The weekender or the laid off, full time government paid angler? Fakers abound in the fishing industry, bilking legitimate companies out of their wares without any real relationship benefitting the business entity. People who over exaggerate their importance to the world? It is more pathetic than disappointing. “How many links can I post in my signature as sponsors??” is the game that seems to be important to some of the people. Pathetic, disappointing, comical or sad? It is up to you to decide.
Even the unwilling are sometimes implicated: I just loved playing ping-pong with my Flexolite ping pong paddle. Forrest at least was sold down the river by his mother; so much of what you see that is unethical is individual choices.
As a full time guide for about seven years, going on nine years total in the industry- My own operating credo is, if I am affiliated with someone who is sponsoring me, they should benefit from it more than I do. The fake guides or “sponsored anglers” of the world will solicit “freebies” begging for an “add” to any and all companies’ guide programs. The proof is in the pudding: Direct sales from my own endorsement should far outweigh any support or discount I get from these companies. The guys who are taking these items and reselling them for pure profit are hardly ethical no matter how they justify it.
The companies eventually figure it out. But some continue to get fooled and embarrassed. I recently stopped in to L & S Bait Company, also known as Mirrolure to pick up some things that Eric Bachnik wanted to donate to an upcoming event. For the third time in a row I have been there the answer to “do you need anything?” was no. Now, having written product reviews for their very good product line, I have indeed gotten product from this company. But if I have enough products, I do not ask for more, something that may put me in a different category but again, ethically, I do not want more than what I will personally use.
My other sponsors will tell you a similar tune. The extras I get are utilized strategically to try to get more people to use the product. As the host of a well-supported tournament, where I deal with companies who donate very generously, I have extra chances to deal with companies inside the industry. Some are sponsors of my own business, some are not, but the same things apply: They should get good exposure for their investment. What they get from a lot of these other people: They make their donation and a short time later they see that same person also using a competitor’s product. The Captain Mel Classic will be #4 in 2014 and I am pleased to announce, we have all of our original sponsors still involved. The loyalty of the participants to the companies who support our great event, it all works well for everyone.
Approached by companies who sell a very similar product, I have seen a difference between my own decision and that of some of the pretenders. I will not take it and respectfully explain that I already have a sponsor. They are usually shocked because others do not turn down free product. Sorry, but if you take it in this situation, you are a tackle whore.
For the companies who want to live permanently in the industry: Listen to Nancy Reagan. What did she say? Just say no. Let the people who have not proven themselves go to the store and buy your product. Let all the pretenders and whining beggars. Or create a contract: Take their credit card number and if they do nothing to support your product, charge them for what they took from you in a pre-agreed contract. Go one better: Choose your pro staff, don’t let them choose you. I would talk to people but sit back for a period of time before I added someone to the “staff” and even ask around and see what people think about the people who are singing their own praises.
The jokes are out there. They are funny commentary on the realities of this situation. “Sponsored angler” is something that is subject to evaluation and maybe even criticism. The legit guides, the ones who maintain their agreements and do not bite off more than they can chew, they are in the minority. The Tackle Whores, they are actually fun to watch but they make things tough for anyone who wants to honestly become a part of the guide industry. I would like to thank my sponsors for their dedication to me, and I would like to tell them that I will continue to do the very same back to them.