Move The Needle

Are you moving the needle? Moving the needle is an idiom that means to make a change that is noticeable, to alter or modify something so that the effect of your action is measurable. Most often, to “move the needle” is used in a positive sense, meaning to make progress toward a goal. So, I ask again, “Are you moving the needle?”

In our industry moving the needle should be to increase sales, grow one’s brand, and bring more folks into the sport. Ultimately, the latter should be the true focus for our sport but growing the sport and retaining those who are already in is generally overlooked. Most companies seek to grow their brands. They do this by endorsements from top fishing elites. Names like Bill Dance, Kevin Van Dam, Ott Defoe, Edwin Evers, and Mike Iaconelli are among a few who are pursued for this purpose. There are many others like the Jones (Sr. & Jr.), Lee, Wheeler, Reese, and a boatload of others who are depended upon to gain brand exposure.  Having these names associated with one’s brand is an effective means to an end but to what end? They are growing brand recognition but are they really growing the sport? Most who recognize these names are already in the sport.

Today we are facing the harsh reality of declining fishing license sales. The Covid boom is over, and folks are seeking other activities to spend their time. Why are they leaving and what can we do to keep and bring in new anglers? I ask myself this almost daily and the solution might be found in one word, education. Covid brought in millions of new anglers yet, many have left or are leaving. This should not be happening, but it is, and we all feel it. If everyone that picked up fishing during covid was properly educated on habitat, equipment, techniques, etc., there is a strong likelihood that they would still be fishing.

I believe in and am consumed with the importance of education. From birth until the time I left my parents, education was pushed. I remember both my parents saying, “Education is where your future lies.” I took golf lessons, tennis lessons, baseball lessons, piano lessons and so on. I was always being taught something pertaining to the finer points of a sport or an interest. I was taught how to properly hold my fork, how to address others, and how to act in public. My entire childhood was full of coaching, teaching, and learning. Now here I am running Fishing’s Future, one of the nation’s top fishing education organizations, and it is named Fishing’s Future because all it does is fishing education.

I see education as the future of our sport, and I encourage you to do the same. Run an educational session on a product and see if you don’t sell out of that item. For example, pick bobbers and talk about their usages. There are several different bobbers styles to choose from. A beginning angler goes into a store and sees round bobber, spring bobber, stick bobber, slip bobber, cigar float, popping cork in all shapes and sizes. They are faced with deciding upon which one to buy and which one will fit their need. They are confused and their ignorance may lead them to purchase the wrong bobber or worse, walk away in frustration swearing off the sport completely. We all know that a bobber does two things: it keeps bait suspended and it acts as a strike indicator. It is not that hard but the daunting variety on the market leads to buyer confusion when they don’t fully understand each specific application different bobbers were designed to address. Case in point, last year I received a call from an individual living in Connecticut. He expressed that he was new to fishing and he had recently purchased a fishing rod combo, some worms, hooks, a bag of sinkers and a bobber. He went to the local lake and sure enough he saw his bobber dance around several times, but he was never able to hook up. On several occasions he would retrieve his line and would find his hook stripped of bait.  I asked him to describe the hook he was using and suggested he try fishing with a smaller hook.  A few days later I received an email with a picture of several bluegills and a thank you.

I moved the needle for this beginning angler. He was becoming frustrated and sought some kind of education. Most are too proud to go back into a shop and ask for guidance, so they leave their fishing equipment in the garage and return to familiar territory. This is not the end goal we want. Keeping and bringing new anglers into the sport should always be our pursuit. If we do our part, the other two end goals will take care of themselves.

Fishing’s Future is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing families closer together through fishing education. For more information on Fishing’s Future visit Fishingsfuture.org.