Know your stuff

This is part 11 of a multi-part “More from media” series.

If there’s one thing that drives an outdoor writer crazy, it’s when a pro angler can’t tell you the name of the product he used. Of course, manufacturers are partly to blame. They give lures, rods, reels, lines and everything else ridiculous names that are tough to remember and counterintuitive to spell. Still, it’s the responsibility of a true professional to know his sponsor’s catalog backward and forward.

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam demonstrates complete command over all aspects of the product lines he represents.

I’ll never forget the time I heard a well-known tournament angler being interviewed by the media after a successful day on the water. He had caught his fish on a Heddon Zara Spook, despite the fact that he wasn’t sponsored by PRADCO; he was sponsored by Rapala.

When asked why he didn’t use a Skitter Walk (Rapala’s walking-type topwater bait), he said, “What’s a Skitter Walk?”

It almost (and probably should have) cost him his sponsorship.

Yes, it’s tough to know all the baits or rods and reels made by a sponsor, but you owe it to the sponsor. It’s a little like memorizing a football playbook. Even if you’re not getting the ball, you have responsibilities and should know them for every play. In the case of fishing tackle, you should at least know the specifics of the products you use.

For all sponsor products, that means you should know the name and how to spell it. For lures, you should know each color name as well as each available size and weight. For rods, you should know the actions, lengths and model numbers. For reels, you need the available gear ratios. And for lines, you need available sizes and colors.

That doesn’t mean approximations. That means exact data. Don’t tell me the reel has a 6:1 gear ratio if it’s 6.4:1, and don’t tell me the rod’s 7 1/2 feet long if it’s 7 feet, 5 inches long. This stuff matters to your sponsors, and therefore it must matter to you.

The same thing applies to colors. Don’t say the bait was black and blue if the manufacturer calls it “Hematoma.” I might agree with you that a name is stupid, but I doubt your sponsor agrees. Do your sponsor the courtesy of getting it right.

And put yourself in the shoes of the fishing fan who reads the story and wants to get some of the gear you were talking about. He’s looking for a “black and blue” bait and goes right past “Hematoma.” He thinks the reel should be 6:1, but all he sees is 6.4:1. Rather than fill in the blanks and assume the details are wrong, anglers might reasonably think there’s another product out there meeting your inaccurate description. You can cost your sponsor a lot of sales by getting it wrong.

Of course, there’s more to knowing your sponsors’ product lines than just getting the details right … a lot more. You should be in touch with your pro staff manager on a weekly basis, asking questions like, “What would you like me to be promoting this week?” or “Is there anything new in the catalog?” or “Do you have any prototypes I could be testing?”

Some pro staff managers are very good at their jobs, but most aren’t. Most offer their pro staffers little or no meaningful direction. Then, when you promote Bait A, they tell you they’re really trying to push Bait B. Get ahead of that problem by staying on top of things and knowing what their goals are at each stage of the season. If you don’t, you could easily find yourself promoting a product they’ve already discontinued.

Occasionally — it should happen only rarely — you’ll be asked a sponsor question that you just can’t answer off the top of your head. When that happens, refer the media person to the sponsor website and give them the full URL. Conscientious media will be checking behind you anyway, but it’s important they go to the right place with all the correct information.

Part of knowing your stuff as a professional angler is knowing your sponsors’ stuff just like you were an employee of that company.

After all, that’s exactly what you are to them.


  1. As a pro staff angler, you are essentially an employee of your sponsor. As such, you should have complete command over all aspects of the product line you represent.
  2. When you know your stuff, you make everyone else’s job easier. That helps to keep you on the pro staff and keeps the media calling.

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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