Are Fishing Cameras a Good Fit for Your Tackle Shop?

Underwater cameras and other models can add to your store’s bottom line. Here’s a rundown of the most popular fishing cameras.

Are Fishing Cameras a Good Fit for Your Tackle Shop?

Inline cameras are designed to show the action of the lure and the fish’s response to it.

Check any of the social media sites and you’ll see pictures, videos and proof that everyone is now showing off what they’re doing — sometimes more than they should — and we’re not just talking politicians looking for their next date.

Perhaps fishermen are more guilty than many as the trend in bass fishing circles is to record and stream or broadcast tournament action. With the Bassmaster and Bass Pro Tour circuits moving more into online video and live coverage, the average angler’s urge to chronicle a trip is understandable.

That’s aided by the ease of posting videos on YouTube and other online channels. This can lead to the people who post becoming social media celebrities, another enticement for some to take up the camera. Eventually, if the videos gain a wide enough audience, they may attract sponsors and even advertisers. One only has to look at sites like Manitowoc Minute to see how online celebrity can turn into a career.

Videos also play a part in seminars at sports shows as well as talks to clubs or groups, wherever fishermen gather to find out what’s hot. Showing a video may seem a little like movie time in a high school health class, but it’s a great way to script a presentation of necessary points in an orderly and logical manner.

As a result, cameras are playing a bigger part in the lives of many fishermen.

 

Should You Sell Cameras?

What does this mean for the retailer? Are cameras a stable category that will justify shelf space and staff training?

The camera category is broad; there’s everything from point-of-view or action cameras that can record what happens onboard (or in the water for wading fishermen) to cameras that show you what species of fish is holding on the rock pile beneath the boat. There are also cameras you can attach to your line that will show fish attacking your lure,  and night vision cameras that provide a safety heads-up for nighttime boating.

Trying to cover the all the bases can be confusing, but it all depends upon your market.

The gold standard for most cameras used to take video of fishing action is the GoPro. Because of their popularity, GoPros are readily available at many mass merchants and online retailers. But there still is a case for stocking the cameras. Check the company’s website and you’ll see the variety of vendors that sell them. There aren’t many that carry fishing tackle; most vendors are specialty shops catering to those who kayak, bicycle, run, skateboard, ski and pursue what is now called “adventure sports.”

That leaves room for tackle shops. There also is a market for accessories.

The most popular action camera is the GoPro (left), but Garmin (right) and other companies offer high-quality models, too.. With most independent GoPro dealers targeting “action-adventure” sports like dirt bikes or surfing, there is opportunity for tackle shops to fill the void. Camera accessories — especially those oriented toward boating or personal use — offer an opportunity for retailers.
The most popular action camera is the GoPro (left), but Garmin (right) and other companies offer high-quality models, too.. With most independent GoPro dealers targeting “action-adventure” sports like dirt bikes or surfing, there is opportunity for tackle shops to fill the void. Camera accessories — especially those oriented toward boating or personal use — offer an opportunity for retailers.

“We don’t handle cameras at all,” said Jim Lovan, who runs the factory store for Lew’s Sportsman’s Factory Outlet in Springfield, Missouri. “I don’t want to be in direct competition with retailers who carry Lew’s products. But I do special orders for folks who want accessories that they can’t find locally or online.”

A selling point is not every action camera is GoPro. Numerous cameras can record video. Hunters’ game or trail cameras, a very popular category, can be used in some fishing situations. Marine cameras — not so much for action videography but for security and safety — are offered by companies like Raymarine and Garmin, which also has an action camera that isn’t promoted heavily.

Raymarine offers a comprehensive line of marine cameras, including night-vision cameras that increase boaters’ ability to see hazards while underway.
Raymarine offers a comprehensive line of marine cameras, including night-vision cameras that increase boaters’ ability to see hazards while underway.

Going Under?

But that’s not all. Underwater cameras are popular. There are two basic versions. One is designed to fit on the fisherman’s line, recording the action of the bait or lure. The other is used to transmit what the camera sees as its lowered into the water. The latter is well established, especially in northern regions where ice fishing is popular. The inline version, however, seems to be struggling.

Jeff Kemp, buyer for Reeds Sporting Goods in Walker, Minnesota, believes most fishermen are likely to shy away from the idea of clipping an expensive piece of equipment to a line that can break during the fight or be cut on an obstruction or by a fish. “That just seems cost prohibitive,” he said.

Kemp makes a strong point. While this type of camera does offer unique video, the chance of losing one is very real as proven by videos showing pike hitting the camera. There are ways around that, of course, but they may not be practical for most fishermen.

Aqua-Vu makes underwater video cameras and has been doing so for 22 years. These come in both self-contained units and “open-water” versions that run off the boat’s power and can link to sonar units having video feeds.

“There are challenges in getting camera units into tackle retailers, certainly,” said Cory Schmidt, who handles PR and marketing for Aqua-Vu.

Schmidt noted there are no challenges in the ice markets, though. For ice fishermen, cameras show what is exactly below the hole and let the fisherman see his bait, the fish, and how the fish reacts to the way the bait or lure is moved. It is a no-brainer and better than television for entertainment.

Kemp says most of his shop’s sales are for cameras used during winter. “While there seems to be more people interested in using these cameras (Aqua-Vu and Marcum units) during the open-water periods, the most popular use in by ice fishermen.

