FTR Retail Associate Of The Year Nominations

There is still time to get your nomination in for the FTR Retail Associate Of The Year before we choose the 2024 winner.

By now you’ve likely already heard about the FTR Retail Associate of the Year promotion. If not, you can get all the details here, and that is also where you can submit a nomination.

In short, we here at Fishing Tackle Retailer have been throwing around a few ideas on how to get retailers more involved and put a spotlight on some of the unsung heroes of the retail space. If retailers are the driving force behind the fishing tackle industry, then those of you on the front line, the ones who interact on a daily basis with the consumers, are its lifeblood. It’s about time you got your opportunity to shine!

We plan to spotlight a few nominations each month in print and online, and ultimately we’ll be selecting the top retail associate for the year as voted on by a panel of industry representatives. The retail shop will obviously receive some press, but it’s the associate who will really reap the rewards as we will not only put them on a pedestal in print and online, but we are also putting together an awesome prize package for the winner which will include a trip to a future ICAST show in Orlando, Florida. We’ll also do an expanded profile of the winner in Fishing Tackle Retailer along with the final announcement.

So without further delay, here are a few recent nominations which we have received.


Railan Aistrope

Extreme Outdoors
16955 State Highway 13
Branson West, Missouri
extremeoutdoors.us

Duration of nominees employment: 5 Years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Ray—as she likes to be called—is a very self-motivated person. She started out working as a general employee doing multiple jobs at Extreme Outdoors, and as time went on her passion for the outdoors showed through in everything she did for the business, the customers, and the vendors. She accomplished every task with vigor and pride and quickly took over the management position. She has an outstanding vision for the business and customers, and has converted all sales systems to the most current and efficient platforms including inventory, register, website, point of sale, employees, and off-site sales events. What’s more amazing is that she did this all while completing college and graduated with honors from Dury University in Springfield, MO.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Ray is heavily involved in a national youth fishing program run by Cross Trail Outfitters, and she regularly works the live release boats for companies such as AFTCO around the country at multiple bass fishing events.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? Without Ray’s motivation and leadership we would struggle to reach the high standards and expectations that she has set.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? Ray has set a very high standard for our business and our customers.


Noah Barry

Fishbites Trading Post
170 Nix Boat Yard Road
St. Augustine, FL
fishbitestradingpost.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: 3 Years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Noah is an all-around standout team member. From his dedication to being a team player, to his knowledge of fishing, to his ability to connect with customers, Noah is the full package. Noah is 18 years old and has been working with us for several years now while still excelling in his homeschooled studies. We call Noah “the sponge” because anything he observes or does, just sticks. His wealth of knowledge is almost unbelievable. In fact, I’d consider him a fishing savant. He can tell you the specs of everything in our store (and we’re talking thousands of skus).

We are incredibly lucky that all of that knowledge gets passed on to our customers and Noah always ensures that they are set up for success on the water AND with a few helpful tips and tricks. Noah has been deemed the offshore guru, not just at the shop, but within the local community here too! But his knowledge doesn’t stop there. When he’s not studying or working at the shop, he’s fishing. Whether it be from land, his solo skiff, or his family’s offshore boat, Noah is always on the fish and using his adventures to finetune his suggestions for our customers.

Even with all that being said, there’s more! Noah has been instrumental in revamping our social media strategy to deliver great, informational content to the masses and entice more anglers to come check out the tackle shop. His product reviews, promotional short videos, and even the fun short clips he does have all of the Northeast Florida area buzzing about how lucky we are to have him on the team! His current record is the spooling up of a Penn International video that will have 700,000 views by the time you’re reading this.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Noah’s dedication to getting people hooked on fish is immeasurable. You’ll often find him fishing with others to teach them new techniques, showing them great places to fish, and imparting just some of his knowledge about fishing onto them. Also, we often have events at the tackle shop, and he’ll be the first one to jump in and help with anything and everything.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? A huge piece of us would be missing without Noah. Customers often ask for him to get tips for offshore fishing and he has really brought that segment to life at the tackle shop. He even makes custom handmade rigs for customers! We are now one of the top offshore tackle shops in all of Northeast Florida, and that is 100% due to Noah’s knowledge and expertise. But it’s also so much more than that. Noah’s spirit, sense of humor, and all-around positivity create an atmosphere that everyone wants to be part of.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? Before working at the tackle shop (located on the manufacturing campus of Fishbites), Noah was working in the Fishbites factory packaging baits. So those very baits that he sells in-person to customers today, he once was behind the scenes making it happen. In short, Noah is absolutely THE retail associate of the year and will continue to make a big impact on this industry, on the community he serves here in Florida, and on his team – every single day!


