Crisis management in the bass fishing world

A former convicted burglar, since hired by a security firm, was narrating a tour through an anonymous neighborhood. Along the way he pointed to a couple of homes that had bars in their windows and security doors in front.

As I recall his words, “It’s too late for those people. They’ve already been (jacked.)”

His point, or maybe one of them, is the way human nature controls behavior. Whether they are personal, corporate or governmental, changes never seem to be effected until there is some kind of crisis. You might liken that to the bass boating industry right now, with the economic situation that has led to precipitous layoffs and even bankruptcy within the ranks of the best known products in the sport.

What we’re now in for are some hard turns at high speed, and if you’re not holding on to something, you may get thrown. Yet, I’m afraid that while there may be some kind of market adjustment, it will not lead to permanent changes for good.

The biggest problem with crisis management is it assumes that everything was just fine before the crisis, and the sooner we can get back to that point in time, the happier everyone will be. I hearken back to maybe 10 years ago when I discussed with a prominent boat dealer what it would take to grow the sport of bass fishing.

I used my son as an example, who had a solid tow vehicle, a steady job, but at the time, was living at home. I speculated if the kid had the desire to chase the bass fishing tour, but would need to finance what was then merely a $40,000 rig, then also needed to get his own place to live, what possible chance would he have to become seriously involved in the sport?

I repeated almost the same conversation when those $12,000 to $14,000 Verados first hit the scene. Quiet? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Fuel guzzlers? Well, not while idling.

Of course, I don’t begrudge the guy who tows one rig with an Escalade, yet keeps his other boat in a slip on Lake Amistad. But that guy hardly represents the standard bass fishing demographic. Obviously, if he comes into the shop, the dealer needs to fix him up. But for every one of them there are probably 500 guys on the outside looking in, who would just like a little piece of the bass fishing experience.

I know they’re out there. Heck, they just had high school graduations all over the state. A lot of those could be future customers…if their struggle through college or their entry level employment could somehow gain them entry level bass fishing.

I poked fun at Bassmasters Classic champion Skeet Reese a few weeks back when we learned he had switched to Eagle Claw rods, a company that had not been involved on the front line of bass fishing in more than 35 years. But when you understand the company (with the dynamic Californian as its spokesman) is going to tout professional level performance rods for 100 bucks, it’s an indicator to me that there may be a new status quo when the economy finally comes back.

That is, if the bass fishing community will let that happen by deciding it can now survive with fewer dollars wrapped up in gear. In the past several weeks locally, Bass Pro Shops has been pushing out $8000 rigs—17-foot Trackers with 25 horses—and those have been showing up on all the local lakes.

But what will happen on the tournament level? Will guys try and get that $25,000 Ranger Cup bonus fishing FLW in a new/old Tri-hull every fifth year, or will they be forced to go back to the old standard of $45,000 and up—because they won’t be cool if they don’t?

The general (some say, “total”) elimination of memo-billed or deferred payment bass boats nationwide may ultimately help. When forced to fork over the money upfront—even after receiving a good discount offered the upper echelon guys—this portion of the market might just decide it can still catch enough bass with a smaller monthly payment.

That’s one scenario. The other is the industry takes down the security door after merely repainting the old building.