For most of us that fish the Bassmaster Elite Series, sponsorships are a very important part of keeping us out there on the road. As a regular guy, I probably wouldn't have started fishing in the U.S. — and I certainly wouldn’t be out here making my living on the tournament trail today — without the help that I get from all of my sponsors.
In addition to the financial help that sponsors can provide, the fishing companies that help us out often provide most of the equipment and tackle that we use. All of us try to use the products that our sponsors make whenever we can, but there are times, especially with tackle, when we have to use a competitor’s product to get the job done and catch fish.
I promise you, there isn’t an angler on the Elite Series who can make it through an entire season only using their sponsor's baits. The competition is just too strong, so sometimes we need to include “regionally popular” baits in our lineup.
Typically, the protocol when we are using a non-sponsor bait is to not talk about it. With all the great live coverage of our events today, we can’t lie about what we are using. If I’m using a bait that is unique to anything that my sponsors are making then I’m fine with sharing what is working for me — part of our job is to educate — but there are times when we’ll keep quiet about what we’re using.
Luckily for me, my main tackle sponsors — Z-Man, Bagley, Flat-Out Tungsten, Gamakatsu and Northland Fishing Tackle — have me covered for a lot of the stuff that I use. But there are certainly times when I need to bring in some outside tackle to do my job.
With rods and reels, I’m especially lucky to get support from Shimano and G. Loomis, who make some of finest equipment available. Part of my deal with these companies includes that I am not allowed to use any other brand of rods or reels. I never have to because their product line is so extensive.
Earlier this week, G. Loomis launched the new NRX+ line up of rods. This is their new flagship series, and they are some of the most beautiful fishing rods that I have ever picked up, without a doubt. If you fish for a living as a tournament angler or guide, or you want to fish with the best equipment that you can get, you need to check these rods out. Light, sensitive, powerful, they have it all.
I first heard about these new rods in early 2020 when I got four or five samples to fish with and provide feedback. I was told not to show these rods to anybody, which was hard because but I was so impressed with them. I wanted to show everybody!
They never left my rod locker the rest of the year; I just kept them tucked away if I was around cameras. I had nothing but good reports for the crew back at G. Loomis in Washington. They got them right!
At the start of the 2021 season, before our first event down in Florida, I got my first finished NRX+ rod that I was told to get some photos with. We got the photos done, and the rod never left my boat. At the second tournament of the season on the Tennessee River I ended up finding a massive school of smallmouth, and we know what happened there. I earned my first blue trophy; it was a dream come true.
A story that not many people know from that event is that the first day of the tournament I caught all of my fish on the new NRX+ rod that I had. It was an 852 7-foot, 1-inch spinning rod that was absolutely perfect for the moping technique that I employed. When I got in at the end of Day 1, there had been several photos of me fishing that were circulating around. The new rods look similar to the regular NRX rods that have been around for over a decade so unless someone was really looking for it, they probably wouldn’t notice that I was using something different.
My boss at G. Loomis (and good friend) Bob Mahoney checked in with me after the weigh-in, as he does after many of my tournament days, and he mentioned that I should try to keep that rod on the “down low” the next day when I was going to have a Bassmaster LIVE camera in the boat. I said sure but, “There is no chance that I’m not using that rod tomorrow!”
A few hours later, I got another call from Mahoney, and he had some bad news. “Bud, I’m sorry but you can’t use that new rod tomorrow.” He explained that they did not want to leak the new rod line yet and that there would be no way to keep people from noticing it over the weekend. I was disappointed because I really loved the new stick.
Initially, I was kind of angry about it because most folks understand that we often use and test new equipment before it hits the market, but I understood their position and that they have invested a lot into the launch. I got through the rest of the event with the regular NRX rods that I have made my living with for years, and everything worked out great.
Check out the new NRX+ rods when you get a chance, they are truly a work of art.