Sponsor Deals: Any of Our Business?

“Unfortunately in our sport, the numbers are never revealed and it’s all speculation. I think they should be revealed.”

That’s a quote from this article on BassFan featuring the recently retired Marty Stone [check the article if you didn’t realize Marty had called it quits]. The “numbers” he’s talking about are the dollar amounts tied up in sponsorship deals for pro anglers.

You see, Marty’s got an idea for a business school aimed at up-and-coming tournament anglers, and part of what he wants to do in that school is open their eyes as to what makes up a good and bad sponsorship deal in the world of professional bass fishing.

More from Marty:
“I couldn’t [teach the school] before because to really teach it, I would’ve been in breach of a lot of contracts. I would’ve revealed a lot of the numbers in the sport. When the numbers are kept secret, one downside is that the guys coming in don’t have a clue about what’s a good rod-and-reel deal, or boat-and-motor deal, or how to attain one and keep it.”

Marty’s right on. The commas and zeroes in top-level sponsorship deals are kept closer to the cuff than KFC’s 11 herbs and spices or the formula for Coca-Cola. I’ve had off-the-record conversations with at least five different pros about what kind of money endemic sponsors are willing to cough up for Bassmaster-level exposure. All of them gave me the same answer: “Honestly, I don’t know. I know what I get, but I don’t have a clue what anybody else gets. Nobody talks about it.”

One miiiiiiillllliiion dollars for a sponsorship gig? I doubt it. But who knows?

I’ve heard rumors [you all know how fishermen are with rumors, and media types aren’t much better] of deals that range from product-only sponsorships on up into the million-dollar range. Here, let me type that out for you. I said $1,000,000. I have a hard time believing anybody is inking million-dollar deals to hawk crankbaits and outboards, but that number gets thrown around a lot. I say there’s no way in heck that kind of jack is changing hands, but that’s just the thing Marty is talking about—nobody really knows [and if they do, they ain’t sayin’].

Should we know? Is the money a professional angler makes through endorsement and sponsorship deals any of our business? Would knowing that Kevin VanDam rakes in five bucks every time you say sexy shad make you admire him more or less? Is it good for the sport that these kind of numbers become public knowledge?

Those aren’t hypotheticals. I’m really asking, because I’m not sure. I’d like to know just because I’m a nosey little turd, but I guess I don’t need to know. But if I were a young pro trying to find my way in the Elite Series that kind of info would be worth it’s weight in gold.

We know what professional athletes in other sports make, but those are salaries doled out by owners of organizations whose teams we spend money to watch. Pro anglers really don’t make a salary, and even if they did, we as fans aren’t paying any money to watch these guys compete, unless your B.A.S.S. membership counts. If you want to watch Mike Iaconelli put on a show, just launch your boat and follow him around the lake—no ticket or parking pass necessary.

What do you guys think? Would you want to know what Lucky Craft pays Skeet Reese to sell you Redemptions and SKTs, or is ignorance bliss? As fans of the sport and the ones being sold to, do we have a right to know what kind of incentives these guys get when they say they caught that 5-pounder on a Chigger craw or boast about how their Triton/Mercury rig got them to their fishing spot faster than everybody else?

Oh yeah… good luck, Marty! We wish you the best in “chapter 2”.



  1. Jay

    January 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    The money is more than we can imagine. One example i know of as being fact:A retired female pro who was near the top (not at, but near) the top of her sport in the early 80’s was paid $45k a year, given two top of the line Nitro boats a year (she could sell each one and keep that money) and anything in the BPS catalog that was a BPS exclusive was free to her. This is a female pro 20+ years ago. Their top name pro at that time, again 20+ years ago) was getting $100k a year plus the boats and tackle. Given inflation and added non-endemic sponsor, I could see KVD or Skeet very easily having over a million a year in endorsements and some other guys near the top of the chain getting close to the mark. After that though, there are a few guys that are good fishermen but great at marketing themselves that still make a decent living. Very few if any can make it on tournament winnings alone. That’s the reason you see so much turnover near the lower end of the points standings every year. Some really great fishermen can’t sell themselves and that kill their career on the elite level.

    • Jason

      January 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      And all that was bundled into a single deal? That’s some serious cash. I have no doubt some of these guys accrue a mil in TOTAL sponsorship dollars, but I’m curious if anyone truly has a million-dollar deal paid in cash money from a single entity.

      I think most of us would assume KVD makes the most off-the-water dough, but I’ve heard from several sources that Skeet’s the most handsomely sponsored angler on tour.

      Bottom line is none of us know, and that’s what spurs the question here. Should we be allowed to know? I think at the least the other Elite pros should be allowed to know. Bradley Roy ought to know what the next guy is getting. Agents in other sports all know who got what and they use that info to leverage better contracts for their clients. Anglers are their own agents.

  2. Shaggybass

    January 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I know Ike talked a little about it in his book. I think it came out in 2004. At that time he made it sound like he had 2 $50,000 spots and 1 $100,0000 spot or title sponsor spot. Plus all the other small deals. I think he also got like 18 cents a jig sold from Mann’s.

  3. BP

    January 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    • Jason

      January 15, 2011 at 9:25 am

      That was an eye-opening piece, and one I’ve read in the past. But what I’d really like to see is the breakdown by sponsor. What does Skeet get from Lucky Craft? What does KVD get from Strike King?

      I think these are the kinds of number breakdowns Marty Stone is getting at. Without knowing what each angler makes on each deal, it’s really tough for the younger guys to know where to start when negotiating deals of their own.

      Who do you guys think shells out the most cash: lure companies, boat manufacturers, outboard manufacturers or some other segment of the industry? I think most of the boat and motor deals are tied up in the products themselves.

      I’m guessing it’s the lure companies that really pony up the bucks, as they seem to have the most to gain. When I see KVD win a derby on a Red Eye Shad, I don’t feel compelled to go out and buy a Nitro boat, but I do add that bait to my “gotta’ try” list.

      • BryanT

        January 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm

        I agree the big tackle co. have to shell out the most. Boat manufacturers hardly make a dime. I can’t see them doing much more than a free boat. Between pure, strike king, normark, they have to be making some pretty big profits. Not to mention every time KVD says he won a particular tourney on a strike king lure it is sold out for 6 months.

        I know Skeet from Champ gets a hull only with no motor, electronics, or trailer. Just the boat, then his other sponsors cover the motor, electronics…..

        Most boat reps/manufacturers I’ve talked to get more production on boat sales from their local pro staff over the top pros any day of the week. It’s those guys getting 10%-20% discounts on 50k+ rigs doing most of the work in boat sales out there.

  4. Dwain

    January 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    The problem is not so much what the highest figures are but how low the figures become when you drop down below about the top 30 anglers.

  5. BryanT

    January 15, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I do agree that there should be a little transparency, but I think if everyone knows the scale per rank there would only be 30-50 pros in BASS and about 100 in FLW.

    Most I know that get started bring their own money except for Swindle and Steve Kennedy. I’m sure there are others, but not many that make it the long haul.

  6. Bobby Benbo

    January 16, 2011 at 2:55 am

    A lot of endorsement deal figures are out there. We all know what Nike pays Kobe Bryant, we all knew what Buick paid Tiger Woods and the list goes on. I’m guessing Strike King pays KVD someplace close to the 1mil mark. Guessing Quantum pays him a lot as well.

  7. CharlieB

    January 18, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I’ve talked to several pros about sponsorships in 2005. One pro I talked to, a mid-level pro, received $100K from his non-endemic sponsor as well as a travel rig. He received two boats from his boat sponsor, one free, one at half cost. When he sold them, the money was his. His motors were given to him as well as all his electronics to deck out two boats. Of course, he also received all rods, reels, lures, etc and received some boot money from each.

    The second pro I talked to was lower on the food chain. Good fisherman….and now in the top 30, but then, was not. He received one boat at half price. He did get his motors, electronics, etc….but got no money.

    The third I talked to and fished with was in dire straights. He slept in his truck. He got no tackle help and no money help. He did get a boat and motor, but only on a “note” type deal. Nice guy, but didn’t make it.

    I also fished with and talked at length with one other pro. What stuck out to me with him is that he received multiple motors as his sponsorship. It was the end of the season and asked if I wanted to buy one. He got no money….just motors that he either had to use or sell.

    I guess it really depends on how well you sell yourself.

    One other thing…..advertising is generally sold on impressions. The more impressions, the more money the sponsorship is seen to be worth. Being a great fisherman, to a non-endemic sponsor, really isn’t worth anything at all…….all a business cares about is how many impressions you make. If you win, and as a result make more impressions, great……if you loose, and still make impressions, the business still wins. Its not if you win or loose, but how many impressions you make.

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