Al Lindner shared his sentiments and advice as the keynote speaker at the National Professional Anglers Association annual conference, held recently in Milwaukee. Lindner, noted for his enthusiasm about fishing, delivered a fast-paced lecture before the pro anglers and industry leaders at the conference.
Discussing the future of fishing and the future of tournament fishing, Lindner, a TV icon and innovative, respected multi-species expert angler said, The sport of fishing and tournament fishing are two different, but related elements. Tournaments influence a big part of what happens in the sport.
He stressed the vital role played by tournament anglers, Almost everything in the tackle and marine business is being driven by tournaments and tournament fishermen. Lindner cited the advancements in line, lures, rods, outboards, electronics, boats, electric trolling motors and gear created by tournament anglers who do things that average anglers wouldnt consider. Pushing themselves and their equipment to the limit (and beyond) produces immediate product feedback to manufacturers, and the news reaches masses of consumers almost as quickly.
Citing trends, Lindner emphasized that tournaments would remain an integral part of the sport. He said out west, team bass tournaments are growing rapidly, and he expects this growth pattern to impact the walleye world. Team events reduce travel expenses. This also means that the best local talent will concentrate on local tournaments. I was glad to hear about the new western division of the MWC. Theyve been in the game for a long time, servicing their participants with well-organized events, TV and magazine coverage.
Strong high-profile Pro-Am tournament trails like FLW, with a known track-record, good payouts and strong media will maintain a strong presence in the market. He urged NPAA anglers to fish as many tournaments as possible in 2009. If you have time and the money, fish all that fit your schedule, we cant afford to lose any of them.
With the new AIM circuit making big news with radical format changes and targeting fisheries at peak times, Lindner said, The new kid on the block has brilliant people behind it, and their CRR thrust is the biggest plus Ive seen in a long time. The sport needs it. CRR is catch record release, and AIM will implement immediate release procedures after documenting each fish caught. He did say that in his long career in the fishing business the only business hes ever been in every new venture had a hiccup. He felt that CRR could be one of those hiccups, but would be worked out.
Lindner also emphatically said, I believe walleye tournaments need to get rid of live bait. He admitted he was in the minority, but realized this is one sure way to grow the sport. We all need to excite and ignite the sport, and this is the fastest way to do it. There is no value in talking about fishing with live bait. He contrasted the bass tournament anglers (who cannot use live bait in competition) with the walleye guys, Thats why theyre kicking our butts. He said muskie tournaments dont allow suckers hanging over the side. And, their sport is exploding, he said.
He cited Northland, Lindy and Fin-Tech, the three largest walleye jig manufacturers, This would not impact their sales one bit. Jigs are delivery systems, and work just as well for Gulp! or plastic as they do for leeches. He also said the press needs news, and the innovations that he expects to rock the walleye world when live bait is eliminated from major competitive events will force news coverage. He challenged AIM to transition away from live bait.
Even though the economy has had a major impact on our industry, theres no place in the world that has as much access to public waters with great fishing than all across the United States, Lindner said. Specifically, he said walleye and bass populations are stable, muskies are off the charts with record numbers and panfish are being restored due to size and bag limits. There are still 30,000,000 million people who fish and he said pro anglers should continue their promotional efforts.
He admitted that budgets are being slashed throughout the industry, but after traditional media like TV and magazine advertising, more dollars are going to non-traditional marketing. With these reductions, all companies are looking for the best bang for their bucks, and opportunities exist for pros that can help them sell, he said.
Lindner said, Were all linked together, the manufacturers, the media, pros, the sales force and consumers. The simplest lesson is that something has to be sold for a profit. He directed pro anglers to sell at all levels by working with sales people at the local retail outlet to the national level. He said small-town media have an impact. Take them fishing, he said. With more marine dealers holding in-store boat shows, be there and talk product. Help them sell boats. The dealers that come out of this downturn will be much stronger.
He concluded by saying, The foundation of the sport is strong today with solid fish populations. Its up to us to promote and sell product so the manufacturing side of the sport remains strong, also.
More NPAA and annual conference news, member updates and more can be found at www.npaa.net. The NPAA is an organization dedicated to improving and bringing professionalism to the sport of walleye fishing. NPAA supporting partners who share the same goals include Northland Fishing Tackle, Navionics, Mercury Marine, Evinrude Outboards, Lund Boats, Ranger Boats, Off-Shore Tackle, Fin-Tech Tackle, Berkley, Walleyes Inc., Greater Insurance Services, Bartness Industries, Anglers Insight Marketing, Masters Walleye Circuit and FLW Outdoors.