Past examples of our Best on Tour Newsletter.

Is your tournament fishing a business?

It is October and you and your partner just won the year end championship and the $20,000 cash prize that goes with it.  You drive home from the lake thinking about a new Lowrance Ghost Trolling Motor or Garmin Livescope along with something to keep your wife happy for letting you be gone in the first place.  Maybe even a down payment on that new Skeeter FXR you have been looking at.  You mentally spend the $10,000, your half of the winnings, before you even pull in the driveway back home.  The next day when telling your buddy at work, he asks “how much you owe in taxes.”  Taxes, you never even thought about that, how much could it be on $10,000? Your tax bill for that will be at least $2,500 and could go as high as $3,960 for just the federal portion, not to mention state taxes if they apply where you live.  Many anglers in this situation now decide they will make fishing a business, collecting receipts and tracking expenses for the year to offset some part of the $2,500-$3,960 owed.  Sounds like a great idea, until your tax advisor or the IRS tells you, your fishing is a hobby not a business and you can’t claim your fishing expenses.  Who wouldn’t want to write all of their entry fees, travel, gas and especially your Tackle Warehouse bill off as “business expense”?  I guess the seven new $450 Denali/Shimano combos and five $59 Bull Shads aren’t a “business expense”.  If the IRS does determine your operation is a hobby you will be forced to pay tax on the income and cannot deduct any of the expenses.  You also are technically required to claim any cash or prizes you win even if they are less than $600, and typically will receive a 1099 on those winnings.

Many anglers believe it sounds like a great idea to take their expenses from fishing tournaments and buying tackle and claim those expenses against their tournament winnings, but can you really do that?  Your first step should be to ask yourself is my fishing truly a hobby or a business?  That is an easy question to answer if you are planning a professional fishing career, but what if you just want to fish local or regional events.  Ask yourself more specifically are you trying to make a profit from your fishing even if you keep your full-time job?  If the answer is yes, then you are going to need to treat it like a business from the beginning, so that when your tax advisor or the IRS looks at it they will clearly see it is a business.  Most anglers start off with the intention of making a profit, but realistically very few can do it fishing on a local or regional basis. It can be a challenge even at the tour level for many anglers. If you plan to progress to a professional fishing career you will have to start at lower levels like the BFL, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit events or the Bassmaster Opens and work way your way up.  Starting your business now to progress thru the steps is a good investment in your planned career goal and sets you up to use losses against income for tax benefits as you begin to fish for higher prizes.  This is a good time to note that a business that loses money for three years in a row or for three out of five years consecutively is going to potentially raise red flags for a closer examination and may be considered a hobby after further review.  The IRS hobby rules are a facts and circumstances test, with good records and receipts you may be able to get beyond this thresh hold and still not have your business considered a hobby.

If you plan on fishing for a living or having fishing be some sort of sideline business, you need to make sure you treat it like one and keep perfect records. The longer you stay in the industry and the more money that passes through your business, the more likely you will be audited. Fishing is not a standard or normal job that has standard income and expenses. Numerous red flags are raised when the IRS reviews your tax return because although lots of money may come in, we have very large expenses as well. All these expenses may be legitimate, but you just need to make sure they are documented properly.

If you want to claim fishing expenses as a business, you must treat your fishing like a business.  Keep expenses separate, use a different bank account with a separate credit card.  Do not mix your fishing expenses from tournaments with other fishing or your regular personal accounts.  Keep all your tournament expenses in specific expense reports connected to the travel of your tournament schedule.  Consider setting up a legal structure to hold your tournament fishing business operations and obtain a federal and state tax identification number.  Other things to make you look professional include having your resume or sponsor proposal up to date, get business cards for you company, so it looks and operates like a business. Looking for more information about obtaining sponsors check out this great guide here.    A good “best practice” for proving business vs. hobby is to have a business plan that is continually updated so you can prove that you are continually adjusting your business to

  1. a) make it profitable if it is showing losses or
  2. b) to continue to make it more profitable.

It is important in the hobby vs. business discussion to have an updated, detailed business plan that shows the adjustments you are making to your business to make it better goes a long way in this argument.

Build out your yearly tournament schedule and construct a projected profit and loss statement from your yearly schedule.  This will also help you clearly understand your goals for the season.  When you travel to each tournament on your calendar, create an expense report for each event.  Keep all receipts and corresponding credit card statements from each event.  Document all of them in the expense report or related Excel file for quick reference.  If you enter all your expenses into an Excel file you can categorize different expenses to quickly total and sort.  Carefully track and record your mileage from each event and document that all with corresponding receipts.  It is not always possible to claim 100% of purchases as expenses also as some portion of them may be deemed personal.

Many people think they will just gather the information if they need it or if they become are audited, but it can be very difficult to remember and create all the necessary documentation months after it occurred.  IRS regulations require you to keep contemporaneous records as you incur the expenses and not create it all after the fact. If you want it to be a business, treat it like a business from the start.  Many anglers think it won’t happen to them, but take the advice of Bassmaster Elite Series pro, Chad Pipkens, who has been thru an audit that lasted over two years.

“I was audited over a two-year period for my fishing business. They wanted to verify that all the expenses I had were true. Anything you don’t have a record of technically did not happen which would make you liable to pay taxes on those monies you said you had spent if you cannot verify a receipt,” stated Pipkens. “The more organized you can be the easier it is to produce these documents. At the minimum you should be creating at least an Excel spreadsheet which has dates and each of your receipt’s amounts. You should also have a column which has an abbreviation for which tax category of this receipt would file under. For example, one could be supplies, meals/entertainment, repair maintenance, etc. this can help you easily sort each expense category at the end of the year. It is also important to keep these receipts physically if you are not logging them electronically. I kept all of mine in order in Ziploc bags for each season. The toughest thing about being audited was that I had to reproduce each of these receipts and get them on an electronic form for the government to view. It worked but I had to spend some 25 extra hours to put the document together. “Pipkens continued.

“After learning from that I now use an app called Receipt Bank. I take a picture of each receipt and it stores it electronically as well as pulls some of the data like amount and date and tax category of the receipt. At the end of the season, I can export these so that I can easily give it to my accountant with the totals for each category of expenses. I also now have electronic receipts saved in case I ever need to duplicate them for the IRS again. It will definitely save you some headaches!”  Pipkens concluded.  QuickBooks On-line is a good accounting program that integrates with ReceiptBank and other 3rd party apps that may be a good option for many tournament anglers as their business grows and they need more accurate/robust accounting records.

