Kyle Welcher has a strong personal brand

Strong Personal Brands

The fishing industry beyond bags and blue trophies

It all changed with COVID. Social media grew as quickly as the virus, transforming from an “emerging disruptor”to a fundamental pillar in the fishing industry’s marketing strategy. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are now central to these efforts, with specialized agencies and dedicated budgets pushing marketers to expand their digital presence. This shift has made it challenging to pinpoint where marketing dollars should be most effectively allocated.

The one constant? Strong personal brands.

Brand Power

The power of a personal endorsement is a timeless market­ing tactic in bridging the gap between brands and consumers. Modern anglers have the opportunity to leverage trust and engagement, serving as a direct, persuasive link.

With the correct execution by the right influencers, businesses can earn enormous profits. Followers flock to authenticity, and are far more receptive to an endorsement that feels like a personal recommendation rather than a corporate ad. Brands, in turn, expand their reach and increase their engagement across the market.

If anglers with strong personal brands have become the backbone of an effective marketing budget in the fishing industry, how can your business wet its own line? Still in search of a clear recipe ourselves, we brought in two professional anglers and one marketing expert who have the credentials to impart wisdom.

Key Influence

John Crews has a strong personal brand

Enter John Crews and Kyle Welcher, a pair of anglers who have made a living by establishing a personal voice online. Both own prodigious fishing resumes, having each quali­fied for the Bassmaster Classic on multiple occasions to go along with a cluttered trophy case.

Crews has two Elite Series wins to his credit, and Welcher is the reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Both have long-term relationships with sponsors and have firmly cemented themselves as credible endorsers of products in the eyes of consumers through their social media channels.

Meanwhile, Mike Anselmo, who has served as the marketing manager at Striker Brands and as the di­rector of marketing for Northland Fishing Tackle and Bagley Baits, has collaborated with both.

“As a marketer, I was naturally drawn to both Kyle and John because of their social media presence,” Anselmo said. “Striker was just launching premium rainwear nationally; Kyle was a rookie coming into B.A.S.S. and John was an established veteran. I wanted to work with guys who were ahead of the curve on the social media front.”

In order to maximize his marketing dollars and reach more potential customers, Anselmo made certain the two anglers displayed commitment to their various social media platforms. However, he mostly gives them free rein, a testament to a level of confidence that only blooms with results.

“Both had an audience and were established on social media,” Anselmo said. “I didn’t want to have guys who needed to be convinced about increasing their social media presence. I let them be creative. They come off as honest, unscripted, and believable—because they are. They understand the routine and go about their business the only way they know how.”

Part of the Job

John Crews has a strong personal brand

Crews embraced the power of social media 16 years ago, posting his first YouTube video and integrating it seamlessly into his career. To him, being active on social platforms isn’t extra work; it’s an essential part of the job.

Boasting nearly 600 instructional and review videos, his stance carries weight. “Be present and active on social,” Crews said. “It’s part of the job requirement. You can’t just go fish tournaments anymore. I’ve enjoyed success and wins, but I hustle everywhere, including bringing value to my partners through social media efforts—ranging from techniques on the water to meticulous equipment maintenance off the water.”

Expanding his role beyond just angling, Crews is also the entrepreneur behind Missile Baits. His approach to social media is two-fold, as not only does he promote his personal brand, but also his company, Missile Baits.

The decorated angler also collaborates with industry giants like SPRO and Cashion Rods.

“Your value to a company isn’t only in your social footprint,” he noted. “Some partners seek my marketing insights, while others involve me in product development.”

Crews’ partnerships are diverse, each requiring a unique contribution—a reflection of his multifaceted expertise and influence.

“Build your own audience and monetize your content,” Crews tells up-and-coming tournament anglers. “It’s vital for your sponsors and crucial for your personal brand.”

Exceeding Partnership Expectations

Welcher’s rise on social media, on the other hand, came much earlier in his career. In fact, he was cultivat­ing a YouTube audience well before his debut cast in the Elite Series. Now entering his sixth year in the circuit, his 9-­year-old YouTube channel thrives, nearly matching Crews’ video count despite being half the age.

“To me, it’s a partnership with the companies I represent,” Welcher said. “It makes sense to be consistent and regularly promote through content creation. I don’t have to think about hitting a minimum number of posts or stories; it’s about frequency and building a consistent message with your audience that provides value.”

