The media is the message

You might be surprised to read this, but most of the time I spend working in the fishing industry I don't have a rod and reel in my hand. Most of my time — and this is true of many anglers who have built successful careers — is spent with other industry professionals, especially sponsors and media.

I can't tell you how many hundreds of times every year someone asks me, “How do you get sponsors?”

They think the answer involves winning tournaments, but it doesn't ... not really. Winning tournaments is great, but getting sponsors is about helping them sell their products. If you can't do that, no one is going to sponsor you.

I just left the Strike King Writer's Conference at Kentucky Lake. While I was there, I met with dozens of key media people in the fishing industry. Some of these people I see at every tournament; others I only see once or twice a year. Every one of them is important to me and my sponsors. That's why they were invited, and that's why my sponsors spend so much money and time to get them to the conference and work with them.

As a professional angler, I work hard at these media gatherings. I'm up early and often don't get to bed until late. It's my goal to make the conference a success for every media person there, whether their focus is bass or catfish or crappie or walleye.

I'm fortunate in that I enjoy working with the media. It's an aspect of my career that I find rewarding. After an interview or video I keep an eye out for where it appears, and I read or watch every one I can. It's fascinating to see how a quote or a comment will find its way into a story. And I learn from watching myself in videos and try to do better every time out, even though I've done thousands over the last 25 years.

Over that time I've worked with hundreds of different media people. Some of them became friends. Others were just acquaintances that I talked with once or twice. You never really know how a working relationship like that will turn out, but you can do your best to make the experience a productive one for you both.

If you're an angler hoping to make fishing your career, maybe you've had some tournament success and gotten the chance to work with media. If so, consider yourself fortunate. It's one of the most important aspects of being a bass pro.

And if you really want to build a career in our sport, there's no time like the present — even if your trophy case is still a little bare. Start by creating a relationship with the media people working near you.

You know who they are — the outdoors columnist in your local paper, the host of the local fishing radio show, the person who writes a blog about your local waters. If you don't know them personally, fix that. Introduce yourself. Tell them about a great pattern you're on. Ask if you can be a guest on their show. Offer to take them fishing (when you're really catching them good).

Maybe these media people reach millions with their work or maybe it's hundreds. Whatever it might be and whoever they are, they have the reach you need to tap into, and they offer the exposure that can help you get sponsors and keep them.

And if you think these media folks are just local and don't have a big audience, remember that the guys who write for the biggest magazines and who do the most popular radio and television shows had to start somewhere ... just like me and just like you.

Build those relationships and watch your career grow with them.

Remember, it's all about the attitude!