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Pete Weighs In

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Fast Times at Fishmont High

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December 16, 2014

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I’m thinking these shoes would be splendid with the redfish socks that I wrote about earlier this month. Spicoli would be proud. After I win the Classic while wearing them, me and Mick will wing on over to London and jam with the Stones.

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Johnny Went Shopping: Unanswered Questions on the Purchase of Ranger Boats

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December 15, 2014

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I’m not sure why the purchase of Ranger Boats and related companies by the Bass Pro Shops mega-empire shocked me. In recent years, every time some big fishing entity went up for sale, or was rumored to be up for sale, the constant refrain was, “Johnny Morris will buy it.” It’s no rumor that he’s got big bucks and a long history in the sport, but I guess we were so used to others making the big splashes that we figured he’d be content to operate his 8,246 Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Stores and travel the world chasing creatures both furry and finny.

Now that it appears the sale will likely go through, I’ll assume for the time being that the rollout plan was entirely truthful, and that the Arkansas boat company/ies will operate separately from the Bass Pro parts of his world. All of us reasonably believed that the private equity company that sold it to him wasn’t in the boat biz for the long haul – they wanted to trim operating costs, extract value, take some management fees and then ring the cash register on a big profit. Morris, on the other hand, will likely want to take an iconic brand like Ranger and put his stamp on it while also using it to extend his multi-billion (with a “b”) dollar reach.

For the purposes of our little corner of the world, here are the story lines and characters I plan to watch out for:

  1. KVD – Since this is a Wall Street driven deal, I’ll use Wall Street jargon in calling KVD the “BSD” of the bass fishing world. He’s been the Nitro poster boy for over two decades and has not been sponsored by any other boat company during his unparalleled career. Is there any chance he ends up in a Ranger? If Johnny’s margin on an “R” boat is higher than his margin on a Nitro, will he make an effort to push more of the former out the door? If so, can he convince his number one pitchman to lead that effort?
  2. Cabela’s – If Bass Pro Shops is Coca Cola, then Cabela’s is Pepsi. Does Morris really want his number one competitor selling Rangers, as they already do in many locations? If not, what does that do to the long-term viability of Cabela’s sponsorships for pros including David Walker, Mike McClelland, James Niggemeyer and Clark Wendlandt, all of whom run boats now manufactured in a BPS-owned factory?
  3. Stratos, Triton Aluminum, Ranger Aluminum – I fully expected Stratos to go away even before Morris purchased the group, but now that he has four brands of glass bass boats, at some point he’s just cannibalizing his own sales. Ranger, Triton and Nitro all have their loyal clienteles, but the positioning of Stratos as the “bargain boat” no longer seems to make any sense. On the aluminum side, Tracker is clearly the industry sales leader, with an exceptionally wide range of quality/size/layout. Why does he need two more lines of aluminum boats, where there’s unlikely to be the margin that exists on the glass boats?
  4. The FLW Tour – Morris is already in bed with BASS as a sponsor of the Opens, but with the FLW Tour seemingly ripe for the picking in an age of declining tour-wide and individual angler sponsorships, now would seem to be a good time for Morris to swoop in and flex his muscles to rebuild that tour. He could establish it as a worthy competitor to the Elite Series, and insofar as it offers the Rayovacs, BFLs and Federation, it gives him a platform to push his brands much in the way that FLW previously operated primarily for the benefit of Ranger owners. Wal-Mart had skin in the game for a long time, but all of the FLW competitors use – or could use – BPS products every day on the water, and it would be a good opportunity to force his clothing, rods/reels and other services upon them.
  5. Evinrude/Yamaha – Someone told me the other day that Bass Pro Shops is the second biggest purchaser of Mercury outboards in the world. Even if that’s not precisely true, there’s no doubt that they buy a ton of black motors. Have you seen a recent-vintage Nitro with anything but a Mercury? Now he can take what I assume is a tremendous amount of leverage and expand it even further, packaging Mercs with Triton, Ranger and whatever else remains of his new acquisitions. If you can get a Ranger with a 250 Merc for a certain price and a Ranger with a 250 ‘Rude or Yamahammer for $2,500 more, which way are you going to go? What does that mean for those companies’ slice of the bass boat market?

I don’t have the answers, and I’m curious to see how this all turns out.

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Last Updated on Monday, 15 December 2014 17:10
 

Paying the Price for More than Kindling

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December 11, 2014

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I’m a voracious reader, averaging a couple of books a month, and when I go on the once-a-year-sit-my-ass-in-a-chair-and-drink-umbrella-drinks vacation I might go through five or six in a week. In recent years, this process has been made easier by my Kindle. No longer is my luggage weighed down by hundreds of pages of paper.
The downside to this is that I no longer look so erudite at home. Rather than filling the shelves with the volumes I read, they end up with knick-knacks and the old lady’s rooster figurines. I’ve read hundreds of books without creating any dog-eared physical evidence of that achievement.
I’m still a book geek, though, and there are certain volumes that I want in paper, despite the added weight. I like to be able to look at them on the book shelf and occasionally pull them down for a quick read or fact check. Thus, despite the fact that the Kindle version of Steve Price’s new book The Fish That Changed America: True Stories about the People Who Made Largemouth Bass Fishing an All-American Sport is $13.99 and the hardcover version is $19.87 from Amazon, I decided to go with the latter. With 42 chapters on all of the big hitters (except the Dalai Lama), it promises to be one I’ll return to on more than one occasion. If I don’t finish it on the flight down to my upcoming Cancun vacation, I’ll do so by the pool. If I spill a bit of a Mai Tai or Bahama Mama on its pages, I’ll have to live with that.