Another thing to keep is mileage. It’s important to do this for each trip. This way you can log the location and what its purpose was as well as the exact mileage for each trip. When audited and proving mileage you need to have some sort of log and how it pertains to where you were going or what you were doing for work.  It is also a best practice to keep your oil change/maintenance records on your vehicles during this time as well to assist on corroborating the mileage that was driven during the given year.  Each time your vehicle is in the service center, they log the odometer reading which will help you if you are audited to support the miles driven. This can be done in a simple Excel spreadsheet as well. Doing much of this on your own can save you time and money when accounting is done each year. Also keeping good records can help lower your tax bracket and what you will pay in taxes at the end of each season.

Another good reason to consult a tax advisor is to make sure you comply with state nexus rules.   Depending on where you win your money you may have state filing/payment of tax obligations in a different state from where you live considering the recent Wayfair Supreme court decision.

Just because you want your fishing to be a business, does not mean the IRS will agree with you.  Make sure you follow these suggestions and consult with your local tax advisor for the best advice for your situation.

Lara Ewen from Marketing Dive wrote a recent article about what is selling in the Covid-19 pandemic now that everyone has stocked up on essentials.  The article cites alcohol, firearms, sporting goods, home office, and pet supplies as all being categories that were up in April.  “What we’ve seen starting March 20th is a move from a ‘stock up’ position to whatever the next trend is,” said Andy Mantis, chief business officer at 1010reveal, which is part of 1010data, a provider of data and analytical intelligence. “But outside of what people are stocking up on, like staples, almost every category is down by as much as 70% or 80%.”

So what specific trends did retailers and manufacturers see in the fishing industry during April as nearly all parts of the country have been under some form of shelter in place. Retailers that sold essential categories like guns, ammo or food have been able to remain open even in the areas with the strictest guidelines.  Sales in those categories along with fishing tackle have been up in many cases which has helped offset store wide decreases in all other departments.   Navigating thru conditions and guidelines never seen before has been challenging for all businesses, some have evolved daily to find ways to support, maintain or even grow their businesses during this period.  Many have now been operating in a similar format for several weeks and have found their operational stride.  This poll from Best on Tour in March surveyed anglers’ thoughts about their purchase choices during the pandemic.

As you can see 60% of anglers in that poll thought they would purchase the same amount of tackle or more tackle during the pandemic.  So, after several weeks what trends have emerged as retailers adjusted their operations and anglers have adjusted their fishing and purchasing habits.

Retailers with an online presence have really benefitted during this time as they could shift all their energy to support ecom sales.  For nearly all, online sales have continued to be strong and have been a lifeline for many retailers and manufacturers that had to close all other parts of their operations.  Some retailers and manufacturers have seen 50%-100%+ increases in their ecommerce business during the end of March and April.  Creative retailers have also begun to offer curbside pick up to allow customers to get their favorite items without having to enter the store.  Curbside pick-up has been particularly popular with rod sales as customers could research online and then provide the retailer with a specific model number which is much easier to pull than a long list of lures or terminal items.  Denali Rods has seen some of their retailers with curbside service continue to see good rod sales.   Some top online retailers are having to limit promotions in order to not create too many sales on a given day as they are currently operating with smaller staffs.  Many of these same leading online retailers are even running up to 10 days behind on shipping online orders.

Going back to the basics.  Many retailers have seen a wave of sales in entry level fishing equipment including starter rod and reel combos.  Many families that are not able to enjoy other outdoor activities during social distancing are trying fishing for the first time with their families.  It has also seen a return to fishing for people that may not have done it in a long time.  The timing of the new social distancing along with the arrival of nice weather and peak fishing season across the country has been a great combination to get people outside fishing.  These new anglers are snapping up entry level combos and starter kits, so they can hit the water quickly with all they need.  This trend has also surged sales on terminal items like hooks, bobbers and fishing line.  Sales for lead products like sinkers and weights have also seen increases.  To complete their needs anglers are loading up on live bait.  Many bait sellers and wholesalers are reporting bait sales at levels they had not seen since the 1990s.  Worms, crickets and minnows have all been in short supply and selling as fast as they are being stocked across the country.  Some retailers would post the arrival of live bait on their social media sites and sell out minutes later.  Even diehard tournament anglers have switched their purchasing habits during the past weeks.  Instead of practicing for a tournament many have turned to crappie fishing for increased action and a chance to have a dinner of fresh fish.  That has seen them buying more jigheads and panfish plastics over their traditional bass purchases.  Companies like Big Bite Baits have seen a tremendous surge in the sales of crappie baits and crappie jigheads.  Keeping those panfish categories in stock the past few weeks has been particularly challenging with demand swelling.

Some tournaments have started to resume bringing a focus back to bass fishing tackle.  Other tournament trails have switched to digital, catch and release or online tournaments to allow people to continue to compete which in turn continues to drive bass tackle sales despite the restrictions on large gatherings.  Soft plastics have continued to be a very popular bass category during this period.  Fluorocarbon sales for companies like Sunline have continued to grow during the period with many customers now buying their line from retailers via their ecommerce websites.

Offshore anglers are also taking advantage of the much lower gas prices to take long trips offshore where they are able.  Sales of bait like ballyhoo for those offshore trips and filling reels with line have started to rise in coastal areas that are opening back up.  The other saltwater category that is seeing an increase is surf fishing.  Sales of rigs, sand spikes and tape measures have increased by 50% in many accounts.  Customers are coming in and saying, “what do I need to fish off the beach?”  Many places have restrictions on their beaches, but are allowing fishing.

While sales for bait, tackle, rod/reels and lures have remained a bright spot for retailers, clothing sales have been significantly impacted during the pandemic.  Online sales of top clothing brands like AFTCO has been one of the lone bright spots for retailers in the clothing category.  Once government agencies started to recommend face shields sales of those products went thru the roof.  Demand for facemasks is even brining non-fishing customers into many stores for the first time just to shop for facemasks.  Smart retailers have made impromptu walls and displays with just facemasks to cater specifically to this new surge in demand.  Brands have seen facemask demand flood to never expected levels in the past three weeks.  Brands with good sourcing and reliable manufacturing have been able to pivot and secure large facemask inventory. Companies like AFTCO have even developed new programs to supply their customers with facemasks while donating free ones to community organizations.

