Perserving the Brotherhood – Challenges and Solutions
To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite guys on facebook, Graham Allen…. “Dear America…this one’s gonna sting.”
It’s going to be very difficult to write this article and adequately articulate a trend in our hobby without sounding like I’m preaching. Thats, not my goal. I’m simply trying to start the conversation. It’s one that has been brought up in the past, but I’m hoping to do so in a different way with a different intent.
Two quick things:
- I’m just as guilty of some of the things mentioned here as others. This isn’t me saying “you need to change.” It’s me asking, “what can we do differently.”
- I’m sincerely interested in your feed back, so please leave your thoughts in the comment section below or on the social media page where you found the article.
Evolution of fishing and kayaks:
If you’ve been fishing very long, you’ve probably noticed that this hobby we love is going through an evolution. Most of us started fishing with a family member when we were young…Grandpa was usually the one sitting beside us showing us how to put a worm on a hook. Fast-forward a decade or so and you were probably sitting in a lawn chair on the bank waiting on the cats to start biting, or maybe walking the shoreline looking for bass. At this point in the hobby, we just wanted to catch some fish and hang with friends.
Fast-forward another 5 or 10 years and kayaks started showing up. At this point, everyone was paddling a crappy kayak. Why? Because they all sucked. Guess what…We loved them! We couldn’t get enough.
Then, slowly but inevitably, the divisions started.
- Hobie guys vs everyone else
- My brand vs your brand
- Paddlers vs Pedalers
- “Regular guys” vs Ambassadors
- Ambassadors vs Pro-staff
- Pro-staff vs YouTubers
- Youtubers vs the other YouTubers
- YouTubers vs Bloggers
- “Full-time guys” vs those that wanted to be full-time
- Fresh water guys vs saltwater guys
- Tournament guys vs weekend anglers
- Bass guys vs catfish guys.
- Motorized vs non-motorized
These divisions with in the hobby are rarely overt..but rather take the shape of a subtle comment or jab on a Facebook post. Death by a thousand cuts. I’m not suggesting everyone is guilty of these, nor am I saying that Pro-staff and Youtube are bad. I am, however, suggesting that the things mentioned in the list above are simply unimportant and not worth making another angler feel inferior.
What caused the division?
We used to feel that owning a kayak was much more than just a way to get off the bank. It was bond and a brotherhood with others in the hobby. Whether you knew the other kayaker or not, they were part of the brotherhood and treated as a friend. The good news is that, on the water, this is still pretty much the case, but on social media…well, that’s a different story. The cause, IMHO, is simple, Pride and selfishness. And by pride I mean snobs.
How many times have you seen this scenario play out?
Newbie – “I’m looking for a quality kayak under $500.”
Kayak community – “Can’t be done…you need an X.”
Sound familiar? That scenario is played out on Facebook every day, and it is demoralizing to the new guy wanting to get into our sport.
A $300 kayak from Academy equals freedom. Something our brotherhood is forgetting.
No…it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. No…you can’t stand in it. No..it probably doesn’t track perfectly. But the freedom it gives someone who has fished from the bank all their life is immeasurable.
The selfish side is much more subtle. Back when kayak fishing first started, we used to look at the bass boat guys and say “I hope our hobby never turns into that.” Well, I hate to tell you friends, but we are right on the verge. YouTube guys no longer do it to help others, they do it to get famous or to earn that coveted lable on the jersey. The type of kayak you paddle has become a status symbol. And tournaments…well, thats a whole different blog post.
So here are my questions for you…and for me.
- Why did you get into the hobby? Did you see the labels on the pro-staffers jersey and say to yourself…”One day…I’m gonna have a plastic company logo on my shirt.” Probably not.
- What was your first kayak? Did you buy the best one you could afford? Do you think the new guys are doing the same thing?
- What matters most when buying a kayak? The brand or the person’s body type and fishing style?
- If kayak companies had a rule that said “You can’t tell anyone you’re on our pro-staff” would you sign up for it?
- Here’s one that I’ve asked myself for the better part of a year and a half – If you’re on Youtube, what is your goal. Money…Notoriety…Sponsors…? If it’s money, I can assure you that the time invested vs the money earned is far far below the minimum wage. Notoriety/Fame? Pick the most well-known person in our hobby and the average fisherman has no idea who they are. Sponsorships? Many times this is just a pride thing.
While this was once a brotherhood, I believe it is one that is slowly dying.
So, what’s the solution? I think we need to first acknowledge the problem. Secondly, I think we need to be aware that those new to our hobby represent the growth and future of kayak fishing. If we tell them that they must by brand X to have a decent kayak, we are essentially telling them that they do not meet our standards. Third, I think companies should start calling their “pro-staff” by its full name…”Promotional Staff!” I also believe that the Promotional Staff should not receive any kind of compensation for 1 year. No discounts. No free Stuff. No jersey. No label. (Told you it was going to sting.) And last…we need to start listening to those who ask for help, and answer based on what is best for their situation and not our personal preferences.
Our hobby is at a crossroad right now, and the choices that we make as a group will determine whether or not it’s a welcoming environment or a selfish arrogant one.
I am going to extend this invitation to everyone reading this. I’m also going to challenge you to do the same. Copy it if you want to or write your own version…just post it on Facebook to your friends.
If you are reading this, I would love to fish with you sometime. It doesn’t matter what kayak you paddle or what your experience level is…if you bring a good attitude and a love for the outdoors, you are always welcome on any of my fishing trips. I’m happy to share my knowledge and am eager to learn from you. Message me with questions or if you just want to plan a fishing trip. Tight Lines!
Want to read our follow up article? 4 Easy Ways to Positively Impact the Sport
Now I want to hear from you. Agree…disagree? Suggestions on the next steps?