This past weekend I experienced the power of grassroots outreach spreading the word about kayaking and kayak fishing. While unloading my yak at Van Hollow on Beaver Lake I overheard FLW pro Eric Jackson in a conversation that peaked my interest.
A family with four kids in small kayaks were paddling around and having a big time in the water while a man and his wife in a big, expensive boat were pulling up to their trailer. “Where’d you get those kayaks?” asked the man in the boat of the family. For the next few minutes they talked about the kayaks, where they got them, the brand and the price. Then the boat angler said something that caught my attention – “You know, I’ve been thinking about getting me a good fishing kayak. There was an FLW pro here recently who is a world champion kayaker and now is a professional fisherman. I think his name was Jackson.” The man went on to talk about how he met Eric Jackson at the FLW show and since then he’s really been excited about the idea of fishing from a yak. Eric Jackson is of Jackson Kayaks, one of the most popular and well known kayak producers. This example really struck home to me the impact that people who are seen as professional fisherman can have on the awareness and legitimacy of our sport.
I’ve only talked to Eric Jackson a couple of times in person and he likely does not remember me, but I do recall from meeting him some of the aspects of his personality which make him a great ambassador for the sport. At the Beaver Lake FLW event this year I was going to fish in the pro-am on the Monday following the tournament. As we were waiting around for take-off I approached Jackson and told him I too was a kayak angler. We immediately began discussing kayaks, fishing and the sport and probably would still be talking if the tournament didn’t begin. After the event it so happened that I was in the weigh-in line right behind Jackson and his co-angler. Even though they had had a rough day with one keeper, he was all smiles and was displaying a very positive attitude. Previously I had wondered how other FLW pros felt about this kayak angler in their midst, but as the long wait unfolded and conversations took place around the water troughs it was clear he was one of the gang, liked and respected by the other anglers.
This is great for our sport of kayak fishing. To be honest, Jackson isn’t topping the leaderboard in the FLW events quite yet, but he’s improving, and has a good article on FLW.com about kayak vs tournament fishing. But the exposure he’s bringing to the sport, the more he talks about it with others and the more awareness he creates is all positive. Here’s to hoping we all have that spirit of outreach to share the sport we love with others.