NPAA's 2011 Conference an Enormous Success
"On behalf of those with the original dream, the NPAA has arrived and is making a difference," said founding member Gary Parsons. Another original board member, Scott Glorvigen said, "I was in the room where the NPAA was birthed, and the growth shown by the record attendance at this conference is great to see."
These National Professional Anglers Association members were among the nearly 200 attendees at their 2011 annual conference held Jan 7-9, in the Twin Cities. Bruce DeShano, another founding member and long-time treasurer said, "The NPAA is going in the right direction."
Executive Director Pat Neu was exuberant about membership and supporting partner growth. "Our supporting sponsors increased 76 percent in 2010, from 21 to 37," he said. Membership hit an all-time record, surpassing annual goals, and now stands at 433 individuals. "It's all about the sport," Neu said, as he set the tone for the conference.
He followed that theme by emphasizing how the NPAA would continue to grow the sport (numerous youth events), protect the sport (legislative watchdogs by state), be stewards of the sport (cooperative invasive aquatic species education in conjunction with Supporting Partners the US Forest Service and Sea Grant), and expand to all species and all anglers. "We've done something many people said couldn't be done in this economy," Neu said.
NPAA President John Butts said, "The members are making it happen. Our base is stronger than ever, non-industry partners are embracing us, and the time and money invested in the youth programs are significant." In January 2008, only nine companies were NPAA Supporting Partners. Three years later, Butts pointed with pride to the 37 partners. "And, more are coming," he said.
Scheduled keynote speaker Jerry McKinnis, co-owner of BASS, was "snow-stormed" in Arkansas, and the airport was closed. Stepping in was Al Lindner, Hall of Fame angler, TV show host for 40 years and multi-species expert. He said, "We're finally seeing the tables tip in the right direction after some tough times in the fishing and marine industry. There is cautious optimism at all levels." He cited the record attendance at the conference, the positive signs in competitive fishing with more payout and early registrations ahead of past seasons, and the fact that the foundation of the sport - fish -are in many cases better than ever for bass and walleye.
Also addressing the conference was 25-year bass pro angler Dion Hibdon. "Things are coming around, with some neat things happening, including here at NPAA with the increased membership and sponsors," he said. He said walleye guys are like bass, and in fact face a tougher challenge due to the short tournament season, but benefit because they have a much longer time to promote the sport. "This sport will come back due to the passion and efforts of those in this room," Hibdon said. He applauded the youth efforts and said, "It's a priority to get kids on the water."
George Liddle, long-time Ranger Boat representative in the upper Midwest said, "It's wonderful to be involved with a fishing organization that's growing. We're excited about the upcoming show selling season." Representing new NPAA member Yamaha was David Ittner. He pointed to excellent sales in 2010, with a new line-up of four-stroke outboards that he claimed gave his company an edge. "The market is coming back, even at a slow rate, and I project another strong year," he said.
Tom Neustrom, Lund Boats spokesman said, "We've moved through the tough times, but are now back. Workers are being called back; 2010 was good, and 2011 will be even better. We're enthusiastic about this year. Everybody must work to get people back into fishing." Mercury Marine's Michelle Kilburn said, "Fishermen are our key market, and we're building on our strategic position, conducting R & D and future product development and preparing for a healthy future. Merc is holding its sales position and market share."
Echoing the current up-tick in the industry were many industry leaders. Full reports from conference sessions and speakers will be featured in future news releases and stories on the NPAA website, npaa.net. The conference was devoted to the business of fishing, the importance of social media and how to tap into its potential, the internet, youth involvement, resource education, tournament news, industry updates and company highlights.
Many conference presentations were live streamed on the World Wide Web by NPAA Supporting Partner OutdoorsFIRST Media and displayed on NPAA.net and two partner websites, allowing those unable to attend to experience select portions of the Conference and perhaps realize how beneficial attending the NPAA yearly conference is to Guides, Pros, and Industry Professionals.