Welcher has been providing value to Sunline, Gamakatsu, Striker, and Untamed Tackle for his entire Elite Series career, and has integrated 13 Fishing and Rapala over the past three seasons.

When elaborating on his approach, Welcher emphasized the importance of maintaining open communication with his contacts across different brands.

“I’ve got a ‘boss’ at each brand and we stay in touch. I like to know what we expect of each other at all times.”

Welcher believes that while having a strong social media presence is crucial, it’s only half the battle. The other essential element, he points out, is genuine product development. He emphasizes the importance of being involved in the actual process of creating a bait from scratch and ensuring it meets high standards.

“There is only a small subset of professionals who are willing to give real feedback,” he explained, high­lighting a gap in the industry. “Great social media presence, tournament success, and effective product development put you in the sweet spot.”

Where is that sweet spot? We’re about to show you.

Untamed Opportunity

Kyle Welcher has a strong personal brand

When Anselmo was 10 years old, Sunday nights featured the likes of Roland Martin, Orlando Wilson, and Hank Parker in his family’s living room. Time has since revealed that his achievements, much like those of his favorite legendary bassmasters, lie in the journey rather than the destination.

In October, Anselmo purchased Untamed Tackle, leaving behind his role at Northland Fishing Tackle. He saw untapped potential in a young, vibrant brand with a unique allure, excellent key products, and one exceptionally skilled angler.

Now, leaning on a lifetime of fishing experience to execute his vision, he enjoys developing products that enable anglers to fish the way he likes to fish. But even with the finest ingredients, a chef ‘s potential remains unrealized if he or she lacks the skill to transform raw materials into an exquisite dish.

It’s the culinary expertise that ultimately creates a memorable meal. However, a master chef can also recognize unimagined value in just a single element.

Anselmo’s missing piece? The reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

Relying on past experience, Anselmo knew he needed to build credibility with the addition of on­-water expertise, and Welcher had already been work­ing with Untamed Tackle for several years.

And, not only did Welcher offer expertise, but also digital reach. The pair would ultimately collaborate again to grow Untamed Tackle, marking a significant turn in each of their professional journeys.

“I’ve become good at creating hustle-based marketing plans,” Anselmo explained. “We can create a consistent voice driven by the frequency of posting on different social channels.”

With strong products, credible endorsements, and a limited marketing budget typical of a small company, Untamed Tackle carries a big stick in today’s market. The next steps are to grow the social footprint through organic content across a variety of platforms.

“Right now, the industry is in a period of re­set, where the larger companies dominate the pegs on big-brand retailers, which leaves the door open for small boutique-sized brands like Untamed Tackle to create a little bit of voice for themselves in the marketplace,” Anselmo said.

“I think now is a great time for companies like ours to put thoughtful design into place. If you have the opportunities to work with a highly credible partner, like UT does with Kyle Welcher, the sky’s the limit.”
Though the acquisition didn’t include a large library of assets, Anselmo wasn’t worried. He’s become quite good at using what’s available to self-promote.

“I can clip, cut and hustle my way to growth with consistent interaction,” he said, referring to posting organic content. “I can control all of this before spending an additional dollar on paid advertising.”

A New Order of Business

Peel back the layers of the most influential anglers and you’ll find beyond catching fish, they’re early adopters and self-starters—and they’re credible. Repetition trumps perfection. Building trust leads to building great products. They reject the “buy this” mentality, opting for a more authentic approach that shows rather than tells.

The human element refreshes, forging a sustainable business model undeterred by archaic guardrails. Engaging with their audience through comments, live streams, and collaborations, Crews and Welcher grow a personal connection. They turn their advice into valuable insights in an industry often clouded with misleading claims.

“Consumers are hungry for something new and dif­ferent,” Anselmo said. “If you have the ability to pro­vide focus to a category and super-serve on a specific level—like we’re trying to do with the skirted jigs—I think you can hit a home run with that audience.”

In the ever-changing world of competitive angling, where techniques evolve and new challenges emerge, one truth remains constant: catching fish ebbs and flows. Big bags and blue trophies come and go, but anglers with strong personal brands will remain relevant—and so will the companies they represent.