Emily Bayne

Frank & Fran’s Bait & Tackle
40210 NC 12 HWY #448
Avon, NC
hatteras-island.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: 7 years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Emily is only nineteen years old but has been working with us since she was twelve years old. She enjoys working with customers to help them have a great fishing experience while visiting Hatteras Island. Her goal is to help them catch fish so that they return with smiling faces showing off pictures of their catches for our fishing report. She has built good relationships with many returning customers, which is key to building solid repeat business. Shely is now attending online college pursuing a degree in Business Administration with a focus on entrepreneurship as she hopes to take over the business in the future. Our business is very seasonal, and during this past winter, Emily helped redesign our website. She also collaborated with the team to help design, build, and package hand-tied rigs which we are now selling at the shop and have been proven to catch fish. Through this process, Emily is learning about marketing, merchandising, and finances of business that will help her succeed in the future. When she is not working at the shop, she can be found volunteering at the local fishing club events, scuba diving, riding ATVs in the mountains or out fishing on the boat or off the surf.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Emily volunteers at local angler club events where the fishing community and the community at large come together.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? Good reviews and reputation bring customers in the door. Well-stocked and neatly organized shelves make customers happy. Smiling faces and a willing-to-help attitude build strong customer relationships and bring them back season after season. Emily helps to ensure we meet or exceed our customer expectations in all these areas and more.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? Emily is a driven young adult who excelled in high school and completed her associate degree when she graduated from high school. On top of working full time at the shop, volunteering and pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she also works at a local orthodontist office as an Orthodontic Assistant. She is a self-driven young adult which is nice to see in today’s world


Betty Jean Claflin

Side Lake Store & Liquor
7505 Highway 5
Side Lake, MN
facebook.com/sidelakestore

Duration of nominee’s employment: 3 Years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Although she is my wife, I assure you I am not biased. At work my wife is amazing with customers. We moved to a small town in northern Minnesota from the chaos that was Minneapolis. She quickly became accustomed to country life quickly and took advantage of the smells and the sights of nature. She is extremely sociable with our local demographics which primarily is 60+ . She has made grumpy farmers smile, unhappy wives laugh, and controlling men check themselves.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Since we have been here, she has started a secondary business as a custom apparel company. She helps other “at home mothers” and wives with hobbies learning the Cricut hobby. She does about 5-6 shows a year for her new wares, but never misses a day at work. We work 13-hour days, 6 days a week. She cooks, cleans, manages my ADD and social anxiety, and she still keeps a smile through it all. I managed to get her joined up in the fire department recently and she got me to join the EMT. We have the town ladies come in every Thursday for coffee and she has always been able to make connections, get in the know, and learn even more about this beautiful area. She’s an RN as well, and during covid she would travel to overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes to help. And now in town, she has managed to help many people with just her medical knowledge. I am very lucky to have a reliable and work-oriented worker. I can honestly say it is very hard to find good help not to mention someone who is compatible with me 24 hrs. a day!

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? She is responsible for phone calls, finances, and staying sociable. Without her willingness to go and make a showing at special occasions, our store would not get around like it has. In a small town like ours it is important for everyone to see you.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? I want to thank her and you guys for giving me the opportunity to nominate her for something other than just being my trophy wife.


