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Kyle Rutten: We can genuinely hope for sustained momentum and growth after COVID-19


COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of the global economy and because the world was forced to dramatically limit human interaction, the flow of capital and general engagement has shifted in countless areas.

One such sector is the fishing industry. While much of the pandemic’s fall-out is negative, the effect on our sport has been surprisingly positive. The 2020 Special Report on Fishing by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and the Outdoor Foundation found that 17% of the US population went fishing at least once over the last year. This is the highest participation the country has seen for more than five years. And because much of the data coming to light only partially represents the influence of the pandemic, it is likely that the true number is even higher.

It makes sense that more people are turning to fishing in the age of COVID-19 due to the fact that angling is compliant with most social distancing regulations and recommendations. While many of the standard activities that individuals would engage in have been reduced or eliminated, pastimes like fishing outings have not only been allowed by the authorities, but actively encouraged.

The most popular tactic for slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is the tactic known as ‘social distancing’. Another is maintaining Vitamin D levels. This has led to the very popular notion that getting away from people while getting some sunlight is a great use of one’s time while furloughed from work. There are an array of activities that satisfy these pre-requisites, all of which are considered ‘gateway’ activities and fishing is a prominent one.

Many people have also spoken of the need for a hobby during the pandemic lockdowns, which is anecdotally reported by many vendors in the fishing world. Things like taking up the process of tying one’s own flies is a great way to keep certain people busy during their downtime.

According to the 2020 RBFF Online Fishing Licence Assessment, e-commerce has been experiencing a dramatic upward trend over the last eight years. In 2012, 184 million Americans were making purchases online. That number rose to a whopping 263 million by 2020, an increase of 42%. With COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that this already rising tide got another significant leg up.

At Riversmith, a manufacturer of car-top fly rod holders, COVID-19 came with a dramatic drop in wholesale distribution sales. However, while direct-to-consumer revenue grew dramatically across all sectors of industry in general, fishing may be seeing it happen at an even faster rate than most. This has been driven by not only increased participation, but a reduction in bricks-and-mortar sales options.

While there is still a lot of data being produced and the situation is ongoing, it seems clear that the fishing industry has not been negatively affected by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, there are businesses that have been hit very hard. This is extremely unfortunate, but let’s hope that the silver lining of this situation is sustained momentum and continued growth.

Kyle Rutten is in charge of digital marketing and business development at Riversmith.com.

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