Glenn Hughes: why 2020 is the year of the angler
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up recreational fishing to scores of anglers, new and returning. Opportunities abound with respect to fishing participation and growing the market. The problem this year hasn’t been finding anglers but how to keep them. From manufacturers to retailers to natural resource agencies, it’s up to all of us to embrace our new anglers and provide them with what they need to keep enjoying their time on the water. This includes quality products, an easy-to-follow sales process, continuing education, easy access to fishing, understanding their needs and concerns – anything and everything that helps them to adopt fishing as a lifetime pursuit.
Each industry sector plays a role in the process, but none of us can do everything. The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) TakeMeFishing.org website and Get On Board campaign are information portals to help new and returning anglers and boaters create a great day on and around the water and, just as importantly, come back again. The RBFF’s job is to do the heavy lifting when it comes to fishing and boating awareness and getting people excited to take the journey to becoming a life-long angler.
The manufacturers provide tackle and gear for all experience levels that won’t break the budget and are easy to use. They also offer access to information when anglers need help.
The U.S. state and federal agencies use funding, provided largely by manufacturers and anglers, to restore habitat and improve water conditions, support fishery sustainability and provide more and better access to anglers on public lands. As the industry’s association, ASA will continue to work with our partners, Member of Congress, the administration, federal and state agencies, conservation groups and others to ensure we have clean water, fish and access to those fish and to promote best practices to keep America fishing.
We are always having the conversation about what is more important, recruiting or retaining anglers. Well, they are equally important. Over the last two years we’ve done a great job at recruiting, but not so much at retention. The RBFF will need to pivot the message a bit to retain these new anglers or help prevent them from dropping out. Figuring out how to ensure a positive experience is the challenge, especially when we still need to learn more about these new participants.
Retailers are the key to the future of fishing. During my welcome remarks at ICAST 2020 Online I made special mention of independent retailers and their importance to how we will succeed as an industry. If 2019 was the year of the independent retailer, then 2020 is the year of the angler, new and old, male and female, no matter their background. Traditional retailers can be incredibly successful if they take care of these folks and listen, whether online or in the store. They have the expertise and information in their respective locales and can provide the products or support that others just can’t. Everyone doesn’t just go with the least expensive. Many of us still reward service, information and even friendship at the local store. However, if a retailer doesn’t have a solid website with the ability for online transactions, then I’d suggest they make that investment as soon as possible. They can compete with the likes of Amazon and factory direct. I see it every day.