Matt Hrycyk

FishUSA
6960 West Ridge Rd.
Fairview, PA
FishUSA.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: 11 Years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Matt Hrycyk has played a significant part in the growth of FishUSA. Working for over nine years as a buyer, Matt worked with vendors such as Rapala, Shimano, Daiwa, and Pradco. To this day, many reps still ask about him and have nothing but wonderful things to say about their time working with him. At the end of 2022, as Matt approached retirement age, he couldn’t see himself ending his time with FishUSA and opted to transition into a part-time role in the FishUSA Pro-Shop where he gets to interact with customers and share his fishing stories and tips. Customers couldn’t be happier to have the chance to pick his brain about his experiences. Not only is Matt passionate about the company he works for, but he is just as passionate about the industry he works in and is still very much in touch with the happenings within the fishing world. When Matt isn’t working in the Pro-Shop, you will find him enjoying the outdoors mushroom hunting, fishing from his boat or marina docks, or out deer hunting. Matt has been working in the fishing industry for over 30 years with experience including owning a local tackle shop and over a decade working as a charter captain. Additionally, he was one of the founding members and served as the President of the Pennsylvania Steelhead Association.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Matt’s drive and dedication relating to his work is unmatched. He’s an individual that does not let challenges slow him down. He always takes the time to explain the details whether it be when training other employees or helping a customer prepare to go fishing. His passion is contagious, and his determination is inspiring.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? Matt’s experience and knowledge has given FishUSA a great advantage when it comes to expanding product lines and working with manufacturers to offer the best possible product to their customers.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? Matt is a great friend to our employees and customers alike. He always takes the time to both assist an individual when needed as well as get to know them personally.


John Kesler

Gunnison River Fly Shop
213 N. Main Street
Gunnison, Colorado
gunnisonflyshop.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: Since 2021

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? John is not only loved by our customers and staff, but he is also raved about by the clients he guides for both fly fishing and on the ice. He is truly a well-loved professional and works harder than anyone I’ve ever employed.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? John always goes out of his way to further our business. Winter is a very slow season in the shop, so we have limited hours, but John is always available to stop in and fulfill online orders or run other errands to keep business going. John is truly an asset and goes out of his way at a moment’s notice to help out. He also offers his home for guide meetings and throws a mean BBQ! John is a fast learner and is eager to teach new associates how to get things done. He also mentors new guides to get them ready for the real world experience.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? John covers so many aspects of things I don’t have time to do, I would be seriously handicapped without him! He is truly an invaluable asset to our organization.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? John is a true professional, family man, and has dedicated his life to fly fishing and the outdoors. He is a joy to be around and watch him interact with clients and fellow employees. I am truly blessed to have him on board.


Caleb Kinyon

Mud Hole Custom Tackle
2133 Component Loop, Suite 1001
Oviedo, FL
foundationoutdoorgroup.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: 2 Years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? Someone else’s “above and beyond” is Calebs normal work ethic. He has a way of connecting and relating with the customer that is unrivaled. Caleb takes immense pride in creating solutions and ensuring every interaction leads to a dedicated Mud Hole customer.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Caleb can frequently be found behind a rod bench, helping new rod builders learn the trade, or working to show experienced builders tips, tricks, and new techniques. Caleb is dedicated to delivering a differentiated experience and prides himself on being there for our customers. He has developed a following and has customers that will only collaborate with him.

How would the retail outlet be different without the nominee? Simply put, if Caleb were to move on, it would leave a void that would be difficult to fill. For the entire team and for the customers he works with every day.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? From an internal perspective, Caleb is the first one to volunteer for any task. He is willing to help anyone in need, whether that be here at work or outside of the office. His jovial spirit can be counted on to lighten the mood. His personality tends to draw folks to him, and his laughter can be heard throughout our showroom. Caleb has also displayed leadership traits and has become a “go to” for newer associates. He is readily available and always willing to step in and offer guidance to his teammates. He does this the same as everything else, with attention to detail and in a manner that is conducive to the development of the team.


Matt Meyer

K&K True Value Hardware
1818 Grant Street
Bettendorf, Iowa
kkhardware.shoptruevalue.com

Duration of nominee’s employment: 30 years

What makes the nominee a standout employee; why do you feel that they should be selected as the Retail Associate of the Year? He is known in the community and surrounding areas by so many anglers, as he is extremely helpful with time, suggestions, and getting customers what they need.

What are some examples of how the nominee has gone above and beyond standard expectations to serve the community beyond the retail outlet? Numerous organizations in our area have relied on him for help to support fish and conservation efforts in Iowa and Illinois. He donates his time, often unpaid, to help whenever needed. Most anglers in the area know him and look to him for help with getting products. He has physical limitations but is always willing to help employees.

Are there any other comments that you’d like us to consider about your nominee? Matt’s length of service at the same location, product knowledge, and reputation in the area are unmatched in today’s retail world.


Please visit our dedicated page for complete details and to nominate someone someone you know for the FTR Retail Associate of the Year promotion