May 22, 2012
Wandering the pier at National Harbor on Sunday, waiting for the final day weigh-in of the FLW Tour’s Potomac River tournament, I saw Jay Yelas and I did a double-take.
When I think of Jay, the image that comes to mind is of him in his black/white/red Skeeter jersey, coupled with a pair of black pants or shorts. That was his uniform back when he and KVD were the two fastest-rising stars on the BASS circuit, before the whole Busch AOY flap and his move to FLW. Seeing him in his Chevy jersey with a Ranger logo prominently displayed threw me for a loop.
From what I can tell, Jay doesn’t have a mean or malicious bone in his body, and seems to be generally respected by his peers, so there’s no need to fault his decision to change boat sponsors or tours. It was, I’m sure, a business decision. But it made me wonder, is there any longtime successful bass pro out there who’s kept the same general stable of sponsors for the entirety of his career? I’m not talking about minor deals, but rather the large ticket items – boat, motor, rods, reels, baits.
Off the top of my head:
Denny Brauer? Left Daiwa for Ardent reels.
Rick Clunn? Was with Glastron and Skeeter before joining the Nitro team.
Roland Martin? After his much-publicized split with Ranger, went to Triton and now runs a Nitro.
Larry Nixon? Also left Daiwa for the Pure Fishing umbrella.
Again, none of this is meant to cast blame on either the anglers or the former/current sponsors. Everyone may have had valid reasons for terminating the partnerships. But in an increasingly competitive industry, one that occasionally seems less stable, it’s harder and harder to keep the band together over a 20 or 30 year run.
The one guy who has managed to keep his team intact, though, is KVD. On the one hand, that’s not surprising because if you were Strike King or Nitro or Mercury, wouldn’t you fight like hell to keep him happy, at any semi-reasonable price? On the other hand, I’d figure someone would have come along and poached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. From what I can tell, Nitro, Merc, Strike King and Quantum have all been with him for the two-plus decades he’s been around. Looking back at old photos, it appears that at some point he was with Trilene and now he’s not, but even though line is critical, somehow it just doesn’t feel as essential to his image. Similarly, I seem to remember him being on the Chevy pro team years ago (is that correct?) and now Toyota is a centerpiece of his operations – still, it just feels like he’s been stable with respect to his core, in a way that others haven’t – or wouldn’t.