Study: High School fishing clubs offer an opportunity for the industry

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A recent study shows that high school fishing clubs are generating interest and sales for companies that operate in that space, with club members spending nearly twice as much on gear than their non-member peers.

A study conducted by Southwick Associates for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Fishing League Worldwide and the Student Angler Federation showed that in the 12 months after joining a fishing club, 23 percent of members spent more than $1,000 on tackle and equipment, and 7 percent spent between $700 and $1,000.

The students had preferences among brands — 42 percent purchased Lew’s rods over the course of 12 months, 32 percent bought an Abu-Garcia rod, 23 percent purchased Shimano and 22 percent bought a St. Croix rod.

Fifty-eight percent chose Lew’s reels, 46 percent bought Shimano and 40 percent bought Daiwa reels.

Clothing brands also had strong favorites; over the course of 12 months, 62 percent bought clothes by Huk, 50 percent bought Columbia, and 37 percent bought Under Armour.

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In addition to diving into demographics and sentiment, the study revealed some insights into the economic impact of high-school fishing clubs and the equipment they prefer, according to RBFF.

“Before embarking on this project, we had a hunch that high school fishing clubs were valuable to the industry, but likely weren’t driving participation growth. This research supports that as 99 percent of participants already fished prior to joining a club,” said RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson in a statement. “But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity here. We see a tremendous opportunity to encourage clubs to help recruit a more diverse membership and turn those new members into lifelong anglers.”

In contrast to the traditional and avid members brought in by most clubs, one program in Florida that received partial funding from RBFF’s State R3 Program Grant in 2016 could serve as a model for what clubs could strive for in the future.

The Miami-Dade based program, a partnership between the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and FLW, brought in more novice participants (37 percent), with 54 percent being white and 24 percent Hispanic.

According to Southwick Associates President Rob Southwick, who conducted the study, the biggest opportunity to tap into these clubs may be among retailers and manufacturers.

“High school anglers are early adopters and have spent more money on fishing gear than their non-fishing club peers,” said Southwick. “High school anglers are influencers, having significant sway on the fishing tackle brands chosen by others of their age.”

“Boat manufacturers, dealers, and rental organizations have a huge opportunity to partner with high school fishing clubs to provide access and reduce barriers to entry,” said RBFF. “The same goes for fishing equipment manufacturers and retailers.”

Read the full study here.

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