Tell the truth

This is part 10 of a multi-part “More from media” series.

What your parents told you as a kid is still true today — especially when dealing with outdoor writers.

Shaw Grigsby

Shaw Grigsby

Always tell the truth!

For decades, professional anglers could mostly get away with lying because there weren’t a lot of opportunities to get caught. There wasn’t a camera in the boat and the guy in the back was fishing, too — not paying a lot of attention to what the guy in the front of the boat was doing. If there were other boats around them, they were fishing … not watching with binoculars or video cameras.

Those days are gone. Today, in every major tournament, the anglers with a chance to win are surrounded by cameras and witnesses. What the angler is fishing with and how and where he’s fishing it are out there for everyone to see.

It puts pressure on an angler to tell the truth or be exposed as a liar, but it also puts pressure on the media covering the event because they risk being exposed as inaccurate if they get things wrong, and the most common way they get things wrong in tournament coverage is by being lied to by the angler.

Don’t burn bridges

When you lie to the media, two things happen and both are bad. First, the story that goes out is wrong and misleads the public. Second, you create an enemy where you might have made a friend.

There are better ways of controlling your message, and perfectly ethical ways of telling the truth, without risking anything at all. One is to give away less of the story. Tell them a little about where you were fishing (maybe the depth range and structure type — they probably know anyway) and a little of what you were doing (experienced media and anglers will probably guess). You don’t have to give up the details.

Another way is to be very open with the media and let them know exactly what you’re not going to tell them. Explain why it’s important to keep it a secret and what it means to you. Maybe you think it’s the edge that will keep you on top (that never lasts long). Maybe you got the secret from another angler who made you promise not to tell it. (If so, give the media his name so he can tell it.) Whatever the situation, do not lie.

If you just grabbed the lead on Day 1 of a big multi-day tournament and find yourself surrounded by media, you have a choice to make. You could (a) tell them to wait and that you’ll give them all the details right after you get the trophy and big check, or (b) give them most of what they want right away. There are benefits to each decision.

When you ask them to wait, you could lose the lead and, with it, the media attention. If you finish sixth, no one cares what you were doing or what you were doing it with. You lose the chance to promote sponsors (they won’t like that) and to get some extra publicity.

If you give them what they want right away, you’re effectively sharing your pattern with the rest of the field. Can they catch you if they do what you’re doing? Will they respect your territory? Are you in the first flight the next day and can you beat everyone else to your spot? Maybe your lead is a bit of a fluke and you don’t expect it to hold up for one reason or another. If so, can you tell the whole story right away? These are tough questions — strategic questions — that don’t have easy answers. Either way, though, you need to tell the truth.

When you lie to the media, you burn a critical bridge. And you’d better believe that kind of stuff gets around. When you’re checking in and getting your weigh-in bag, the media is standing around the live-release tanks talking about who’s a good interview and who’s not, who gives information and who doesn’t, who tells the truth and who lies. No media person wants to work with a liar. The risk of embarrassment and exposure is too high.

If a media person writes a story today about your tournament win, and next week a television show airs that completely contradicts what you told him, fans and editors often assume that the writer got it wrong. Most often, though, he was lied to by the angler. He wrote exactly what he was told, but it was wrong. Maybe he’s the outdoors columnist for some little weekly paper on the shores of the lake, but maybe he’s a lot more important and powerful than that. Do you want to burn that bridge? Is that a good long-term strategy?

Do the right thing

Another, more subtle, form of “lying” happens all the time at media junkets. If you’ve never been to one, it’s where a manufacturer pulls together some key media people and a few pro staff anglers at a good fishery in order to introduce their new lineup of baits, rods, reels … whatever. Guys gather in the morning for breakfast and the writers are paired with pros to go out on the water, do a little fishing, try out the new stuff and get some photos.

Most of the time, the new products are pretty good, and the pros are excited about them. But quite often there’s a pro, or two, or five, who’s not crazy about the new bait. He says it’s not quite right or that a competitor’s bait is better, so he uses that. As soon as his boat gets away from the rest of the group, he reaches into his storage compartment, pulls out the competitor’s product and starts fishing. He fishes it the rest of the day — and maybe the writer does, too. They catch some fish, laugh and joke, take some pictures and come in for lunch or dinner.

Don’t be that guy … for a couple of reasons.

For one, it’s dishonest. You shouldn’t take a sponsor’s product or money if you don’t use it, and you certainly shouldn’t participate in a media junket and subvert a sponsor’s goals.

For another, you send a terrible message to the writer and cost the sponsor the media coverage he desperately needs. If you’re supposed to be fishing ABC baits, but you’re really fishing XYZ baits, do you think the writer is going to write about the stuff you didn’t use? Not a chance!

And what if the writer tells the company what you did? Lots of anglers have been fired for less.

Mark Twain once said, “Always do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” In addition to his writing, it seems Twain was a pro staff manager.

Tell the truth and do the right thing … even if other anglers don’t. Lying may have worked a decade or more ago, but it doesn’t work anymore. There are too many ways to get caught, and it could cost you a sponsor or even your career.


  1. It’s a small industry. One bad step can quickly destroy your reputation.
  2. Doing the right thing is seldom hard, but it’s rare enough to be appreciated.
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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