I’m a voracious reader, averaging a couple of books a month, and when I go on the once-a-year-sit-my-ass-in-a-chair-and-drink-umbrella-drinks vacation I might go through five or six in a week. In recent years, this process has been made easier by my Kindle. No longer is my luggage weighed down by hundreds of pages of paper. 

The downside to this is that I no longer look so erudite at home. Rather than filling the shelves with the volumes I read, they end up with knick-knacks and the old lady’s rooster figurines. I’ve read hundreds of books without creating any dog-eared physical evidence of that achievement. 

I’m still a book geek, though, and there are certain volumes that I want in paper, despite the added weight. I like to be able to look at them on the book shelf and occasionally pull them down for a quick read or fact check. Thus, despite the fact that the Kindle version of Steve Price’s new book The Fish That Changed America: True Stories about the People Who Made Largemouth Bass Fishing an All-American Sport is $13.99 and the hardcover version is $19.87 from Amazon, I decided to go with the latter. With 42 chapters on all of the big hitters (except the Dalai Lama), it promises to be one I’ll return to on more than one occasion. If I don’t finish it on the flight down to my upcoming Cancun vacation, I’ll do so by the pool. If I spill a bit of a Mai Tai or Bahama Mama on its pages, I’ll have to live with that.

 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 07:57
 

Gut Check

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December 9, 2014

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Attend enough bass fishing seminars or read a bunch of bass articles and sooner rather than later some pro hawger is going to tell you to "trust your instincts." Clearly, at times it makes sense to throw out the textbook and what was happening a minute ago and try something different. If you were planning to head down the lake, there's not necessarily anything wrong with making a sudden left or right turn if the little voice inside your head tells you to do it. Worked for Randy Howell at the 2014 Classic and it might work for you, too.

Of course, this presumes that you have at least some of the same instincts and experience as Howell or David Dudley or Greg Hackney, some of the other pros I've heard espouse this theory. Most of us don't. In fact, most of us don't have even a fraction of their good instincts or their know-how. What do you do if your instincts suck?

I suppose if you zig when you should've zagged enough times, you learn over time that your you're someone who needs to follow the recipe rather than improvise. If you figure that out, more power to you. If you can use it selectively, and occasionally go with your gut, even better. The ones I really feel sorry for are the anglers who always think they have the right gut feelings but never do.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 08:37
 

A Man of Many Talents

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December 4, 2014

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In addition to holding down the fort at GYCB, all-American good guy Ron Colby is singlehandedly keeping the legend of the Pete Weighs In patch alive. What's wrong with you slackers? I need pics of the patch adjacent to your herculean feats, too.

There are still a few patches available. If you'd like one (and you live within range of a first-class stamp), email me at Pete_Robbins AT hotmail dot com and I'll get one out in the mail quickly at no charge to you. All I ask in return is that you act like Mr. Colby and send me pics of it atop your hunting trophies, big fish, roadkill dinners, dance club conquests and other feats of strength and guile.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 13:39
 

Red Feet

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December 2, 2014

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I’m a big fan of piscatorial anatomically correct clothing. I’ve got Buffs in both mahi-mahi and bonefish patterns. One of my favorite fishing shirts is a Columbia PFG long sleeve that likewise looks like a mahi. I wouldn’t be opposed to a gift of some of Bass King’s largemouth bass scaled board shorts. I’d also like to add something with a redfish tint to my wardrobe.

With all of that established, I think that Guy Harvey may have crossed the line with these redfish socks. I love the concept, but they’re just a bit too garish, even for an attention-seeker like me.

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Truth in Advertising

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December 1, 2014

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As you complete your gift requests and holiday shopping this year, just remember you don’t always get
what you ask for. I’m almost always happy when I receive Japanese tackle, but I suspect that some poor
bloke will be severely disappointed when he opens the package and finds this lure from Tiemco.
As you complete your gift requests and holiday shopping this year, just remember you don’t always get what you ask for. I’m almost always happy when I receive Japanese tackle, but I suspect that some poor 
bloke will be severely disappointed when he opens the package and finds this lure from Tiemco.

 

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Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

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November 25, 2014

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It flew a little bit below the average basser’s radar, but last week BassFan reported that its parent company, Intermedia Outdoors, had been acquired by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE). While most sports fans might not consider Kroenke’s founder, Stan Kroenke, to be a household name like George Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones he’s an ultra powerful titan of the sports galaxy. Among other holdings, KSE owns the St. Louis Rams, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, (along with John Elway) Arena Football’s Colorado Crush, and Denver’s Pepsi Center, as well as a substantial share of Premier League football club Arsenal.

