When the news that Mike “Ike” Iaconelli was sporting a Hobie Pro Angler 14 released last week, the reactions were mixed. Some thought it was pretty cool. Others thought it was a paid endorsement and ended at that. Ike is good for kayak fishing. It is a strong move and makes for strong opinions no doubt but is a good move for the sport of kayak fishing in my opinion. Here is why.
#1 Public Exposure
Believe it or not, there is a large population of people who don’t kayak fish or even really know it’s a thing. We are a small niche market in the fishing world. Ike with a Hobie at all of his events this year causes people to ask about it, talk about it, and investigate further into the world of kayak fishing.
#2 Industry Growth
Do you like all the different kayaks that are available? As someone who bought the only kayak offered in the county back in 2003, I can tell you I sure do! More kayaks are becoming available because more people want to buy kayaks. As public interest grows, so do options, models, price points and availability. Sure Ike is sporting a Hobie but not everyone curious will end up buying a Hobie. Was the make and model of your first car the only one you drive? For most folks that’s a no. Take the brand out of it and see what this is. Ike is showing off his kayak. With all of the people at all of the weigh ins this year seeing that kayak on his Toyota, new growth will be happening which will help across the board.
#3 Market Crossover
For so long, the kayak segment has struggled to get buy in for tournaments, advertising, sponsorships, pro staff deals and charitable donations from fishing companies. We have the kayak fishing companies like Bending Branches, RAM, Jackson, Hobie, Railblaza, SuperNova and others willingly helping but how often are Abu Garcia, Shimano, Rapala, and others headlining as a kayak tournament sponsor or donating thousands to Heroes on the Water? It does happen but it’s not a mainstay. We are a tiny segment of the fishing world. In order for Pure Fishing, Shimano and others to really notice us, crossover markets have to notice us. Ike and his kayak are showing his sponsors and others that kayak fishing is important. This is a push we desperately need to put kayak fishing into the national spotlight. That benefits almost everyone.
#4 Rising Tide Floats All Boats
This is more than an endorsement of a company by an angler. This is an endorsement of a sport by one of the most popular anglers in the world. Hank Parker was the first but Hank isn’t in the spotlight as much now. A new face needed to show the world kayak fishing. He’s doing it on the biggest fishing stage there is. The industry has already taken notice. This is going to translate into more and more companies wanting to get into the segment. Think about it. We often check out the newest baits that the pros are using at the Classic. We scavenge Tackle Warehouse preordering new baits to our spouse’s disapproval. Why? Because it’s new. Because it’s exciting. Because it’s an edge. Ike has told the world that kayak angling can provide an edge in a lot of situations. Companies and individuals will be taking notice.
So why the hate? Why do you question the intentions of all involved? Do you not want other people kayak fishing? Do you not want others to get into the sport? Maybe you are worried discounts and free stuff might be harder to get?
It baffles me that kayak fishing is literally center stage at huge events, the biggest in fishing, and the kayak community is split. I’m not saying you have to love the idea of a go fast boat guy toting a kayak around. What I am saying is that when the spotlight is on the sport in a way we have never seen before, we shouldn’t show the world half of our community is spiteful, jealous, and wish to never share water with anyone else. I don’t think that’s a good representation of our core.
The kayak community I know has always been welcoming, caring, and passionate about sharing the outdoors with people. Hate doesn’t look good on us. We are not that. Let’s make sure we are sharing the right message with our new, curious onlookers.That message should be “Welcome! How can we help?”