Selling Fishing Kayaks and Small-Boat Accessories to Bass Anglers

Fishing for bass from kayaks has exploded from coast to coast. Here’s how to capitalize by carrying the right products for your specific area.

Selling Fishing Kayaks and Small-Boat Accessories to Bass Anglers

Seek out high-quality equipment to sell to small-boat anglers, who must maximize what little space they have in their fishing kayak or canoe.

Bass fishermen are a curious and varied bunch. They’re dedicated, passionate, opinionated, generous with fishing tips and advice and surprisingly competitive — all characteristics that paddle sport retailers can turn to their advantage.

Once almost solely the domain of white males, the bass angler demographic is changing. In ever-increasing numbers, bass fishermen are climbing into kayaks and canoes to pursue their favorite gamefish. This is good for the sport and good for you.

Bass men and women can be some of your most loyal and devoted customers. They will also be some of the most demanding.

According to John Deshauteurs, the recipe to avoid customer conflict and keep sales strong is simple: Be ready.

“I suggest a retailer needs to be a one-stop shop for all things kayak related,” said Deshauteurs, a life-long bass man and one of the fortunate few who has turned his passion into his profession as a professional kayak angler and spokesman. Deshauteurs knows what he is talking about. His skill and professionalism have helped him garner a raft of manufacturer affiliations, including being a member of various pro staffs, including Jackson Kayak, Werner Paddles, Seaguar, Railblaza, YakGear, Power Pole and Raymarine.

He also meets, greets and hears from bass anglers across the country.

“I’m not saying every kayak retailer should try to be a Bass Pro stocking rods, reels, line and baits. But there needs to be space for accessories,” he said. “And demo boats need to be set up so people can see what the different accessories do.”

Picky Anglers

Bass anglers are detail oriented and often picky about their gear. It’s not a one-size-fits-all crowd. This individualist angling mentality manifest itself in various forms.

Retailers might be surprised to learn, for example, that a paddle-powered bass angler can be as picky about their paddle as about which casting reel to use for flipping a jig. Maybe more so.

“A very important factor is to have a variety of paddles to choose from,” Deshauteurs said. “And not just the retailer’s favorite brand of paddle, but a variety that best serves the consumer. Not everyone is the same.”

Retailer inventory options are limited, of course. Even Bass Pro can’t stock everything. The linchpin for retailers to attract and best serve the paddling (or peddling) bass customer is to know their fishing area and stock boats and accessories best suited for those waters.

This may sound like elementary marketing, but it’s a key and core sales element that, when overlooked, is done so at the retailer’s peril. The formula is simple: Knowledge (area knowledge and product knowledge) equals sales.

“Consider the area,” said Deshauteurs, who lives in Vancleave, Mississippi, but fishes and visits with anglers from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and beyond. “What waters are your local anglers fishing? Creeks? Ponds? Lakes? Coastal or tidal waters? Open ocean? Have a variety of kayaks stocked based on what your area offers.”

Bass anglers, including the paddling branch of the bass fishing family, are becoming more social media savvy and regularly delve online. A Facebook page search for “kayak bass fishing” uncovered dozens of pages and related groups. Podcasts are another under-tapped customer zoning-in source. Retailer-sponsored group pages, podcasts, video links and related social media outlets are a productive and inexpensive avenue to attract potential customers.

Kayak anglers often outfit their craft with a smaller sonar unit, which you can add to your store’s offerings and promote during spring demo days events.
Kayak anglers often outfit their craft with a smaller sonar unit, which you can add to your store’s offerings and promote during spring demo days events.

Meet and Greet

Deshauteurs agrees that social media is an important marketing outreach tool and should be utilized. But he says the hottest online buzz can’t really replace an old-style, hands-on meet and greet because whenever bass anglers get together, they talk.

“I would suggest having a local tournament for the anglers to do a meet and greet,” he said. “This builds relationships. It gets anglers talking, and that is when the retailer needs to be listening.”

Not every experienced bass fisherman who walks into a kayak retailer is fully informed. Most aren’t. Bass guys who have spent years blasting around the lake at the wheel of a 200-horsepower, tweaked-out bass rig but are interested in a new type of ride might never have held a kayak paddle. In fact, most probably haven’t.

“Retailers need also to consider that a lot of the bass fishermen might be new kayakers and who are interested in the sport but starting from the ground up,” Deshauteurs said.

An important accessory for bass anglers will be a way to transport his or her kayak. Traditional bass boats are trailered and nearly always sold as boat/trailer rigs. While a rack or kayak trailer might be seen as a luxury item to the casual recreational paddler, the bass fishing customer, who will likely rig his fishing kayak with electronics and other angling accessories, would more likely see it as a necessity. Here, again, product knowledge will often fuel sales.

“When a consumer, particularly a fisherman, makes an investment in a kayak, there needs to be a way to safely transport it,” Deshauteurs said. “The retailer’s knowledge of roof racks, T-bone systems and trailers will be the key to sales. When the consumers make that investment and have the option to have the retailer install their transportation system as well, that gets consumers talking, bringing in more business.”

A final item, which Deshauteurs says should be the easiest sale of all but often isn’t, is a personal flotation device. Life jackets are available in a range of sizes, colors and styles, including inflatables. Properly fitted, they are surprisingly comfortable. And they save lives. Deshauteurs’s advice: Stock a wide selection of PFDs and have sales staff trained on how they should fit. Make it part of the package.

“I just think it’s important to try to offer the complete package,” Deshauteurs said. “Kayaks, accessories, open forums, tournaments, paddles, personal flotation devise selections and a trained, friendly, knowledgeable staff is what makes a great kayak retail shop. A one-stop shop.”

For more information, visit www.pointclickfish.com to see videos and articles about kayak fishing from John Deshauteurs.  

John Deshauteurs travels across the country with his kayaks from his home in south Mississippi seeking new experiences.
John Deshauteurs travels across the country with his kayaks from his home in south Mississippi seeking new experiences.

Photos by John Deshauteurs



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