Many retailers have been extremely cautious with inventory and reorders. With some areas now starting to open more businesses and allowing more activities, many retailers have started to place orders to replenish empty pegs from the past few weeks.  SPRO was closed for two weeks to comply with local guidelines and when they returned they had a large numbers of orders waiting to ship, pushing their shipping lead time out to 7-10 days as they operated under new CDC guidelines and reduced staffing policies.  Gamakatsu USA was closed for over a month and has now returned to limited operations and experienced a similar backlog of orders to catch up on. Distributors have remained extremely busy during this period as they fill a wide range of rush orders for retailers across the country.  Some brands have had supply changes impacted and are experiencing product shortages, but others with their own manufacturing or reliable supply changes are picking up extra demand.  Some retailers are also ordering optimistically to support the increased demand they are expecting in the next couple weeks as we enter prime fishing and selling season in the country ahead of Father’s Day.  The arrival of stimulus checks has provided a boost on some higher end purchases as anglers coming in and stimulate the economy with their recently received funds.

The Ultimate Guide on How to Get Fishing Sponsors-Updated June 18, 2020

If you are looking to become a sponsored fisherman, this ultimate guide will help you get started.  Learn how to find fishing sponsorship opportunities and make yourself stand for the best chance to be sponsored by your favorite brands.  This guide contains expert perspective from people that have spent years managing field staffs and pro staffs for numerous brands in the fishing industry. This ultimate guide will explain all the levels of sponsorships and give you suggestions for getting started and advancing to higher levels with brands you aspire to work with.  These suggestions will work for bass, walleye or crappie anglers.

Fishing sponsorships have changed radically in the past three years.  Companies used to only measure an angler by the totality of their tournament resume.  Top tournament anglers spent decades practicing, competing and learning techniques across the country in order to succeed.  Products sold because an angler won a tournament, and everyone wanted to know what that angler was using, which drove product sales.  Those write ups came weeks or even months after the event in print magazines.  The most successful anglers could also impact sales beyond tournament finishes.  Public speaking and working with media to write articles rose in importance and changed the way brands valued anglers.  The most valuable anglers were successful in tournaments and equally successful off the water with media.  The past five years have seen the largest changes in the fishing industry take place.  Globally, media and the consumption of media have changed forever.  Information is now available instantly in a much wider range of platforms.  The changing landscape of media has seen many traditional print and television platforms erode while the explosion of numerous new platforms have arrived.

The past few years have seen these changes accelerate, as platforms like Instagram and YouTube have given anglers the ability to reach large audiences outside of a tournament finish, television appearance, print or other traditional media outlet.  No longer was it required to win or finish high in several tournaments to gain sponsorship with a brand.   In some cases, you don’t even need to be a fishing expert any longer to be an influencer and impact sales in today’s world.  Long time touring pros are seeing their contracts being cut in some cases and those funds are being re-directed to influencers from Instagram and YouTube.  Successful brands like Googan and Tactical Bassin used their popularity with YouTube and social media to influence product sales and even launch their own branded products, racking up impressive sales across the country.  Their reach and influence far exceed that of all but a few of the most successful pro anglers or fishing television celebrities.

To start off, let’s first take a basic look at the different levels of sponsorship for a better understanding.  Anglers can start at the lower levels and progress up or they may build a successful platform and enter at a high level from the beginning.  Different opinions exist as to what defines a “professional angler” and it is often not cut and dry.  Traditionally, only anglers fishing Tour level tournaments or those with television programs were making all or considerable parts of their income from the fishing industry.  Today, more anglers that have never fished at a Tour level or been on television are gaining considerable income from the industry.

High school/college programs- Many companies offer discount programs to scholastic anglers allowing them to buy products at 30%-50% discount from retail pricing.  B.A.S.S., FLW and Collegiate Bass Championship all offer scholastic tournaments and coordinate discount programs for anglers competing in their trails.  Student anglers can also reach out to brands directly and ask them if they offer a purchase program for students.

Field Staffer- Often there are two levels of field staffer, the first level involves the angler receiving a discount to purchase product they use.  That discount is usually 40%-50% discount from the retail pricing.  Ever notice a company that has thousands of anglers on their field staff, it is because they offer a discount to any angler that contacts them about sponsorships.  An angler is really just a customer buying at a discount at this level as many companies use this program to launch their brand before they are able to get a lot of retail stores to stock their products.  Other companies are selective and pick only a small amount of the applicants for their field staff.  They strive to pick out who they feel are the most qualified candidates to help build their brand.  The second level at this tier is receiving a budgeted amount of free product for their use.  Some anglers may also be receiving unlimited free product.

Regional competitor- Anglers at these levels may be competing across a state or even across multiple states in a region.  They can be fishing team tournaments or boater/co-angler tournaments and often times a combination of both.  There are a number of great trails for anglers to fish at this level on a regional basis like Alabama Bass Trail, Texas Team Trail, Anglers in Action, Nichols Team Trail team tournaments.  Boater/co-angler examples include trails like ABA and BFL .   Anglers at this level can be receiving product discounts, free product and cash sponsorships in some cases.

Opens and Toyota Series- Until 2020, these trails were the stepping-stone to the two major tournament organizations B.A.S.S. and FLW.  With the acquisition of FLW by Major League Fishing, they have now made the FLW Pro Circuit the entry point for the Bass Pro Tour.  Many of the anglers in Opens and Toyota Series expect to start being paid for sponsorships to support their career at the next level.  This is typically where paid sponsorships start for an angler to support a brand with his jersey or boat wrap.  There are still many anglers at this level that are only receiving product support.  The FLW Pro Circuit changing from the top level of FLW to a qualifying series for the Bass Pro Tour, caused many anglers to leave the FLW Pro Circuit to fish other tournaments like the Opens.

FLW Pro Circuit- Anglers at this level expect to have paying sponsors and boat wrap deals.  Title sponsorships and boat wraps can garner $30,000+ annual income, but there are still many anglers that do not have paying sponsorships at this level.

