For the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to fish with an FLW Pro in the Will Fish for Kids charity tournament on Beaver Lake and this year was pleased to draw Eric Jackson as my pro partner. Teaming up with Eric was no accident, I had requested to be paired with the world champion kayaker, pro fisherman, business man and marketer – knowing we’d have a great time talking as well as fishing.
Beaver Lake had just come off of a roller coaster couple of weeks of record rains and quickly rising water, creating issues for most of the pro anglers during the tournament. The night before our event threw another curve, with temps dropping to 38 degrees overnight (in May!) and 20-30 mph wind gusts during the day. Add to that a hazelnut stain in the normally crystal clear water and it was not the lake I had been used to.
Eric and I met up that morning and started out heading up an arm of Prairie Creek to check out some underwater wood structure he had
identified. Shortly thereafter, we were about to escape the very muddy water of Prairie Creek and head up to chase some smallmouth when his motor took a dive on us and we were stuck around the take-off point for the rest of the day. In what was a recurring theme, Eric took this in stride and put a positive face on the situation. The rest of our day we worked around the launch area fishing some different techniques as best as we could, but just didn’t make magic happen. We boated only one keeper before we agreed to pack it in for the day and let Eric and family hit the road back to Tennessee. As expected however, fishing wasn’t the key highlight for me. I enjoyed my interaction with Eric as I picked his brain on what it is like to try and become a pro, the kayak industry, sponsorship theory and his marketing approach in general.
First and foremost that stands out to me is how positive Eric was all day long under diverse conditions. Every time we would creep our way to a new area with his trolling motor, he would be positive and declare, “This is a good spot, looks really good.” Or, if I suggested we hit a certain stretch, “That’s a good call, let’s do it.” As we struggled to get enough bites we cycled through baits trying various things. “That’s a good idea, really might be the right thing to use,” he would say as I would move to a new bait. No matter what was going on, he had a great attitude and made it better for his co-angler. Last year I had met Eric at the morning take-off of the event and wrote this blog post about it: FLW Tour Pro Eric Jackson Good for Kayak Fishing – which also discussed the positive vibe this guy puts out all the time.
This positive attitude has to have had a lot to do with the successes in his life. Too many accolades to list here (but check them out here), he truly has had a world-class career. He’s also been very successful in the business world, with Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers and other brands being among the most well known and respected outdoor names. As a marketer, I was very interested to hear about his ideas about brand building, marketing and how to leverage the grassroots connections. We talked about the importance of ‘layering’ when working on content and brand messaging. Maybe the most telling aspect to me about his concepts of business is when he told me how at Jackson, he sees his warranty department as an extension of marketing. He recognizes how a company stands behind their product and cares for loyal customers means long-term prosperity.
We also discussed at length the soon to be released Jackson Flex Drive System, which is a pedal based system for Jackson Kayaks. I currently use a Hobie Pro Angler as my tournament boat but definitely plan to check out this offering from Jackson once available. It sounds like there will be a couple of really interesting features, including an easy beaching ability without drive issues. Jackson yaks are well known for quality, and I’d expect their pedal version to live up to the legacy there.
All in all it was an interesting day of ideas, marketing, and conversation – with a little fishing thrown in. Eric is clearly very passionate about his fishing career and has a clear plan on how he’s going to be a long-term successful competitor on the professional level. At the end of the day, because of his positive attitude, drive and mind for creative thinking…I tend to believe him.