Can we already agree that 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging, most difficult and likely even worst years of our lives? I’m on board with that … but certainly not yet ready to give up on 2020. We still have nearly eight full months to pull this thing out of the dumpster and turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. We’d be fools, quitters and defeatists if we didn’t try.

Every day I get calls from all corners of the fishing industry — retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, guides, tournament anglers — and every day I get asked the same questions.

  1. “What’s happening out there?”
  2. “How’s the industry doing?”
  3.  “What are you hearing?”
  4.  “Have you heard …?”

Well, in order, my answers are:

(1) There’s a lot happening out there — too much to put into one simple, straightforward answer. It seems that people are fishing in pretty good numbers … at least where they’re allowed to fish. Fortunately, states offering limited or restricted opportunities are opening up, and it’s getting easier to go fishing. Perhaps there will be consequences for the officials that closed fishing or made it more difficult. Maybe it made sense in some places — I don’t know — but where it didn’t….

(2) Most of the industry is suffering a great deal. Sales are down, supply chains are disrupted, key personnel have been furloughed (or worse), some retailers and manufacturers will never reopen their doors. But online sales are up by several multiples of what they usually are. Retailers who effectively embraced e-commerce are now reaping those rewards and are staying viable. Some are making a go of it through online or phone sales and curbside pickup. It’s a mixed bag, but these are extremely challenging times.

(3) What has not slowed during the pandemic is the rumor mill. It has doubled production during what has otherwise been a “down-time.” Rumors of manufacturers shutting down their operations abound, as do rumors of giant companies buying big companies and big companies buying little companies.

Count on the strong finding ways to capitalize on their strength during these times. This is not evil or even unfortunate, nor should it be condemned. We all work and want to be the best versions of ourselves and for our efforts to succeed. To criticize the strong is to admit to being weak. Let’s have none of that.

The one thing I know about rumors is that they’re not true … until they are. In the fishing industry, it seems that a rumor needs to fly around for a few weeks or months until some variation of it — barely recognizable from the original — actually materializes and comes true.

I’ve chased these rumors many times, asked those “in-the-know” what’s going on and have mostly learned that the people who tell you they know the facts are just pretending to be in the loop. The folks at the highest levels — the ones who make the decisions — tend to be pretty tight-lipped.

The best confirmation of a rumor comes in the form of a press release. As the dust settles from COVID-19, I expect we’ll see quite a few.

And I hope that the releases address the elephant in the room — that the industry has taken a blow and that everyone needs a little understanding … a little help. Without it, the road back will be much harder.

(4) Yes, I heard that rumor. It’s not true … at least not yet.