Tour Level Pro- The departure of 67 anglers from the Elite Series to the Bass Pro Tour created many opportunities for anglers from the Opens or FLW to move to the Elite Series in 2019.  While a third high level competitive trail created more opportunities for anglers it also made it more challenging for anglers to find paying sponsors.  Brands in the industry did not increase their annual marketing budgets in many cases, so more anglers were now competing for the same amount of paying sponsors.  Most brands focus their sponsorship dollars on the Eltie Series or Bass Pro Tour and many brands have had long term relationships with a number of those anglers.  Non-endemics most often come into play at this level and can land anglers up to six figure sponsorship deals.  Monthly contracts often range in the $300-$1500 a month level for anglers to promote a specific brand with title deals going much higher.  While there are now a combined 167 anglers competing at this level, not all are fishing “full time”.  Several anglers at this level still have other jobs or own a business they run when not competing.

With a quick summary of the levels of sponsorship, let’s turn our attention back to you.  Start by defining what your goals are?  Are you just looking to work with companies to receive free products or discounts or are you looking to advance into a career in professional fishing or influence?  Starting with what your goals are is the best place to begin in order to plan your progress.  An example is If you are only planning to fish at a local or regional level the odds of you having a high number of paying sponsors are pretty small.  There are more anglers than ever before looking for sponsorships and brands are being bombarded with sponsorships requests.  In reality, most of them have fixed marketing budgets every year and already have a number of anglers on staff.  They are not looking to add a larger number of new anglers every year.

How should you get started?  Identify brands you use frequently because you like or believe in their products.  It may also be a company you like because of what they stand for.  They may support conservation or donate portions of their proceeds to help fisheries.  Make a list of those companies that you would want to partner with. It is often better to have a few very good relationships with companies rather than a large number of relationships that are not personal and are just product discounts.  An application listing more sponsors than Kevin VanDam can raise red flags to field staff managers and indicate that you are just a person that wants discounts.   Now plan to contact them in a way that will make you stand out.  The #1 key every company is looking for is local people that can help them sell more product.  You need to explain quickly and effectively how you can do that for them.

99% of the people start their search for sponsorship by emailing or applying on the brand website.  Emailing the company contact or pro staff page is lazy, unless you want to just be a customer buying at a discount.  To increase your chances of getting out of this group of everyone else you are going to have to differentiate yourself.  99% of these emails all say similar things.  “I love your products, I have used them for a long time and I am fishing this tournament trail this year.  I will promote your products on my social media, my YouTube channel I just started and, on my boat, truck and jersey”.  Want to increase your odds of standing out, tell the brand specifically how you can sell products for them.  Ask for a personal contact you can reach out to or schedule a call with.  There is often a specific person responsible for managing the field staff.  These people are generally very busy, so be prepared for that call and tell them very quickly and specifically how you can sell products for them locally where you live.  Make a short presentation or video showing them the specific ways you can impact their sales.  Don’t just say I will get you lots of exposure with my jersey and social media.  Rather than telling them how you will promote, tell them how you will sell their products.  Be specific with what you expect in return, state that you would like to start with a discount to purchase products and hopefully move to some free product in the future with good performance.  Get started with a brand and show them how much you can help them in your local area.  Most anglers apply and don’t hear anything back, so they just stop or email another company.  Some brands receive hundreds of this type application every single week. You will need to make yourself stand out to get noticed.  Did you know some companies wait for people to apply or contact them multiple times before considering them to make sure they are serious about being part of the team? The best salesman often hears “no” several times before closing the deal, you should expect to hear “no” at first also.  Many anglers simply email 20 companies in one night all with the same generic email with only the brand name changed.  Many anglers will list their current sponsors on their application to a new company.  Make sure your current sponsors do not have competing products to the company you are applying to.  If you list a clothing company as a sponsor and are applying to another clothing company it will be an instant “red flag” to the new brand.  The clothing brands may be in different markets or segments of the outdoor industry, but it will be an instant concern to the person reviewing the application, unless you fully explain the situation.  If you are looking to switch from one company to another company with similar products, then you should sever ties with the current company rather than list them as a current sponsor hoping you can easily switch.

Get even more specific and tell them how you will impact sales at a local store with their products.  At the same time, create a relationship with that local store and help them sell those products by offering to help at promotions or sport shows.  Provide a local fishing report for the store and highlight products in that store that are catching fish locally including the brand you are wanting to promote.  Send them fish pictures or short stories they can use on their website or social media that can help them provide content to their customers.  Go a step further and find the local sales rep for that area.  These sales reps will really support people that sell products in their areas.  They often have direct input into what anglers are on the field staff for a brand.  A good relationship with them will go a long way in helping you secure a sponsorship with a brand.  A good recommendation from a local dealer and a company sales rep can secure many sponsorships for you.  It can be very beneficial to you in the process if a dealer recommends you ahead of your application.   If you don’t make it this year and you are passionate about the brand, don’t give up.  Thank them for the consideration and tell them you would like to continue to help the brand with their permission in any way possible.  Check back frequently and let them you are still interested in the brand and willing to help in any way.  A common mistake many anglers often make in their applications when listing their social media accounts is that all their accounts are private, so the manager can not even view what you are posting.  If you want to be sponsored your accounts are going to have to be public, one so managers can review your posting history and two, so they know you will have an influence on as large a group of people as possible.

Now that you got accepted by the brand make yourself stand out.  Many people at this level, get accepted order their free product and barely talk with the brand the rest of the year.  Set a regular communication level with the brand you are working with.  Don’t wait a year to send them a summary when you are ready to order product again.  If you want to advance communication is the key.  No good brand is going to send a lot of product to an angler to start.  They are going to expect them to earn it with proven performance.  Drop them an email with an update on your activities on a regular schedule.  Email them with reports from your area. What is selling well, what is not?  Competitor brands or products that may be doing well.  A quick picture from a store in that area showing the brand products.  Show the brand specific ways you are creating sales in your area for their products.  Schedule a training session at a local retailer to teach their staff about the brand’s products and send a report back to your contact or local sales rep with pictures.

Just fishing tournaments is no longer enough to get a brand’s attention.  Today’s pro staff managers are looking for anglers that use social media or YouTube effectively.  Start your social media or YouTube channel and make content that is interesting or useful.  All brands care about social media, video and YouTube.  If you are not good at those platforms personally, you can still provide value by being willing to supply lots of pictures and content that can be used on social media.  With the capabilities of today’s modern phones, anyone can quickly take good pictures and videos and submit them to a brand in seconds.

