It's no secret that certain pros move from one competing sponsor to another virtually every year, willing to hawk just about any product or gimmick if the price is right. But a few select pros have staked their reputations on loyalty to the products they believe in ・and in the long run, that might be the most bankable characteristic an angler can project.
Lucky Craft really is lucky to have a stable of hyper-loyal pros. But they're not just loyal to Lucky Craft ・they're loyal to their other sponsors as well. Consider Skeet Reese's ride, for example.
When Champion Boats went through a major financial reorganization in 2001, some of its pro-staffers took the opportunity to jump ship. You could hardly blame them ・after all, there was no guarantee the company would emerge in one piece and even if it did, there was no certainty that the new managerial team would retain them as pro-staffers.
Reese certainly had offers to team up with other boat companies, but he refused them all out of loyalty to Champion. "Once you own a Champion, you'll always own a Champion," he said. The company was subsequently purchased by Genmar and moved from Arkansas to just outside of Nashville, Tenn.
His loyalty was rewarded by the new management. "I rebuilt all of my relationships," he said. "They've been absolutely incredible. We get along great. (The Genmar team) look at it now as a premium product," and at the same time they've made substantial efforts to "keep the tradition."
Something Old, Something New
Reese has been particularly pleased by management's willingness to listen to his suggestions, as evidenced by the nuances of the Champion 210 he'll run in this year's Bassmaster Elite Series. "They allowed me to have a lot of input on the design of the boat," he said. "They had to meet the desires and requests of their dealers and customers too, so not everything is exactly what I requested, but it's pretty close.
"They lowered the gunwale height to make it more conducive to pitching and flipping. They added a recessed foot pedal and they changed the front panel and the storage compartments.
"I was really pleasantly surprised. It is a new look and a new feel for Champion, but it has the same hull design, which provides a great rough-water ride. People will be shocked at how it looks. It's amazing how well it performs, especially with the Mercury 250XS that I have on the back of mine."
Bigger Is Better
Reese's natural tendency is to want to run a smaller boat, something in the 18- or 19-foot class. "Something that will get me into shallow waters and into the backwaters I like to fish," he said. But the realities of the tours make that choice a practical impossibility. Accordingly, "for the past 8 or 9 years, (I've) run a 20-footer."
This year, the Elite Series schedule is certain to feature some rough water. Notorious back-breakers on the schedule include waters like big Sam Rayburn, South Carolina's Santee Cooper, and Lake Champlain, also known as the "sixth Great Lake." Even the bodies of water less known for their turbulence ・places like Lake Guntersville and the Potomac River ・can provide harrowing and dangerous conditions.
That left Reese with no choice. "I looked at the schedule for next season, saw the types of waters and how big they can get, and I had to have the 210," he said. "If they made a 25-footer, I'd run a 25-footer!"
Excited About Live LVR
As with Champion, Reese is also proud to represent Lucky Craft. He noted it's easy to be loyal when your sponsor is the most innovative hardbait manufacturer out there. He utilizes a full arsenal of Lucky Craft lures in his Tour travels, but still manages to get excited by each of the company's new releases.
"It's such a cool bait," he said. "It will definitely have its time and place (on tour) this year. It will be extremely productive. It's a small, compact bait with a subtle action, but it's fairly heavy so it'll go deeper than other lipless baits. It's not as noisy as the LV-500, and at times that can be a good thing."
The Live LVR enables him to utilize lipless Lucky Crafts to seine the water column. "This one will be best in the 5- to 8- foot zone. The LV-500 is for 4 to 6 feet and the LV-100 is my favorite in 2 to 4 feet.
"It'll excel on the shallower grassy lakes on our schedule. Obviously, its success depends on the conditions we face, but if we hit a lake like Rayburn or Guntersville in the prespawn, it could definitely be a key lure."
> Reese picked up Save Phace, maker of the popular Fish Hedz masks, as a new sponsor. "It's such a cool product, so practical and functional," he said.