Professional bass fishing sponsors continue to pave the way for bass fishing to be a part of our national conscience.
Pro fishing and sponsorships are inseparable; they're everywhere you look. Between the MLF and B.A.S.S. circuits, we can see nearly every one of the best brand names in the fishing industry huddled together on the shirts, backdrops, and boats to make a name for themselves.
Since before the days when Lauri Rapala carved his first "Original Floater," fishermen have been looking for the next big thing that would help put fish in the boat.
These prestigious and modern angling gear companies have been putting our greedy little fishing hands on some of the best baits, rod and reel combos, electronics, and anything else we can think of to make our fish experience that much better and more successful.
And the best part? The most successful of these brands have become so due to their quality gear and by gaining the trust of professional anglers worldwide. Now it's time to pay some respect to the brand names that keep us on the water, and with a full livewell.
All Those Logos
When I was a young lad watching the very few fishing shows that were available on television, it seemed like it was 10 minutes of fishing and 20 minutes of advertising for the brand names that were sponsoring the show. And that estimate wouldn't be too far off. The fact is that without the sponsorships, there would have been exactly zero fishing shows on television!
While the same stood true for the few hunting and other outdoor shows that actually made it to the airwaves, we've come a heckuva long way since those days.
There's a lot of great fishing that both cable and network TV, not to mention streaming, has to offer. Pro tournaments, even the biggest of the season, can be viewed in high definition, live in real or near-real time, and we actually get excited now to see what it is these fishing brands have in store for us to help us get as good as our favorite pro angler.
The most enterprising anglers get sponsored, ideally by things they use and trust, and they're eager to mention them while vying for tournament wins on the pro circuits.
It's true that the best of the best angling gear manufacturers have their names adorned alongside both Bassmaster and MLF, not to mention the FLW. When the name of the game is to create and market gear that works, looks good, or fills a need for the angling community, these brands have found ways to stay atop the list.
B.A.S.S. lists as sponsors some of the most vaunted brands you can think of, including Toyota, Berkley, Talon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Ranger Boats, Abu Garcia, Yamaha, and supporting sponsors HUK, Carhartt, Mossy Oak, Rapala, and Nationwide.
For the MLF and FLW it's a who's who of sponsors such as Abu Garcia, Bally, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, General Tire, Lowrance, Mercury, Toyota, Toro, Googan Baits, Power Pole, YETI, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Federal, Sig Sauer, Rapala, Strike King, and many more.
The Big Names Attached to the Big Names
Listing every pro angler's sponsorships would be way too exhaustive. Instead we'll narrow things down to a few recognizable individuals and some consistent brand names. The current top four anglers in the MLF are some of the best and brightest names in pro fishing.
Jordan Lee is currently sponsored by: Berkley, Abu Garcia, Ranger, Yamaha, Lowrance, Carhartt, T-H Marine, Native Kayak, Yakima.
Jacob Wheeler has deals with: Academy Sports+Outdoors, Realtree Fishing, Googan Baits, Duckett Fishing, Toyota, Rapala, 13 Fishing, Triton Boats, Wiley X, Igloo Coolers, frogg toggs, Wieda's Marine, VMC, Sufix, Magellan, Bob's Machine Shop.
Bryan Thrift has signed sponsorships with: Fitzgerald, Abu Garcia, P-Line, Damiki, Berkeley, Minn Kota, Sportsmans Warehouse, HUK, T-H Marine, Costa, Z-Man, Relion Batteries, Baitfuel, Plano.
Kevin VanDam is a representative of these brands: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Strike King, Lew's, Nitro, Mercury, Humminbird, Minn-Kota, Mustad, YETI, T-H Marine, Mossy Oak, Thermacell, Plano, Costa.
On the Bassmaster side, the current top anglers are performing tourney after tourney and they show allegiance to even more top brands.
David Mullins has gone with: Shimano, Frogg Toggs, Bass Mafia Tackle, Doomsday Tackle Company, Nichols Lures, Power Pole, and more.
John Cox has current sponsorships with: Berkley, Abu Garcia, Crestliner, Leupold, Mercury, Simms, and more.
Micah Frazier is a representative of brands like: Mercury, Frazier Fishing, Coca Cola, Gamakatzu, Lowrance, Ranger, and more.
Stetson Blaylock has signed deals with the likes of: Booyah, Magellan Outdoors, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Gamakatsu, RealTree Fishing, Seaguar, and more.
As you can see, sponsorships for these elite pros is of the utmost importance to both the anglers and the viewing public. Without these deals, a competitor's jersey might feel a little less like a billboard, but we also may not have become aware of the brands, gear, and equipment that we've come to know and love.
It's something even the founders of competitive fishing knew and took advantage of. Go back as far as you like, to Roland Martin, Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and the like. The fact remains that these fishing greats needed some sponsorship to get started, and the rest of us are arguably better bass anglers for it.