Content.  Every brand is looking for more content every day. Learn to take good pictures, make short videos, write blogs, make graphics or social posts with the brand products and send to them on a regular basis.  If you want to advance to the next level where you could be considered for a paid position, you are going to have to stand out at this level as most anglers never get past here.

Communication and hard work are keys.  Most anglers want to be paid a lot first and then claim they will do a lot to help a brand.  Take the opposite approach to stand out by doing a lot first.  Ask about marketing related projects you can help with.  Many of these managers are busy and welcome help.

What skills do you have that would best help you stand out?  If you have great speaking skills, look to do seminars.  If you prefer social media offer to help companies with social media.  Leverage your personal strengths to give you the best chance to reach your goals.  Work hard at each level, be consistent and communicate more than you think you should.  Continue to work on relationships with the local retailers, sales rep and company staff.  When you reach the next level with a brand keep doing the same things and over deliver what you said you would do. The fishing industry is relatively small

One of the most successful television celebrities and decorated anglers of all time recently started a YouTube at age 70.  Roland Martin has a television and tournament career that is unmatched, yet he recently started a YouTube channel to reach new audiences and match the way anglers now want to consume fishing information.  It is never too late to start a new platform or adjust to the changing media landscape.

You also want to think about the size of the brand you are applying to when planning your sponsor list.  A small company may have limited positions available and a limited budget for anglers.  Keep that in mind as you apply and tell them specifically how you can help.  You may also be dealing with the company owner in many cases, which provides a great chance to stand out quickly.  In contrast, when applying to a large company they are probably receiving hundreds of applicants.  While they may have larger marketing budgets there will also be many more people competing for those same positions, so making yourself stand out is even more important.

This ultimate guide to sponsorship will help you in the process of obtaining and keeping sponsors within the fishing industry and beyond.  Utilize these core principles to define your sponsorship journey and help determine what areas of promotion you can best utilize to show potential sponsors your worth.  While there are always exceptions to the rules, following this guide will certainly assist you along the way in your journey to obtain and maintain sponsors.

