Why You Can’t Ignore Traveling Anglers

From Erie to the Amazon, and Alaska to Alabama, anglers travel to fish and enjoy new experiences. Learn how these road warriors can help you boost sales.

Why You Can’t Ignore Traveling Anglers

Whether he’s in Mexico for bass or South America chasing peacock bass like this one, the author always plans for the weather with appropriate apparel. Your customers will do the same.

For nearly 20 years, I was a hardcore tournament bass angler. I had no aspirations of becoming the next Kevin VanDam or Rick Clunn, but every spare moment was spent preparing for a local event, traveling or competing. My tackle purchases were through the roof, limited only by my bank account and imagination.

Eventually, the passion started to fade. I wanted to experience other species and other fisheries. I didn’t want an arbitrary schedule telling me where I had to be on a certain date and then forcing me to stay out all day in miserable weather, hoping for a bite or two.

About that time, my wife surprised me with a 40th birthday trip to Angler’s Inn at Lake El Salto in Mexico. From there, the travel bug took off. We made multiple trips for peacock bass, first in Miami, then twice to Brazil. Since that time, we’ve been back to Mexico 15 times. I’ve been to Alaska. We fished for tigerfish in Zambia. Together we’ve gone ice fishing in Milwaukee, fly fishing in Montana, redfishing in Louisiana and angling all over the Lower 48.

I haven’t fished a tournament in years, but I probably buy more tackle than ever.

I still work a full-time job, so my time is limited, and I’ll never be wealthy, so I don’t spend money indiscriminately, but over the past 10 years I’ve bought tons of items that I previously didn’t even know existed. I’ve been a one-man shot in the arm for various tackle retailers.

I’m a senior writer for Bassmaster publications, so bass will always be my bread and butter. They’re still a passion. But after all of those years myopically chasing them to the exclusion of everything else, I’m making up for lost time. It’s a race against the clock to experience everything from giant trevally in the South Pacific to golden dorado in Argentina to rainbow trout in Kamchatka. Even if I never get to all of them, the planning and dreaming is fun.

Knowing your customer base and keeping up with travel trends for freshwater and saltwater species can help with your purchase planning.
Knowing your customer base and keeping up with travel trends for freshwater and saltwater species can help with your purchase planning.

Yeah, So What?

What does this have to do with you as a tackle retailer? It’s an opportunity to expand your business.

That might seem counterintuitive. In this age of mega-marts and both discount and hyper-specialized online shopping, the smaller brick-and-mortar stores that succeed seem to be the ones that provide locally specific products. For example, if you have a bass-focused shop on Table Rock, that might mean custom-painted suspending jerkbaits. On the Ohio River, it’s handmade balsa crankbaits. In Michigan, it’s all colors of super-soft tubes to imitate gobies and crawfish. You’d be crazy in any of those places to stock a large amount of products for peacock bass in the Amazon or Arctic char in the Northwest Territory. They would just gather dust on the shelves or end up in a closeout bin.

With that caveat, I think you should nevertheless seriously consider appealing to the wanderlust that resides within all but a few anglers. Only a small percentage may dream of roughing it in a tent camp in the Congo, or on a mothership off the coast of Australia, but a trip across the country — or even across the state — to that new trophy lake they read about in Bassmaster demands more gear. Do you want to let the online specialists claim every sale that should be a slam dunk for you?

How can you do this without taking on tons of unsellable inventory?

You can host seminars and presentations about trip options given by local anglers who’ve traveled to those places. If you don’t know any, identify a location that might be appealing and call a leading lodge for a local rep or customer. If you’re in Minnesota, plan for a trip to a warm locale in the winter months. If you’re in South Texas, surely some of your clients would love to go to Alaska or Canada in the heat of the summer. These presentations will draw customers to the shop (a cooler of beer or soft drinks never hurts) and establish you as a learning center.

You also can host trips yourself. Many times if you put together a group of a certain number of anglers, outfitters will cut you a substantial discount or comp your trip. You’ll get to spend time with your customers, and, of course, each of them is going to need to buy a lot of gear in advance of the journey.

You can build tackle packages for anglers from your area going on distant trips. You can build tackle packages for anglers from other areas coming to your region.

Once you’ve done any of those things, you can reflect that expertise on your website, so that you show up when an angler makes a web search for something that’s normally outside of your wheelhouse.

In some cases, it may just be a matter of relabeling products that you already carry. I hadn’t fished as a co-angler in years, but when I started going to Mexico regularly, I ended up buying several tackle bags to use as luggage and in the boat down there. I needed more tackle trays, too, rather than unloading and refilling the ones in my boat before and after each trip. Those are purchases I would not have made but for my extensive travels.

In future columns, I’ll talk about specific purchases I’ve made, strategies for traveling that I’ve developed or learned, and products I’d like to see made. In the meantime, if you have questions, subjects you’d like to see tackled or travel stories that you want to swap, reach out to me via email (below). I’ll respond if I’m not off the grid or hooked up to something big.

Editor’s note: Pete Robbins of Virginia is a freelance writer who is always seeking new fishing adventures. Contact him at: Pete_Robbins@hotmail.com

Photos by Pete Robbins


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