By Todd Ceisner
While most pro anglers were spending their offseason taking stock of their tackle or shoring up sponsorship opportunities for 2013, Elite Series pros Brent Chapman, Randy Howell and Aaron Martens were busy establishing themselves in the publishing industry.
You read that right – the trio of pro anglers has teamed up to launch Bass Quest Magazine, a quarterly publication they hope brings a fresh, interesting and family-focused voice to the already-crowded fishing media marketplace. The 80-page inaugural issue came out in December and the next edition will print shortly after the Bassmaster Classic and will include coverage of the event at Grand Lake.
With the help of industry publicist Tom Leogrande and his background in publishing, the project got off the ground fairly quickly after the 2012 tournament season wrapped up. Leogrande will serve as editor-in-chief and while Chapman, Howell and Martens will have regular features in each issue, they won’t be the dominant figures in the magazine.
“It’s something that if someone told me a year ago that I’d be part of a magazine like that, I’d have told them they were crazy,” said Chapman. “It’s amazing what’s transpired and myself and everyone involved are very excited about it.”
Said Howell, “I think I speak for Brent and Aaron on this, we’re all around 40 (years old) now and we’ve been doing it for 20 years or more now. In fishing, economically, it’s hard to make a living being a one-style guy. You don’t have a lot of opportunities that could help you create a retirement plan or some residual income.
“We know it’s not a get-rich investment. It’s mostly something that can help us brand ourselves better and bring ourselves more value to our sponsors and help the fishing world by putting something out that’s by the anglers.”
To start the business, each pro had to make a financial commitment, but according to Chapman, “it wasn’t anything significant. From a risk-reward type of scenario, it wasn’t that big of a risk. Probably the most valuable thing we all have right now is our time. It’s definitely going to take a little bit of time, but not nearly as much as I thought.”
Labor Of Love
Chapman, Howell and Martens are all avid readers of other fishing publications, both in print and online. There are many things to like about the other magazines, they say, but having the ability to put their own spin on a publication is the most rewarding part of this project.
Martens, for example, is a big fan of Japanese fishing magazines like Basser, which are known for their bold layouts and emphasis on graphics and photography, and he wants Bass Quest to follow their lead in some ways.
“They’re some of the only fishing magazines that you can go through 50 times and still be entertained by it,” he said.
If the content of the first issue is any indication, Bass Quest will not only touch on tips and tricks from the pro circuits – both B.A.S.S. and FLW anglers will be featured – the youth angle will be covered quite heavily as well with regular features on high school and college fishing and even a picture page where kids can identify differences between two images for the chance to win some prizes. Chapman’s son, Mason, even did a Q&A with Elite Series pro Alton Jones while Martens’ mom, Carol, penned an article about why women should fish.
“It’s something I’ve talked about for a while. We need something kind of different, more personal,” Martens said. “There are so many magazines out there and a lot of them are about personal interests and how everything goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to get there. That’s what we want to focus on somewhat – family stuff and everything. There’s so much more than just fishing. A lot of that, to me, is the biggest part of it. My fishing’s changed over the years compared to when I didn’t have a wife or kids. It changes how everything works. Those stories need to be told, I think."
“I told Tom that I wanted to learn from this magazine and I want my 9-year-old son to be able to learn from this magazine,” Chapman added, “so hopefully we can include a little bit for every level to keep people coming back.”
Unique Ad-Free Approach
Leogrande is aware that some may view starting up a print publication in this digital age and sluggish economy as a bit of a risk, but profit margins aren’t the sole focus of this endeavor. While the four partners would like to see the magazine become a success – Leogrande said it’s already in break-even territory and is forecasting profitability in the near future – they weren’t willing to alienate other media outlets in the industry by soliciting companies to buy advertising.
Instead, they adopted a model that utilizes the existing relationships Chapman, Howell and Martens have with their sponsors. The inaugural issue features just 14 ads – less than 15 percent of the issue – and the companies represented all have sponsorship affiliations with Chapman, Howell or Martens.
“Advertising was an issue for us, not because of who we are and selling it because we thought our magazine would be good enough that people would want to come on board,” Leogrande said. “We didn’t want to step on the toes of Bassmaster and their magazine and FLW’s magazine and all of the great websites out there that survive on their advertising. If we’re stepping on toes, (those places) don’t have people paying them to get (the information) because it’s free. If we were to take advertisers away from other media, then those outlets would have trouble existing and we need those outlets. Our industry needs those outlets.
“It was a big deal to all of us that we were able to come up with a model that will allow us to create this magazine and be successful at it. We’re not out to get rich. We’re out to share some information and maybe make a few bucks, but it’s not about the money for us.”
To offset the lack of advertising revenue, the per-issue price is slightly higher than it would’ve been. Leogrande believes the business plan is “absolutely a sustainable model.”
“We’re already to the point that by the time the second magazine goes out around the Bassmaster Classic, we will profitable in year 1 and that’s after printing, mailing and everything,” he added. “I’m not talking large profitable, but everything will be paid for. Like I said, if we were out to all make a lot of money off of it, that would be a model that would have to change. That’s not in the gameplan. If it absolutely came to that, we would have to reassess the situation, but I don’t see that happening.”
> The newsstand price per issue is $7.95, but a yearly subscription is available for $20. The first issue is available online, but subsequent issues will be print only. To check it out, visit www.bassquestmagazine.com.