THE BUSINESS NEWS OF FISHING.
Best on Tour brings you interesting news from the fishing industry in a weekly email.
1. Stat of the Day
PRESENTED BY: Sunline
2. Money Matters
PRESENTED BY: Big Bite Baits
Who made more money an angler, a bull rider or a bowler?
A look at the top 10 earners in 2019 from the Professional Bull Riders, Professional Bowlers Association and pro angling, including the number of events they competed in as of November 20.
3. Behind the Scenes
PRESENTED BY: SPRO
A Classic Impact
Sports Destination Magazine recently released the results of the economic impact on the Knoxville, Tennessee area from the 2019 Bassmaster Classic.
4. Anglers Tribune
Wes Logan Ready For Elite Series
Photo Courtesy B.A.S.S.
We recently caught up with Springville, Alabama angler Wes Logan to get his take on joining the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2020, and find out what he has been up to during the off season. Check out his thoughts in this candid Q&A.
For those that are unfamiliar with Wes Logan, can you give us some background on your fishing career? “I have fished the FLW Tour the past 2 seasons, and prior to that I fished BFLs, Costa’s, and one season of the Opens in 2017 where I finished 12th in the points. After a blessed season in the 2018 Opens I was fortunate enough to win AOY in the Central Division and qualify for the 2020 Elite Series.”
What are your biggest concerns if you have any about transitioning to the Bassmaster Elite Series? “I wouldn’t say that I have any concerns because I’ve been fishing professionally for the past two seasons. I feel like that helps me as far as being used to the travel and stress level that these higher level tournaments put on you. It’s a whole different world when you go from fishing 3 day tournaments where you have unlimited practice time and no off limits to fishing 4 day tournaments with only a few practice days and you can’t get any information. It speeds everything up tremendously.”
How have you been preparing for the 2020 season, and which stops are you looking the most forward to, and also which ones have you a little worried? “Up until this point in the off season I actually haven’t been fishing much at all. I work while I am at home with a family member who is a home builder and I also help out my uncle who builds custom cabinets, so I’m pretty occupied doing that. I guess you could say the off season isn’t off for me too much. I need to make all the extra money I can. I would have to say I am looking forward to the Eufaula and Santee Cooper tournaments because I have done well there in the past. Not saying that I am going to do well this time around, but I feel like I will know what kind of lake I’m getting into before I get there. The northern swing kind of worries me just because it doesn’t fit my style of fishing, but I have done ok in a few smallmouth tournaments so there is hope.”
How has the business side of the game been since you decided to take the step to the Elite Series? “The business side of the game since joining the Elites has been the biggest difference to me. It seems to me that the weight that the Bassmaster Elite Series carries is so much more than what I was used to before at FLW. So when you say you’re on the Elites people kind of pay attention and perk up a little. Being on the Elites means more opportunity for promotion, reaching a larger number of people, and at the same time having a lot more obligations to my sponsors and the companies that support me. It’s always been a dream since I decided that I wanted to try and make a living fishing to be on the Elite Series. And now that I have made it, it is truly like a dream come true and I am blessed and thankful for the opportunity. After the great season I had in the Opens this year, it just seems like it was meant for me to be on the Elite Series and I thank the Good Lord for the opportunity and hope to make the most of it. “
5. Baits Not Being Talked About
Blade baits become a big player in the winter months for suspended and deep fish. The Damiki Vault is a great choice for those situations. It features three line ties with each providing a different action from a wider or tighter wobble.
6. What We’re Watching & Listening To
PRESENTED BY: Gamakatsu
Swindle On Bass Talk Live
Mark and Matt welcome Elite Series Professional, Gerald Swindle. The Alabama Pro takes part in an emotional discussion about his decision to make the move from MLF, back to the Bassmaster Elite Series. Watch the replay here.
7. Jersey Watch
PRESENTED BY: Denali
Aaron Martens
Aaron Martens has always used Shimano reels and he now will be using Shimano owned G-Loomis rods in 2020 following his switch from Enigma.
Photo courtesy of MLF
8. Regional Recommendations
McKee Outdoors is located in Maryville,TN just outside of Knoxville. They stock a full line of tackle, and are a satellite dealer for Bunch Marine. Running several local fishing tournaments from a winter series, to Monday night events keep them in tune with the needs of anglers in the area. Stop by McKee Outdoors and see what they have to offer the next time you are in Maryville.
9. Best for Last
PRESENTED BY: AFTCO
Garmin Force Available Now
Since the ICAST show in July, the fishing industry has been abuzz about trolling motors. The Garmin Force garnered much of the attention, as anglers across the country have anticipated being able to mount one on the front of their rig. The time is finally here, and the Garmin Force has not disappointed. As the most powerful and efficient trolling motor on the market, the Garmin Force Trolling Motor uses wireless chartplotter connectivity to provide navigation, autopilot, and anchor lock features. One of the new features the Garmin Force offers is a wireless foot pedal, that steers and feels just like a cable steered pedal. Not a fan of the wireless option? No problem, just install the foot pedal in a traditional hardwired method. Garmin staffer Justin McClelland spent countless hours on the water with the Garmin Force prototypes and final product, and couldn’t be more pleased with the product that is going to market. “I have had the opportunity to run this trolling motor for almost a year now, and all I can say is wow. The motor is absolutely bullet proof. I have never run a motor this powerful, and better yet I have had absolutely zero issues with it. I’ve put the motor through extreme testing in the last year, and have nothing but great things to say about it.” said McClelland. The Garmin Force bracket will line up with the current hole pattern of the Minn Kota Ultrex, so if you are planning on making the switch you won’t have to drill more holes in your boat. Available in 50″ and 57″ shaft models, the Garmin Force offers options for deep and shallow water anglers alike. Check out the full specs and all the details about the Garmin Force here.
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THE BUSINESS NEWS OF FISHING.
Best on Tour brings you interesting news from the fishing industry in a weekly email.
1. Stat of the Day
PRESENTED BY: Sunline
Tow Vehicles Of The 2019 Elite Series
2. Money Matters
PRESENTED BY: Big Bite Baits
Payout And Entries Comparison
3. Behind the Scenes
PRESENTED BY: SPRO
What Causes 95% Of All Rod failures?
Many anglers believe that “lifetime warranty” on a rod means that it should be replaced no matter the reason forever. Whether or not that break was their fault or if it suddenly broke after many uses, should be irrelevant. In reality, most rod breakage that occurs due to defect happens in one of the first uses of the rod. Breakage after those first few uses is often related to some action to the rod from the angler that weakened it causing it to break at a later date. Rod companies can only cover breaks that are truly related to a defect in the product. Tom Kirkman wrote an in depth article on the North Fork composites website about rod breakage.Over 200 blanks were analyzed for different breaks and then categorized into 16 different types of rod failures or combination failures that are a result of use or abuse from anglers. He also provides examples of actual manufacturer defects and what causes them. See the full article.
He also customizes the area by the driver’s console where his rod tips lay to protect them and to prevent tangling.
4. Anglers Tribune
Lady Bass Anglers Women’s Pro Bass Tour
Secret York won the Angler of the Year on the Lady Bass Anglers Women’s Pro Bass Tour in 2019. She was the #1 ranked angler after the three tournament season which included stops at Hickory Lake, Toledo Bend and the season finale at Logan Martin which she won.
“I can remember fishing with my Dad as far back as when I was 6 years old. I absolutely hated bobber fishing and would always pick out cool looking lures to throw. I have fished all my life and in 1994 a friend introduced me to tournament angling with the the National Bass N gals. Since then I have competed with the Womens Bass Fishing Association, Womens Bassmaster Tour, Bassin Her Style and now the Lady Bass Anglers Association.
