So far pro bass fishing’s “silly season” of sponsorship announcements has been pretty mild. There have been a few small tackle deals here and there, some comparatively inconsequential (at least to the fans) non-endemics, but no tree-shaking, yeti-slaughtering acts of commerce that’ll change the landscape.
That might change sometime after the New Year.
While a massive non-endemic deal (“That’s Palaniuk, brought to you by Google” or “Look at Skeet in his Mercury-powered Tesla-wrapped boat”) would be big, we’re more likely to see something related to a switch from one boat company to another (note: I used those two anglers above as hypotheticals. I have no reason to believe that either will switch boats this year).
Of course, every year there are a few defectors and switcheroos. Boat companies go out of business (see, e.g., Cajun/ProCraft/Astro), forcing their pros to find new homes. Conversely, new companies might rise like a Phoenix, luring otherwise comfortable anglers into a new home. Those of you old enough to remember when Triton emerged in the late 90s will recall that they made a massive push to accumulate pro staff at both the national and the regional level. Earl Bentz convinced lots of big names to move, just as Gary Clouse did more recently. The mid-2018 commencement of the Vexus production line might not have the same immediate impact as those two did, but you can be sure that Mr. Daffron and Mr. Hopper will bring some of their longtime friends and some other top sticks into the fold.
The wild card in all of this is White River’s acquisition of Legend. Are the Legend pros all going to leave, or will some of them stay in last year’s brand? If they leave, where are they going to go? You have to assume that Johnny Morris will have the pick of the litter, as not only can he light his cigars with the money that his competitors rely upon for operations, but also because various Legend pros are otherwise intertwined with Bass Pro Shops products. If they leave the fold, they might lose those deals at the door.
So who do you think is going to make a move? My guess is that the overall numbers won’t be huge, but that a few major names will be getting some seat time in an unfamiliar craft.
If you have any tips on this that prove to be true, I’ll send you your choice of a Glastron patch vest (not really), a Bumble Bee trucker hat (not really) or a Pete Weighs In patch (sure).