“Fishing during winter is when the water is at its clearest, and the cameras are growing in popularity for ice fishing.” Kemp adds that usually the camera will be used in conjunction with sonar. “But some people are now using the cameras instead of sonar because they do such a good job of showing not only fish, but also the species of fish and the fish’s reaction to the lure or bait.”

During the hard water or open water seasons, Aqua-Vu’s underwater camera system is useful for fishermen looking to identify the fish on their sonar screen. Its system is slowly making headway into the largemouth bass market.
During the hard water or open water seasons, Aqua-Vu’s underwater camera system is useful for fishermen looking to identify the fish on their sonar screen. Its system is slowly making headway into the largemouth bass market.

“It is a challenge getting into the South and bass markets,” Schmidt said. “But we had a big hit when we brought professional angler Ott Defoe (above) to a meeting with Bass Pro Shops where he explained how he uses the Aqua-Vu for his fishing.”

Defoe has an Aqua-Vu HD7i unit mounted on the bow of his bass boat, and uses it in three ways. First, he’ll drop the camera to check specific spots to identify the species of fish he sees on his sonar. Second, he attaches the camera to a pole and checks specific structure, looking at the water under docks, for instance. Third, Defoe uses an Aqua-Vu to look at a general area by slowly trolling (up to 2 mph, according to Defoe) to look for fish or specific areas he will return to fish.

 

C’mon, Use the Demo Loop

If you want to sell more product, using video is one great way to capture a shopper’s attention. Whether it’s a bowhunter drawing on  a buck, a bass angler hauling in a Guntersville lunker or an ice fisherman watching his camera screen, customers will stop to watch.

Setting up a special area or end cap can be a stopping point to kickstart a sale. But that’s only if you take advantage of the video.

“One challenge we have is to get store employees to turn on display units so that they can run the demo loop,” Schmidt said. “The demo loop, showing how the Aqua-Vu units work and what they see, is a big home run,” he added. Once anglers see the demonstration video, it’s a much easier possibility to make a sale.

Marcum also has a line of underwater cameras targeting the ice market. Rapala has been distributing the systems, but the collaboration recently ended, according to Dan Quinn, field promotions manager for Rapala.

In fact, with the exception of Aqua-Vu and GoPro, camera systems for fishermen seem to be as fluid as the water in which they fish. Marcum and Rapala split. ION is no longer in business, according to reports from former pro staff. And Garmin, while not quitting the camera business, currently will only be offering support once current stock is sold. Waterwolf cameras, once distributed by Savage Gear—which also was but is no longer distributed by Okuma in the U.S.—apparently is online only or through Amazon.

 

What About Others?

GoFish Cam is an in-line camera that can be attached to the line and is rated for depths to 500 feet. It records video and can live stream to a mobile device once the camera is on the surface. There also is an app that lets the owner share content. But again, it’s available through Amazon.

There are startups, too. SiOnyx has its Aurora color-and-night-vision cameras available online.

The new Spydro line of inline cameras are designed to mount on a fisherman’s line and record the action of the lure and the fish that strike.
The new Spydro line of inline cameras are designed to mount on a fisherman’s line and record the action of the lure and the fish that strike.

Siren Camera is bringing out a waterproof camera that attaches to the fishing line and will slide down to record the fish’s fight. The new Spydro camera mounts on an angler’s line and records a lure’s action, and perhaps fish strikes, too!  TactaCam, well established with the hunting and action sports community, makes a line of outdoor game cameras that could be adapted to use in a boat.

Raymarine, in league with parent company Flir, has a host of cameras that include night-vision thermal cameras that link with computers to give boaters the ability to see landmarks and floating hazards in low-light situations. There are hand-held cameras that as well as fixed-mount cameras targeting the large-vessel markets.

In fact, Amazon has a large number of cameras that are designed for fishing use, which is an indication of the category’s popularity. And that popularity may turn out to be a profit center for tackle retailers.

Brian Latimer
Brian Latimer

Sidebar: Lights, Camera . . . iPhone Action With Brian Latimer

Bass pro Brian Latimer has been pursuing a career in bass fishing for the past several years, and his YouTube channel has helped him gain exposure, fans and sponsors.

Of course, it helps that he won the 2019 FLW Tour Lake Seminole tournament. Also, he and partner Mark Daniels Jr. won the team gold medal in the 2019 Pan American Bass Fishing Championship on the Saint Lawrence River in Ontario, Canada, last autumn. Both wins received wide social media exposure.

As of April 2020, Latimer had posted nearly 425 videos on YouTube and had 88,000 subscribers watching. That equates to a lot of exposure for his sponsors. And he did it all with his iPhone.

Many of the online videos by casual anglers, and pros, are done with smart phones because of their ease of use and ability to download video content directly from the phone. (Latimer edits his videos.)

This undoubtedly limits potential camera sales, as many fishermen already have smartphones, and use them for other things besides calling home — such as weather monitoring, viewing lake maps and letting their buddies and co-workers know about that fish they just caught.

But your potential sales come with accessories for their phones: mounts, clamps, selfie sticks and other items that can help iPhone users take better images and videos including some that might mention your store. Don’t overlook this possibility.



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