I love to fish and just being on the water is my sanity pill. Of all the years of my fishing and travels, the things that have meant the most to me are the people I have met and the friendships that I have shared. I am very blessed by being married to my husband (Kent) for 28 years, two children and three grands.
At my real job I am a heavy equipment operator in a steel mill” York concluded.
5. Baits Not Being Talked About
The Mann’s 1-Minus series of crankbaits has long been a sneaky tool in many top anglers tackle boxes. Rising to prominence after Mike Iaconelli utilized it to help him win the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, the1-minus has had it peaks and valleys in popularity. Essentially the Mann’s 1-Minus is one of the first wake baits that became mainstream. Whether you fish it over submerged grass, or bounce it off wood targets it is something that flat out gets bites. Check them out here.
6. What We’re Watching & Listening To
PRESENTED BY: Gamakatsu
AFTCO Bass Boot Camp
After fishing two divisions of the Costa FLW Series and qualifying for the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland, AFTCO Bass Boot Camp recruit Matt Pangrac finds himself in 3rd place and fishing on the final day. Targeting big smallmouth with light line, Matt experiences a roller coaster ride on the final day while the FLW Live cameras roll. Watch here.
7. Jersey Watch
PRESENTED BY: Denali
The Hack Attack
Greg Hackney finished his inaugural season on the Bass Pro Tour in 19th place in the final standings and second at the season ending Redcrest. His sponsor lineup is headlined by top industry brands like Academy Sports, Phoenix, Mercury, Garmin, Strike King, Lews and Bass Mafia. His switch to Lews in 2019 from Quantum was well timed with the merger of Strike King and Lews earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of MLF
8. Regional Recommendations
If your in the Little Rock area Southern Reel Outfitters is certainly a place you want to stop and check out. They have everything from fishing tackle, to fishing clothing and much more. This is by far one of the top tackle stores in the state, offering a huge selection. The Store Manager is Scott Rook, who is a retired Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Scott is happy to help with all of your fishing needs. Check them out in person, or online at www.southernreeloutfitters.com
9. Best for Last
PRESENTED BY: AFTCO
B.A.S.S. Announces New National Kayak Tour
With the popularity of kayak bass fishing on the rise it was only a matter of time before B.A.S.S. formally became involved in the scene. Last week the organization announced that they would be launching the B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series, a five tournament trail kicking off in 2020. Read all about it here.
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THE BUSINESS NEWS OF FISHING.
Best on Tour brings you interesting news from the fishing industry in a weekly email.
1. Stat of the Day
PRESENTED BY: Sunline
2. Money Matters
PRESENTED BY: Big Bite Baits
The B.A.S.S. Bluelight Special
Throughout the years numerous non-endemic sponsors have entered the world of professional fishing. Kmart was a major sponsor of the Bassmaster tournament trail for several years before ceasing the relationship. KMart, along with some other brick and mortar retailers have fallen on hard times of late with Kmart filing bankruptcy in 2018 . Another retail giant Wamart, sponsored the FLW Tour for nearly 20 years but drastically reduced their role in 2017, relinquishing the title sponsorship role for the tour.
3. Behind the Scenes
PRESENTED BY: SPRO
Call The Coach
For 33 years Les Bratcher was a successful high school football, basketball and softball coach in Alabama not only creating success on and off the fields and court but helping students follow their dreams. In 2013 Les was recognized for his outstanding achievements, and was put in the Alabama Wiregrass Hall of Fame. When it was time to move on to his next career, Les followed his second passion to carry him to his present job, and that was fishing. Throughout his coaching career Les had a passion for bass fishing and it would be a perfect fit to tackle his next stop at Big Bite Baits.
In his role at Big Bite Baits Les is the Pro Staff Director. His primary duties are making sure that the Big Bite Pro Staff members have what they need. He oversees the BASS and BPT Pros, Walleye, Crappie, Saltwater, Lady Professionals as well as the Big Bite Field Staff.
Asked what it is about your job that you like the most? Coach adds “being a true fisherman it is being involved in the fishing business, but I’m a people person at heart it is the day to day interacting with all of the pros and the customers that call in asking about baits that we make, and I have been known to give them a few fishing tips also along the way”. You can catch some of Les’s best tips on the popular Rig It LIVE weekly segment on the Big Bite Baits Instagram account, which typically airs Thursdays at 3PM CST.
4. Anglers Tribune
Nose Hooked
Keith Leftridge is a successful regional tournament angler from the Kansas City area. He and his long time tournament partner were fishing a tournament early this Fall when his partner swung and missed on a bite in the first 10 minutes of their day on the water. The hook and tungsten weight flew thru the air hitting Keith in the face and mouth. The Gamakatsu hook buried into his nose and the tungsten weight struck him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth. Keith had a great attitude despite the pain and was back on the water later that same day after a trip to the emergency department. It also required multiple dentist visits to repair the tooth damage. His advice to all anglers is “always wear sunglasses or clear safety glasses when fishing”. He and his partner both carry safety glasses in their boats for times of low light when it is too dark for sunglasses.
5. Baits Not Being Talked About
Designed by the legendary crankbait angler, David Fritts, the Berkley Frittside Crankbait is based on the crankbait that helped David win the 1993 Bassmaster Classic. Featuring a flat sided profile that mimics a wide variety of baitfish, the Berkley Frittside Crankbait delivers a tight balsa-like thumping action and flash that is deadly during tough conditions when fish are sluggish or heavily pressured.
6. What We’re Watching & Listening To
PRESENTED BY: Gamakatsu
Bill Dance Blooper Reel
Bill Dance’s television show has aired since 1968, making him one of the World’s most famous anglers with his iconic Tennessee hat. Thousands of anglers have grown up watching his television show. If you need a good laugh today, check out one of his blooper videos.
7. Jersey Watch
PRESENTED BY: Denali
Tommy Biffle
One of the most veteran anglers on the BPT, Tommy has long had Gene Larew as his title sponsor. See one of his best commercials with Gene Larew for the Biffle O here . One of Tommy’s other long term sponsors is Mercury Marine. Mercury is currently accepting sponsorship proposals on it’s website thru Nov 30. The Mercury program offers three levels of sponsorship for anglers to apply.
Photo courtesy of MLF
8. Regional Recommendations
Princess Anne Distributing Co. has been selling quality fishing tackle in Virginia Beach, VA since 1958. Offering its customers excellent products at affordable prices. The store employs a knowledgeable staff with over 80 years of experience and fishing knowledge. If you are in the Virginia Beach area stop by and check them out.
9. Best for Last
PRESENTED BY: AFTCO
Power-Pole Bass Team Gets Salty
Power-Pole recently held an annual event where they bring members of their freshwater and saltwater pro staffs together at their Florida headquarters for training, fellowship, and fun. While some of the time was spent educating their staff on all of the great Power-Pole products , a portion of the event was spent on the water having a friendly competition between Power-Pole pros, staff, and other event attendees. This year the team of Dean Rojas , Randy Howell , Capt. Geoffery Page, and Power-Pole’s Casey Carpenter took home the bragging rights by winning the event. Be on the lookout for great new content and products from Power-Pole team.
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THE BUSINESS NEWS OF FISHING.
Best on Tour brings you interesting news from the fishing industry in a weekly email.
1. Stat of the Day
PRESENTED BY: Sunline
2. Money Matters
PRESENTED BY: Big Bite Baits
Brunswick Corp Parent to Mercury Marine Rising
Image courtesy of Google
