I have spent my 34 years in the sport fishing industry working primarily at the national and state levels. Our work has consisted of helping our trade associations, marketing and conservation non-profits, and state fisheries agencies improve the quality and quantity of fishing and tackle sales opportunities everywhere. Whether providing more fish to catch, more anglers to pursue those fish, or easier access to fishing, there have been many successes and some failures over the years.

Overall, I challenge anyone to tell us fishing overall is in a worse state than it was back in the 1980s which did not happen by accident. The key words so far are “some failures.” Like any good organization, we need to examine our failures to understand how to do better. And believe me, we do that constantly.

I’m not going to devote this whole column to listing every failure and possible solution. Instead, let’s focus on those failures that we, the readers of Fishing Tackle Retailer, are positioned to address.

In my opinion—and you might disagree—the biggest factor holding back our success is engagement support by the entire industry. While we continue to make great strides in congress and state legislatures, there have been times that a little bit more support, whether it was a phone call or attending hearings in person, would have been to our advantage. We are constantly in competition with well-funded organizations whose best-intentioned efforts may not be the best for sportfishing. These could be organizations fighting for water for agriculture, competing for limited funding for highway or education programs, and more. After all, we are all more than anglers, we are also citizens who have other needs, too. With that soapbox aside, let’s focus on improving fishing’s lot.

The readers of this magazine all have a vested interest in maintaining sportfishing opportunities. There are many challenges facing us and being argued in congress and in state legislatures. Do not sit on the sidelines. Subscribe to the American Sportfishing Association’s Keep America Fishing (KAF) program. It’s free. Encourage your customers to do the same. When a call for action is issued, it takes no more than a minute to send a note to your senator and congressional representative using KAF’s easy-to-use links. It’s your future. Why not?

The American Sportfishing Association spends a significant amount of time talking to legislators to improve and protect fishing opportunities. Too few retailers are engaged. I get it. My wife owns a retail business, and we know our business interests usually end about 10 miles away from our location, But, events in Washington DC and our state capitals certainly impact the fishing opportunities near each and every tackle retailer. Whether it is related to clean water, fisheries funding, or tax issues, any issue that affects anglers or others on the supply chain definitely impact the retail level. Elected officials are much more likely to respond and help when they hear from local businesses and anglers.

We also sit in the sidelines and watch others try to increase sportfishing participation. We all know fishing is a local activity. Very few anglers leave the house and travel more than an hour for most fishing trips. Anything you can do in your community to increase fishing participation benefits the entire industry. If you are a retailer, you benefit directly. But many retailers are still not engaged in youth and adult fishing education efforts. These can be held in your store after hours or can be held at a nearby pond or pier, often in support of volunteer organizations that organize these events and carry most of the burden. There are many resources available to you to make the task easier. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation has many materials and services available to you free of charge. Check them out online. After all, more anglers in your community means more business for you.

Usually, our attention at Southwick Associates is focused on consumer and business trends. However, just having spent a few days in Washington DC reviewing previous successes but also seeing how greater success could be attained if we had full support from all levels of the industry, I just had to jump on the soapbox this month. For the future of your business, please get involved as best as you can and grow your business!

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer.