The kayak fishing world is full of prostaffers. Every kayak company, bait maker, clothing company, manufacturer of kayak related goods and other miscellaneous product manufacturer seems to have a pro staff, team, ambassador program or promotional group. We have so many prostaffers running around that finding folks without affiliation usually indicates they are new to the sport or are burnt out from being a prostaffer. (This isn’t always the case but finding a forever unattached by choice kayak angler is a bit of a unicorn.)
I talk about the prostaff predicament often and I am sure by now many are weary of hearing it. If prostaff isn’t for you, this article really won’t be either. For the guys in the game or wanting to be, please read this to the end.
Most folks have heard the phrase, “the next KVD”. Most folks see Kevin VanDam with his colorful jersey of many prostaffs and think that is what it means to be the number one angler in the world. That’s backwards.
Trying to emulate KVD or Chad Hoover or Jim Sammons by having myriad stickers, patches and endorsements from companies is actually going about it backwards.
Accumulation of company patches is commonplace now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing but if you REALLY want to be the next KVD, you need to change your game.
Stop sending requests to companies to be prostaff.
Stop PAYING TO APPLY to be on someone’s prostaff.
You didn’t know that was a thing? It is. Companies will pay management groups like NPS to weed through applicants. They also charge the applicants $20 or more to apply to a pro staff. TO APPLY! The truth hurts but I am going to drop it right here: If you are paying to apply to a prostaff, regardless of if you are accepted, you are doing it wrong.
Stop asking and start doing something.
Before you ever apply for a prostaff you need to be you. What does that mean?
You need to develop your niche in the market. You need to be the crazy guy on Instagram or the kayak tip per day guy on YouTube or even the blogger trying to help the world learn about kayak fishing. Those are all valued and important pieces for companies wanting promotion..
You need to be unique. In a world saturated with social content, you have to stand out. Sometimes that means over the top. Sometimes it’s just a look. Sometimes it’s the way you go about sharing things.
Hear me when I say this. If you develop you first, the opportunities will come.
The main difference between being the next KVD and being a prostaff guy is simple. Is your social currency, your influence and reach bigger than the brand you represent? If your identity is wrapped up in being one of the proud paddlers of a Misty X125 and you wear a Misty jersey everywhere, what is the focus on? If your identity is Max Smith the YouTube Tips guy who is wearing a Misty jersey, it changes. And chances are, Max, even if he is a proud paddler of Misty kayaks, wouldn’t be wearing a jersey. Self-branding got him to where he is and allows him to be himself.
You hold no power in your own future if you have to beg for a chance to promote someone else.
Do you know why guys burn out on prostaffs? Lots of reasons are given but the one I think it all boils down to is this: It’s not a partnership.
If you were made a somebody in the industry by a company, they owe you nothing. You are like an employee they have trained, given tools to and have a task list to perform. They made you who you are. When you stop doing that, 100 guys are in line to replace you.
If a company comes to you because you are a somebody and wants to work with you, the value to the company and individual flows both ways. The company often seeks industry input from the individual and relies upon them to continue being them. The company benefits from the association.
The determination to become the next big thing in kayak fishing should not start with the collection of prostaff positions. It should begin with the development of you, your voice, your platform and your value to the kayak angling world. Start with you, hone your platform, receive and act on constructive criticism and put in the work.
No one else has as much to gain from you as you. If you won’t invest in you, why should anyone else?