Brunswick Corporation parent company to Mercury Marine, Crestliner, Lund Lowe and a number of other marine brands, has seen a strong couple months with it’s stock performance. Boat sales have been strong in 2019 and continue this Fall as Brunswick announced record sales at the recently completed Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show. Many anglers running the new Mercury Four Stroke motors this year have been very impressed with the reliability and performance.
3. Behind the Scenes
PRESENTED BY: SPRO
Easily Identify Your Line Size
4. Anglers Tribune
Are You Spooling Your Braid Correctly?
Are you spooling your braid correctly? Dean Rojas recently gave us a few tips to help you get the most out of your braided line. “First you want to make sure you are using backing 100% of the time. I pick a backing that is similar to the diameter of the braid I will be spooling up with. Typically I am only using 15 feet or so of backing, but that makes all the difference in the world. It prevents the braid from digging into the spool and slipping.” said Rojas. Using more braid than you think you need to is also a big part of the equation Rojas insists. “When you first spool the braid on it will be what I like to call ‘fluffy’. Once it gets wet it will lay down and become more compact, so you always want to spool a little more than you think you will need,: Rojas concluded.
5. Baits Not Being Talked About
Designed in collaboration between Spro and BPT angler Shin Fukae, the Spro Wameku Shad 70 has been fine tuned with a unique acoustic profile that sets it apart from all other lipless crankbaits. Coming from the Japanese word “Wameku,” which means “loud talking and noise,” the aptly named Spro Wameku Shad 70 features a distinct, high-pitch knocking sound that is unlike anything bass have ever heard.In addition to its defined auditory presence, the Spro Wamkeu Shad 70 also features two line ties, allowing anglers to utilize two distinctly different, yet equally effective presentations. The forward line tie provides an attitude that excels in shallow water, while the rear line tie provides a more subtle action that allows the bait to get down in the water column.
6. What We’re Watching & Listening To
PRESENTED BY: Gamakatsu
Jimmy Houston YouTube
Jimmy Houston has been a fixture on the national tournament scene and television for decades. Since his retirement from the FLW Tour Jimmy has been concentrating more on his YouTube channel , uploading a variety of different content regularly. On a recent trip to educate his viewers on some of his favorite fall fishing techniques Jimmy hooks into a massive Flathead Catfish. Check out the video here.
7. Jersey Watch
PRESENTED BY: Denali
World Wide Watson
James “WorldWide” Watson is a large personality on the Bass Pro Tour and brings a wide range of sponsors including Ranger, Mercury, Russell Marine Products, Luck E Strike and Bass Pro Shops to name just a few.
Photo courtesy of MLF
8. Regional Recommendations
Located in Bessemer, AL Simmons Sporting Goods has been serving their customers since 1945. Offering a complete lineup of products for fishermen of any skill level, Simmons has everything you need for a great day on the water. With customer service that is second to none, Simmons is definitely a place any angler needs to check out.
9. Best for Last
PRESENTED BY: AFTCO
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THE BUSINESS NEWS OF FISHING.
Best on Tour brings you interesting news from the fishing industry in a weekly email.
1. Stat of the Day
PRESENTED BY: Sunline
2. Money Matters
PRESENTED BY: Big Bite Baits
The Crankbaits with Laser Beams
Around 2009, a new hardbait company featuring laser lights in the baits launched on the fishing scene with much fanfare. The baits featured red laser lights in the bills that activated when the bait got wet. The company believed lasers would attract bass to the baits at a higher rate than traditional crankbaits or jerkbaits. The baits were some of the most expensive hardbaits on the market at the time with retails of $19.99. Some anglers claimed the baits ran well, but many anglers were plagued with baits that leaked and didn’t show increased fish catching abilities over traditional crankbaits. Laser Lures promoted the baits with a large marketing campaign that featured pros Mike Iaconelli and Boyd Duckett, but by late 2012 the company was out of business.
Outdoor Life rated the Laser Lure #1 on it’s Top Ten List of the The Worst Fishing Lures of All Time.
3. Behind the Scenes
PRESENTED BY: SPRO
Protect Your Expensive Swimbaits
With premium hand made swimbaits like the Bull Shad selling for $50 or more it can be very important to make sure they are stored properly, especially to protect areas like the tails. You can easily make a custom box for swimbaits by cutting notches with a dremel tool in one of the deeper tackle boxes from companies like Plano or Flambeau. This allows the baits to stand vertically, keeping the tails in perfect condition. The slats can also be aligned with the joints to insure the bait doesn’t move.
4. Anglers Tribune
Walters Captures A Monster
Summerville, SC Elite Series Pro Patrick Walters and his father Todd are never too far from an outdoor adventure. Recently the pair took advantage of the SC gator hunting season to capture this 10′ 6″ monster out of the South Santee River. Walters has been busy in the off season, after a solid start to his professional career in 2019. Staying sharp by fishing local waters, hunting, and making appearances for his sponsors he is keeping his schedule full. Walters recently signed a sponsorship deal with Humminbird, and will be running the One-Boat Network system on his Falcon Boat in 2020.
5. Baits Not Being Talked About
Fall has arrived and winter is just around the corner, and with those colder seasons finesse jigs will become more of a player in many parts of the country. Andy’s Custom Bass Lures makes a E Series Finesse Jig that features flat, living rubber that is hand tied in combination with silicone skirt material. This is the jig Edwin Evers used to win the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. A number of anglers believe little brown jigs made from living rubber provide greater action in the water. Andy’s also makes a version with a heavier hook for flipping applications.
6. What We’re Watching & Listening To
PRESENTED BY: Gamakatsu
Latimer And Daniels Win Gold
Brian Latimer and Mark Daniels Jr. recently teamed up to win Gold at the 2019 Pan American Bass Fishing Championship with a massive two session weight of 45.08. Latimer documented the experience for his YouTube channel, letting you get a glimpse at all of the action. Check out the final day action here.
7. Jersey Watch
PRESENTED BY: Denali
New Jersey Guidelines for FLW in 2020
MLF announced their plans for the 2020 season to FLW anglers in a recent phone call and presentation with the details. In 2020 FLW Pro Circuit anglers are allowed to promote any of their sponsors on all the competition days. On days three and four the anglers will have to wear a jersey that complies with a new FLW template. The new template will reserve some spaces on the angler’s jersey for FLW sponsors that do not conflict with angler’s personal sponsors. Anglers receive 1/3 upper chest and 2/3 of the primary locations on the back of the jersey.
Photo courtesy of FLW
8. Regional Recommendations
Located in Greenwood, SC Hunters Headquarters is much more than a stop for avid hunters. Offering an extensive selection of fishing tackle and gear, for the beginner all the way to the seasoned tournament angler, Hunters Headquarters has you covered. If you are in the upstate of South Carolina stop by and check out their great selection.
9. Best for Last
PRESENTED BY: AFTCO
Denali Rods National Sales Manager Bryan Head
If you’ve spent anytime around the fishing industry over the last two decades you’ve likely crossed paths with Bryan Head. Head has been working in the industry for over 20 years and has experience in the distribution, dealer sales, and retail sales aspects of the business. He is currently the National Sales Manager for Denali Rods, assisting in all aspects of the brand’s business. “As National Sales Manager for Denali I have my hands in every aspect of the business, and I think that is what it takes to truly be invested in your brand. You can find me unloading trucks, packing orders to ship, calling on accounts, doing really whatever it takes to get the job done,” says Head. Since joining Denali over 5 years ago Head has garnered great satisfaction from seeing their hard work paying off in brand recognition and sales. “I get great satisfaction from seeing all of the hard work that we have been putting in at Denali Rods paying off. Whether it is with our sales goals, or a customer simply sending a note saying how satisfied they are with one of our products, the positive reinforcement that we get from reaching our goals is a great feeling.” Head concluded. You can keep up with all things Denali Rods by visiting their website at www.denalirods.com
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