A little research led me to a surprising statistic. In the world of social media, fishing is failing. Fan interaction is poor. Participants aren’t interested.
This may come as a bit of a surprise. I mean, we look busy.
But consider the potential. Continued research and polling on the fishing industry places it near the top of all outdoor sports in America. At last glance, I think “walking” may have received more votes, but let’s be real. Almost everybody walks.
So, in terms of active outdoor pursuits – I’m talking skiing, golf, tennis, hiking – more people fish in the course of a year than all the rest. And that’s a good thing.
It may then come as a surprise to learn that fishing doesn’t even crack the Top 10 in terms of social media following. Nope, not even close.
There, the top of the pyramid belongs to brands like The North Face, YETI and Santa Cruz Bicycles. A number of sunglass brands also have a good following.
To sum up, many fans of the outdoors would rather follow along with a group producing mountaineering equipment than anyone making fishing gear. Yet, most of these same people will fish several times each year and never see a mountain.
The reason is simple. For years, the message of fishing has been one of the hard sell. As consumers, everywhere we turn is a commercial. It’s like watching local TV at 4 in the morning. It’s no surprise that the user groups – the fans of fishing – don’t come running to sign up.
I wonder if it will ever change? Will there be a time when the fishing industry recognizes this loss of authenticity? Can a brand or an angler, or even a writer or television host, break out and produce content that isn’t constantly hazed over by underlying trickery?
Now, it should be noted that most of the successful outdoor brands I referred to do, in fact, sell some gear. And they highlight that gear online and in their social media posts. But they do so in a way that doesn’t cram it down our throats.
Contrast this to a message where every piece of fish-catching equipment is discussed by a guy with a logo on his shirt, or with a link in the text. Can we ever get away? When was the last time you consumed any kind of bass fishing media – TV, magazine, social post, anything – that didn’t feel like someone was trying to sell you something? Wouldn’t it be cool to experience the thrill of bass fishing in these same mediums without the bother?
I’ve often wondered if that’s even possible. And, believe it or not, myself and a few others in the industry have talked about this quite a bit. The concept of real, authentic material. Story-telling the way it used to be, through modern broadcast. Would you watch it? Even read it?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. There has to be some underlying sales pitch. I mean, how can any product be distributed without someone paying the bills? Advertisers. Pop-up ads. Sponsors.
There is a way to do this online, to some degree. Sure, YouTube has ads, and banners persist on websites, but it’s a whole lot different than the endless product plugs in fishing. The advertisements within the material.
And online distribution, for the most part, isn’t bothered by the need to purchase air time. I’m told that this is the biggest hurdle in producing quality television, as advertisers can strong-arm content.
Print materials are burdened by the fact that few people are willing to purchase hard copies of anything anymore, given how much material is available digitally, mostly for free. So subscriptions are way down, again leading to a heavier reliance on advertisers.
So, what we’re finding is that consumers – again, fans of fishing – are absorbing other things for enjoyment. I say fans of fishing, because that’s what we all are. We are in a group that enjoys all the aspects of fishing as a recreation. We like thinking about it, talking about it, even competing at it sometimes. Therefore, it makes sense that we’d be interested in keeping fishing in our thought process throughout the day.
Yet, the fact exists that many outdoorspeople do not. They are absorbing the material, the content, stories, if you will, of other sports more so than their admitted favorite. Certainly, someone sees something wrong with this picture.
Now, I’m not bashing the pro anglers with their need to plug. It’s just like NASCAR when the driver credits his Chevrolet for taking the checkered flag. My Chevrolet doesn’t run like that, but I get it; we’re talking about top-tier athletes.
But do we need the same approach in every media source we consume? Do we need to be constantly persuaded that your squarebill crank bait is somehow better than mine? Because, if that continues to be the play, the fans will stay elsewhere.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)