Bass fishing to NASCAR proportions?
Kids are the future of the sport
By Jerry Drazer
In the past year or so, Ive heard a lot of people make the statement that the sport of competitive bass fishing will be as big as NASCAR in just a couple of years. Anything can happen, but realistically a few breakthroughs must be made in the sport to boost tournament bass fishing to NASCAR levels.
Lets face it, NASCAR is a huge spectator sport. No other sport has been able to draw as many spectators to events, or has crossed such a diverse fan base to so many segments of the population. Then add to this the television coverage, outside industry sponsors, as well as souvenir sales, and you can see how far we have to go before competitive bass fishing reaches the NASCAR level.
The sport has come a long way in 30+ years, largely due to Ray Scott and B.A.S.S. Very few people have accomplished what Ray was able to do, he basically created an industry. Now, lets look at how far we have to go to make the sport grow closer to the NASCAR level.
Publicity for the sport, and the anglers has to be stepped up a lot. The publicity for the sport has to be strong enough that it creates household names. If you surveyed the average consumer and randomly asked people: Who is Bill Dance? Some may know, most will probably not know. Ask those same people: Who is Jeff Gordon? You will probably get an overwhelming amount of people know who he is, as well as what he does. Why? Jeff Gordon is a household name, hes in television ads, on pop machines, and products people are purchasing.
The sport of bass fishing has been able to put Denny Brauer on a run of Wheaties boxes, and on David Letterman twice, but has barely scratched the surface for creating a household name. Why? Because bass fishing is not perceived as a "true sport" to the American public. Fishing is fishing.
Im sure NASCAR had the same hurdle to jump, auto racing is auto racing, but they did it. We have to as well.
It would be nice to see a live fishing tournament on the major networks now and then on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This is feasible, but television coverage will have to be much better. The public actually needs to see the action as it is happening, and have the potential to view the action live. This could be achieved quite easily by mounting on board cameras on the rear deck of boats or on top of outboard motors in order to give a full view of the angler and the action. Theres drama, heartbreak, and action in bass tournaments, you just dont see it that often. Increased television coverage would be a giant step, but also a very expensive step when you consider the cost of cameras, crews, and network airtime. Its no surprise that television is the best method of exposure for the sport, sponsors, and anglers but someone has to pay for it.
Dont be afraid to promote special tournaments, events, and fundraisers. These little things put the sport in the public eye, and they can gather crowds of people just to watch.
There will also have to be format changes made, this is an evolutionary process. The current WCF Tour, and FLW events are perfect examples of this evolutionary process. Sooner or later there will be a perfect fit for media coverage, and spectators. I could be wrong, but I put my money on B.A.S.S., they have always been the standard measure for success, and have established "The Bassmasters Classic" as the coveted crown for being the best. The classic title also carries the most endorsements, public appearances, lucrative incentives, and perks. Personally, I look for the winning format to eventually evolve out of the B.A.S.S. organization.
More sponsors outside the fishing industry will also have to come on board. For years the fishing industry has carried the sport, but now the sport needs sponsors outside the industry. These outside sponsors could include anything from restaurant chains to cologne and everything in between. In the past, theres been a few outside industry sponsors come into the picture, but not very many have been retained.
The outside sponsors are not only important to the promoter, but to competing anglers as well. Bottom line, more anglers need to be able to have enough sponsor dollars to make a living for their family and cover their road expenses.
THE FUTURE OF THE SPORT
Out of curiosity for what the future may hold for the sport, I called up an old friend: B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Dewey Kendrick. Deweys on the cutting edge of the sport every day, and has the respect of touring pros nationwide. Dewey and I talked about media coverage, formats, and the importance of the outside sponsors. But then I asked him the big question. What is the future of the sport? Dewey immediately replied; "Jerry, kids are the future of the sport of bass fishing. Today kids have so much more to choose from than when I was growing up, or maybe even when you were growing up. They have so many things they can get into: satellite television, computers, video games, and a variety of sports" said Kendrick. I agree with Dewey wholeheartedly.
If youre at any tournament, or speaking at even a small show and a youngster wants your autograph by all means give it to them. Sure, you may not be a superstar on a national level, but you are definitely someone they are looking up to as a hero.
There are several programs in place to expose kids to the sport, for example: B.A.S.S.s Casting Kids program. Holding a Casting Kids contest is an excellent way to expose kids to the sport. At the Bassmasters Classic in Chicago, IL many inner city youths were exposed to the sport for the very first time through the "Kids Klassic" sponsored in part by Zebco.
Taking kids to sport shows is yet another great way to expose them to the sport. By far the best way though, is to just take them fishing.
After telling our kids to "say no to drugs", lets do our part and put a fishing pole in their hands so they can have something to do after theyve said no. Kids arent just the future of the sport of bass fishing. They are the future of the world.
So, will the sport of competitive bass fishing become as big as NASCAR one of these days? I guess its up to us.
By Jerry Drazer
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