It’s now or never

This is part two of a multi-part “More from media” series.

Your phone rings, but you don’t recognize the number so you let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later you check it, and it’s an outdoor writer wanting to interview you for a magazine story.

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam answers questions for the media.

You don’t want to appear too anxious, and you don’t want to look like you were screening calls, so you wait 30 minutes or maybe even a full hour before calling back.

Unfortunately, you’re too late — way too late. He’s already found another angler who answered on the first ring — an angler who had him on his contact list and knew immediately that it was an outdoor writer. That angler — who has a lot more sponsors than you do and who is making a lot more money in the sport despite the fact that he couldn’t catch a bass in an overstocked pond — even has a special ringtone for media, a barking dog or maybe the cha-ching of a cash register.

Unless you are competing in a major tournament or in the final day of practice for the Bassmaster Classic or Forrest Wood Cup, there’s probably nothing more important to the success of your career as a professional angler than working with the media. It’s why your sponsors put you on the payroll and how you plan to become famous. After all, even if you win every tournament no one’s going to know about it without the media.

A look behind the curtain

Truth be told, outdoors media types can be pretty lazy. A lot of them don’t even think about getting started on a story or other assignment until the deadline is looming. You might think it’s their problem, but it quickly becomes yours. It means that the sources and experts they use aren’t necessarily the best available — or even the ones they want to use — but maybe just the most available, the ones who answered the phone.

So if the writer’s on deadline and calls you but you don’t pick up right away, expect him to call someone else. He’d like to talk with you; you’re a better fit for the story. But you didn’t answer or return his call before he could look up the number of another angler, so you missed the opportunity and someone else got lucky.

There are exceptions to this rule, but you almost certainly are not one of them. If I want to do a story on four-time Bassmaster Classic champions, I have to call Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam. No one else will do.

But if I need an expert on spinnerbait fishing in the spring, those sorts of experts grow on trees. I can throw a rock while blindfolded and hit one of them. If you miss my call, I’m on to the next guy … and I have them all on speed dial.

If you call me back in a few minutes, I’ll tell you what you missed out on. I might even tell you that I’m sorry we didn’t connect. But my interview with the other angler is now over. I got my story. If you’re lucky, I’ll tell you that I’ll use you next time, but you know how that goes. If I call and you don’t pick up right away, well, that was next time.

Pretty soon you run out of next times. Pretty soon I start to remember that Willy Wannabe doesn’t answer the phone when I call, so I stop calling. I’ll let some other media person deal with him … until he gets tired of calling, too.


If you want to be the media’s go-to source, follow these three rules:

  1. Answer now … not later.
  2. If you absolutely positively cannot do an interview now, answer anyway and tell the interviewer that. Tell him when you will be available and offer to call him back at that time. Then follow through.
  3. When you have the contact information for a media person, enter it into your phone so you know who’s calling. Give it a special “media ringtone” so you know it’s media before you even look at your phone. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by the media.

If you ask a media person who his favorite anglers are, every last one of them is going to tell you it’s someone who answers the phone and gives a good interview. No media person likes the guys who are tough to reach. And the guys who are tough to reach have a hard time keeping sponsors because they aren’t getting the exposure they should be getting.

As a professional angler, there’s nothing more important to the success of your career than answering a call from the media. It may not be fair, but until you’ve won a bunch of Bassmaster Classics and enough Angler of the Year titles to use them as door stops, it’s reality.

Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.
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Author: Ken Duke

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Ken Duke is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. He has 33 years of experience working in a multitude of media platforms, and he’s arguably the most knowledgeable stat guy in the sport.[/author_info] [/author]

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