To be or not to be… that slogan is used often, but I think this time it’s particularly fitting. We see on social media on a weekly basis individuals offering their take on “pro staffs” or “professional” kayak anglers. While this article will be strictly editorial, and quite simply my own personal opinion, it will be simply that.. my own personal opinion on this oft debated issue. Hopefully by the end of this editorial piece, we’ll have answered the time old question of “to be or not to be” wholly.
I think too often newcomers into our sport of kayak fishing get a bit too excited when reaching out to potential sponsors. Instead of simply easing our way into the sport and growing, we simply try to grow way too fast. It’s not “to be or not to be” at a relaxed pace, but more so, I want it all and right now. I also believe the growth of our sport is also part to blame. We all see how fast the sport of kayak fishing has grown and continues to grow, and it’s quite easy to get caught up into the excitement and wish to pursue kayak fishing as a profession. Don’t get me wrong as I completely understand the desire to earn a respectable living doing something you love and something as amazing as kayak fishing. Where I believe we run into issues is where it’s extremely easy to misunderstand simply how difficult it actually is to become an actual professional kayak angler. I think it important that I also offer what exactly is my personal opinion of what constitutes being worthy of such a title as “professional kayak angler”. The initial part of the term, “professional” itself dictates that this is something where an individual makes a sustainable living doing the activity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see just how difficult this task can be. Remember our term, “to be or not to be”? Perhaps we should be asking what it is that we can do for the sport of kayak fishing instead of “what can the sport of kayak fishing do for me?”
So as you can see initially where my thinking sits on the title itself, we can delve a bit deeper into this easily heated topic. I believe the largest misconception remains with the actual meaning of pro staff. Pro Staff simply means that you as an individual are offered product at a discounted or free rate and you in turn promote the product. This is simply referred to as Promotional Staff, hence the shortened nickname, “pro staff”. Of course, I believe a bit of ego also should be called into question here. We’ve all seen it personally where an individual gets a bit over-excited when achieving a Pro Staff position with a manufacturer. This type of thinking can be easily misconstrued as having already achieved the “to be or not to be” status. I also believe the larger issue with this system is the overuse of the positions. We’ve all seen it and I can almost guarantee that as you read this, you can think of an individual who fits this upcoming statement. The largest issue or poison to our sport is the individual who simply promotes a product to get said product free. Even worse is the individual who simply bounces back and forth across the manufacturer spectrum simply looking for the next free gig. There’s some very colorful descriptions of what we all call this type of individual, but as this is a family friendly article and media resource, I think it best to simply refer to this type of kayak angler as a “product prostitute”. Loyalty truly goes a long way, regardless of the times or circumstances. If you truly wish to grow in our sport, show some loyalty and grow with that company. While it’s extremely alluring to be an ambulance chaser looking for the next free gig, stay the course and promote only the product for which you truly believe in. I will guarantee that this will definitely be a “win-win” situation not only for you, but for the manufacturer as well.Lastly, as our sport has grown over the past few years and continues to grow, we see tournaments focused solely on kayak fishing popping up across the map. Some have completely blown away conventional thought with the sheer numbers of anglers attending. A prime example of this is the Ride the Bull tournament which takes place on the Louisiana coast each August. 2013 saw Ride the Bull take the title of the World’s Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament with an astounding 500+ kayak anglers registered. Ride the Bull set the bar even higher in 2014 by blowing that record out of the water with over 700 anglers registered. The numbers themselves are simply amazing, and leaves us believing that the sky truly is the limit for kayak fishing and the kayak fishing tournament scene. But, with this growth in kayak fishing tournaments, we’ve not been without the veritable “black eye”. Recently at the IFA Kayak Tour tournament held in Jacksonville, Florida, 3 anglers were disqualified for “cheating” in the tournament. While this could very well have been an honest mistake, the stigma remains. It’s our human nature to be competitive, I totally get this and agree completely. Where I differ is with my having to question why? Is winning a new kayak and/or a few hundred dollars truly all that important to where we need to abandon our morals? Most anglers or at least a large percentage will tell you that they fish a kayak fishing tournament to benefit the tournament’s charity and/or the camaraderie of the tournament. I firmly believe only a small portion are what we could easily describe as the hardcore tournament anglers who actually have a strong desire to have to win. Hopefully the percentages remain roughly the same, so our sport can continue to grow in a positive light. So there you have it.
Again, as stated before, this is merely my opinion. Some will agree with me, and some will vehemently argue that I’ve lost my ever-loving mind. Heck some will even question the title of this article. I certainly hope that my opinions and thoughts on this and other matters will only ignite spirited and intellectual debate. I believe we’re always learning and growing, and once we stop then we’re never going to go anywhere. So, with that in mind, let’s hear your thoughts on the matter. Tired of hearing about the issue? Agree with the aforementioned opinion and statements? Even if you simply disagree, tell us why. We’d love to hear your comments or opinion and we’re definitely not above criticism as we feel it helps us grow. Feel free to share your thoughts on whether or not you agree with our “to be or not to be” assessment.