In 2012, Sports Illustrated called him “the most powerful man in sports.” They also reported that he could bench press 225 pounds 12 times (at age 65). He’s also married to Ann Walton – as in, the Waltons who founded Wal-Mart. Talk about charmed lives, he’s got one.

I don’t know how much he knows or cares about bass fishing, but he and his cohort must have some appreciation of the outdoors in general because they already owned the Outdoor Channel and a large percentage of the World Fishing Network.

Time and again, we’ve seen otherwise successful people and entities dip a toe (or more) into our world and get nothing but cold feet after a while. ESPN, for instance, bought B.A.S.S. and today’s groupthink seems to believe that they didn’t know what they had or what they could do with it – thus their exit sale about a decade later.

I’ve written about some of these failed investments, and speculated as to why they have not succeeded, but the bottom line is that plenty of smart and hyper-successful people want at least a plate at the table of bass fishing. These aren’t formerly unemployed lottery winners who buy Harleys and plastic surgery, and then elect to spend the remainder in the bait biz. These are seasoned veterans of Wall Street and industry, people like Irwin Jacobs, T. Boone Pickens, Jim Copeland and Don Logan. Every time I think that trend has run its course, another one jumps into the mix. Clearly there is some long term monster value to be mined from our little backwoods enterprise – these guys wouldn’t be stepping up to the plate otherwise. The question is who is truly going to unlock the monster.

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Roster Cuts

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November 24, 2014

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Back in the late 90s, when I worked for a big law firm, there was a partner there who spent large portions of his day reading Golf Digest. Every few hours, he’d get a cup of coffee, roam the hallways and stop and chat with anyone who was available to talk. He was a genuinely nice guy, and he was able to pursue this life of semi-leisure because a few years earlier he’d roped one of the firm’s biggest clients, an entity in his home state that generated tons of billable hours at hundreds of dollars per hour.

The client was a cash cow, and the partner didn’t have to do much to generate cash for himself. I’m sure he’d bill a few hours here and there, but because he had a hundred of us monkeys crashing on a hundred typewriters full time, all of the funds that effort generated were attributed to him. As we worked, he earned. It’s a brilliant setup, and one that enabled him to purchase an exquisite million plus dollar house, back when a million bucks really meant something.

Eventually, both his partners and his client got smart and realized that they could cut him out of the deal. One day he was catching up on Golf Digest, the next day he was out on the street looking for work.

I felt bad for him because he was a nice guy who had always been a straight shooter with me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What the hell had he been doing with all of that free time?” Couldn’t he have made an effort to develop additional clients? If not, shouldn’t he have been working on his skills, rather than just his golf game? Every time I think about him now, I can’t help but think of the aphorism that “If you’re coasting, you’re probably going downhill.”

I was reminded of that situation recently when FLW announced that certain major sponsors would likely not be back in 2015, and that the team deals associated with them would likewise be gone. Multiple pros who’d depended on those deals for years seemed surprised that they were now going to have to fund their tour seasons out of their own pockets if they couldn’t replace their tour-provided title sponsors. In articles about the announcement, several of the pros seemed genuinely shocked that this had happened and thoroughly confused about how or whether they’d be able to replace the expected income.

Granted, the timing of the announcement was unfortunate. If it had happened back in August or September, it would’ve given those anglers more time to seek out other deals. Make no mistake, though – there’s no good time to lose a deal. On top of that, I seem to remember that in the past some contracts had been renewed after the next year’s tournament deposits were due. Unless you’re operating under a multi-year contract, or one where you have the sole option to renew an expiring agreement, doesn’t it make sense to assume that you won’t have it back the next year? In other words, shouldn’t these pros always be planning for a rainy day?

Some of them, like Luke Clausen, have already replaced their disappearing deals with new ones (although it’s unclear whether the new ones will be more, less or equally financially rewarding). Some, like superstar veteran Larry Nixon, are sure to land on their feet one way or another. Still others may find a last-minute replacement or may have been cultivating relationships that will allow them to continue. Nevertheless, I’d bet that at some point in the not-too-distant future we’re going to hear about someone who had to go back to another profession as a result of the loss of one of these team deals. I don’t wish that on anybody – I’m sure whoever it is has a better-than-even chance of being a top flight fisherman and an all-around good guy and it’s sad to see a promising career extinguished.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be surprised by who the victim/s might be. Looking down the list of the recently-disgarded, I see a few pros who despite substantial on-the-water achievements are exceptionally unsavvy when it comes to media engagement and self-promotion. While they were under the cover of their team deals, they had the security to develop skills and develop relationships that might benefit them in the future, but in some of their cases they essentially just sat around and read Golf Digest.

 

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Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 10:10
 

Peace Through Superior Firepower

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November 21, 2014

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I'm going to start keeping this picture in my wallet. The next time some non-fishing do-gooder tells me that my 250 Pro XS is "too much" or "unnecessary," I'll just show them this scene from Venice Marina -- two boats which boast a total of 2100 ponies, over four times as much per boat as are strapped to the back of my Bass Cat. No wonder most of the offshore boats in Venice charge a day rate plus your fuel bill.

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Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 07:42
 
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