The pro staff tag is now starting to draw a collective eye roll from fellow anglers as soon as it is seen on their social media feed. What used to be a cool thing, is now met with "Oh another wannabe" or other sarcastic thoughts/remarks. Some anglers are even dropping otherwise good, well deserved, pro staff deals to avoid the "pro staff" stigma altogether. Why has this happened? I think there are several reasons for the growing disgust of "pro staffers". I have compiled a short list to help understand what the pro in pro staff is supposed to mean and some things to consider before becoming one. Hopefully this may help guide new/aspiring pro staffers along with veteran staffers down a path that will shape public opinion back where it should be.
- The Pro stands for Promotional not Professional - There are many "Title Chasers" out there that just want to be associated with the name Pro Staff. For some people I assume that makes them feel like the next KVD or something, but anglers should understand that the Pro is short for promotional not professional. Your job is to promote the product or company you are representing by being an ambassador of the sport and/or through successful results in competition. Simply slapping a cool decal on your car or boat means nothing if you are not really promoting something you believe in. Which leads me to my next point...
- Be a loyal customer already - I have a good friend that owns a bait company in my local area, he has received four messages this week asking for a position on his pro staff. Upon questioning the applicants, they didn't even know what his company made!?!? They were classic title chasers! The only companies an angler should consider promoting are companies whose products they would still use even if pro staffs ceased to exist.
- Be selective of your team - This is more for the companies signing up pro staffers than the anglers themselves. A huge part of the degraded image of kayak fishing pro staffers is the sheer number of them that have shown up over the last few years. Some large companies have multi-level staff programs with literally hundreds of anglers on the team. A few companies seem to give out a pro staff sticker just for buying a boat or pack of baits. I understand that they need to advertise and promote their brand, but diluting the market with all of these staffers makes the position seem less respectable. I urge you to come up with some sort of selection process that weighs an anglers performance, leadership, and position within the kayak fishing community before blindly adding them to your team.
- Be a true ambassador - A good friend of mine Tim Hotchkin, wrote an article about promoting the sport and not just the brand all the time. That may seem to contradict the mission of a pro staff angler, but it should be kept in mind while out there in the kayak fishing community. Don't become a hater of other bait companies or kayak brands just because you now carry a pro staff label for xyz team. We should all have the same end goal, make the kayak fishing community in your area better while using the resources and contacts your pro staff position provides. The best pro staffers I have seen do this seamlessly, growing the sport and their brand all at once.
- Be Humble - Frankly if you are not a humble person and are signing on with a pro staff team to boost your ego, STOP! Kayak fishing doesn't need anymore ego maniacs blowing up forums and social media. The kayak fishing community is really unique compared to the powerboat scene. It has always been friendly and welcoming, even within the most competitive tournament trails. As more sponsors and staffers pile up, I worry that the cutthroat/ego maniac attitudes that seem more prevalent on the bass boat circuit will make their way to ours. If you are fortunate enough to acquire a staff position or sponsorship of some kind, stay humble and remember what makes kayak fishing such an awesome sport to be involved with.
Competitive kayak fishing is rapidly growing across Arkansas and the rest of the country. With this growth will come more sponsorship opportunities for the anglers involved. As these opportunities present themselves just remember why you got into kayak fishing to begin with, I am sure it wasn't to chase some arbitrary title. If you have a chance to become a part of a promotional staff, do it the right way and keep enjoying the sport that got you the opportunity in the first place.