After all of the excitement of releasing new products at ICAST, something hit me, and it left me feeling a little flat after the show.
Where has our professionalism gone as an industry?
Not to put anyone down, our industry is full of highly talented people who can create products that revolutionize an industry. However, when I look around the halls of a show like ICAST and see people in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops like they are on an afternoon outing at the beach, I feel somewhat embarrassed for our industry.
It wasn’t so long ago that ICAST was strictly a suit-and-tie occasion; if you weren’t dressed the part, you didn’t get into the room. Then, as things began to turn toward business casual, we as a whole dropped the business from our appearance and now we look like we could be sitting by the pool with the kids.
Sadly, a lot of what I saw came from some of my Elite Series counterparts, many of them, individuals who are still on the lookout for the sponsorship arrangements that can solidify not only their careers but their lives.
I’m not trying to single anyone out, per se, but as a whole, the Elite Series competitor is supposed to be the “cream of the crop” of professional anglers. We are the ones who are supposed to set the bar higher, both on and off of the water for everyone to see. When we don’t come dressed for a meeting, I believe we diminish our effectiveness as professionals and ambassadors.
Every one of us has worked hard to cultivate our brands, be it my trademark yellow and black color scheme or the next guy, who has built his image on colors or a specific product. Professionalism needs to be a part of that equation.
I looked around the room and saw anglers I respect — those who have gone before me — who came to ICAST in slacks and dress shoes, with jerseys on, or sponsors’ logos on a collared, button-down shirt, and saw their professionalism. These are the anglers we should continue to emulate as they are those who have set the mark of professionalism, both on and off the water, for years.
I also saw anglers in shorts, torn jeans and beach sandals sitting in meeting rooms planning marketing strategies, when they were more prepared to be at a concert in Margaritaville. There is a time and place for that look — when we are on the water competing in the sun — but not in the boardroom.
Again, I have no intention of singling any one person or group of people out, but at a time when sponsors are pulling out, organizations are reducing schedules to accommodate down economies and anglers are doing everything they can to keep competing on the highest level, we need heightened professionalism.
As Elite Series pros, and as industry representatives, the public’s first view of our sport’s professionalism comes from us. I guarantee that I’ll be the first one to change into the beach bum uniform after the show is over, but we need to commit to professionalism now more than ever.