Byline: Gene Mueller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Suppose you manufacture your own fishing lures but have trouble selling them because only your friends know about the product. Don't you wish you could get a big-name professional tournament angler to use it? And imagine what would happen if he won a major fishing contest with such a lure? The cash registers would ring steadily.
In a manner of speaking, the latter portion of that delicious problem happened to the biggest fishing tackle company in the United States, Pure Fishing of Spirit Lake, Iowa.
Pure Fishing - the owner of such stellar brands as Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Berkley, Johnson, Spider, Mitchell and Red Fox - surely has enough money to promote new items, but it didn't hurt when one of the anglers it sponsors recently won the "big 'un" as they say in the Deep South.
Professional bass tournament fishing star Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, is a Berkley kind of a guy. He uses Berkley Trilene fishing lines and Berkley Frenzy lures, along with scented Berkley Power Bait plastic worms and lure trailers. A little more than a month ago, he won the world championship of bass fishing, the BASS Masters Classic - on Berkley lures exclusively.
The man who runs Pure Fishing, Tom Bedell, son of company founder Berkley Bedell (a former congressman from Iowa), must be smiling from ear to ear.
In a brilliant promotional move, Bedell's public relations people wanted the world to know how Jay Yelas outfished a 52-man field consisting of the best bass anglers in the world as he used only Berkley hard and soft baits in the upper end of Alabama's Lay Lake where, among many others, he hooked a 6-pound, 2-ounce fish on the first day of the competition, then followed it with a 6-pound, 4-ounce beauty on Day 2, finishing with another bass on Day 3 that weighed a little under five pounds. To put Yelas' catches into perspective, a typical largemouth bass that is hooked almost anywhere in the country will weigh less than two pounds.
Yelas' three-day total of 45 pounds, 13 ounces earned him $203,000 and, no doubt, countless offers from competitors who want the quiet Texan to push their wares.
But the Pure Fishing Company long ago signed Yelas, and now they wanted to show the world how he was a member of their team by sending a sample of the very lures that earned him the world championship to outdoors writers all over the country. What better way to let the people who write about fishing know precisely what the champ's stuff looked like? (By the way, after shooting photos of the lures and two sample reel-filler line packs, the stuff was given to a neighbor, Tom Roland, who greatly admires Yelas' fishing talents.)
The PR move is a legitimate news item because hard-nosed bass anglers want to know what any bass tour winner uses so they can duplicate his fishing tactics, if not his skills, in finding productive water.
Yelas, who became only the third angler in the 32-year history of the BASS Classic to lead the three-day event from start to finish, began his daily outings with an early morning topwater lure, Berkley's Frenzy Popper. He'd cast the surface lure into upper lake shallows, around stick-ups and such, then twitch the lure gently, allowing it to pop and softly gurgle. Bang! A bass would inhale it.
Later, as the sun warmed the shallows, Yelas moved his boat to dropoff lake areas that saw water rapidly declining from shallow to deep. …