in the business side of professional fishing.
Having an in-depth understanding and knowledge base of the products and companies he represents is something Kevin is adamant about, as he talks to so many individuals about them, he wants to have the knowledge of how to respond.
A solid support system is critical to being able to handle the rigors of the business side of fishing, allowing the angler to focus on catching fish. Van Damn gave high praise and credit to his wife Sherry, who he met before he was a pro fisherman. Sherry handles of Kevin’s sponsor contracts, appearance bookings, travel schedule taxes and home schools their children.
It is no secret that having success as a professional angler, hinges on an angler’s presence in the media is huge and that social media is an absolute must for any up and coming tournament angler. “If you post on social media make sure it is quality material and remember that once it is out there you, cannot take it back,” smiled Kevin.
Cultivating relationships with local, regional and national print/digital media is still a major piece of growing an angler’s presence and exposure in the industry, but with social media now, an angler can create and distribute media on their own as well. The more quality media an angler can create, the better, but it is just as important to track all of your activities and media posts. Van Damn pays a company to keep track of all the media he is featured in and creates, along with its value.
KVD….yes, it is his initial’s, but it also his brand that anglers not just in the US know, but the World. You want to create your own brand and image, and keep that in mind anywhere it may show up.
While yes, Van Dam has had his fair share of success as a tournament angler, he made it very clear that being a professional angler is hard. From time away from home to disappoint tournament finishes, you must always remember that someone is always watching. “Even in the heat of battle while on the water, be professional and stay positive, because cameras are all over these days.”
Following up KVD was non-other than Minnesota’s own Al Lindner! As he does whenever he speaks, Al had the crowd engaged and spoke on having passion. “Passion in the fishing industry is the key to business longevity in this sport,” smiled Al.
When working with sponsors or partners in the fishing industry it is important to get the upper management on the water and fishing, you want to get them excited about the support and fuel them with passion. This will help the longevity of the sport and the relationships that keep the industry moving forward.
Mark sat down with David Ittner of Yamaha and discussed how youth fishing/boating programs are a high priority for Yamaha and how professional anglers are the tip of the spear when it comes to educating these young anglers.
Some of the other highlights from the NPPA Conference included:
Future Angler Foundation fundraising dinner
Seminars Included: Keeping Sponsors, Getting noticed with Sponsors and Being a successful guide.
The Full Speaker List included: Al Lindner, Kevin Van Dam, John Gillman, Pat Neu, David Ittner, Michelle Kilburn, Mark Copley, Seth Borden, Jesse Simpkins, Jimmy Bell, Bruce Doc Sampson,
Bernie Barringer, Ron Barefield, Joel Nelson, Kyle Agre, Gail Thompson, Tom and Elaine Davis, Chad Maloy, Joe Rubenstein and Scotty Brewer
NPAA President, Jimmy Bell, kicked things off with a speech on the Journey to Professionalism
Pat Neu received a prestigious award from the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, presented by Al Lindner
Tommy Skarlis was inducted as a lifetime member to the NPAA