WalleyeFIRST Tournament Series, Bro's Story
Published November 1, 2010
What's Bro, a guy known for bluegills and ice fishing, doing in walleye tournaments? What's he doing with all those sponsors? What's he love about tournaments he can't get anywhere else? What makes him tick?
Answers to those questions and a look at one of the most well-known ice fishermen in North America follow. Bro does have some other names, like on his driver's license, where is reads Brian Brosdahl. He might be the only person the world knows from Max, Minnesota. He also guides about 100 days each year, conducts at least 150 days of promotions and sponsor activities annually, and has now added tournaments to his "must-do" list.
This is how it started when he was running up and down the Mississippi River in his own Lund at age 10. "When I was nine, I wanted to meet a couple pros who were talking with each other in a sport show booth. I waited and waited, and finally walked the show some more and came back. When I had my chance, I asked a question. They weren't interested in me. I was mad," he said.
Ever since then, Bro made it a point to always be available and talk with the public, saying, "They're the most important people." Today, he promotes at seminars, retail visits, at boat and sport shows, while doing TV shows and other media events and during one-on-one guide trips.
Guiding prepared him for tournaments, and he still considers guiding more stressful than competitive fishing. "If less than successful on a guide trip, I can see disappointment in their eyes," he said, "Which makes me want to do better every time out." The clients like to catch fish all day long. In tournaments, he follows wife Heather's rule, "Limit. Limit. Limit." He won't swing for the fences until he secures a limit. This wasn't as easy starting out when all he thought about was winning.
He began with local team events on Leech, Winnie and Bemidji. "The toughest tournaments are on lakes where you're fishing against the best locals," he said. Tournaments to Bro are the reverse of gambling. He explained, "The worst thing with gambling is if you win, you'll lost big next time. In tournaments, if you lose big, you'll work much harder in the future."
Graduating to the FLW League events and scoring five top 10 place finishes, Bro then moved to the FLW Tour where he racked up three top 10's in 11 tournaments. "If everybody knew how much fun it was, there would be a waiting line for every tournament," he said. His philosophy about fishing with the "big boys" is simple, "If I don't do it, I won't see places like Oahe, Devils Lake, St. Croix and others. For me, tournaments are built-in vacations with a bit of stress added."
Interestingly, he was NOT required to fish tournaments for his sponsors. He is in the panfish and ice business for them. They weren't keen on the idea, but when he started winning and doing well, they liked his cross-pollination into the sport. Reasons ticked off his lips about tournaments, "I love the memoires and the lessons taught at each stop. I had nothing to do but lose, and I don't like finishing at the bottom. Maybe that's why I work so hard to get my daily limits."
Perhaps most important was his positive attitude about tournaments, "I wanted to support the fishing industry, especially during the past several years when things were looking gloomy." Bro said this is the time for the good weekend anglers and pros who have stepped back for a few years to jump in and become involved. He said, "If an ice guy and a panfish guy can do well in walleye tournaments, then the big walleye guys need to get back in the game."
He discovered some keys to fishing walleye tournaments that meant more than basic fishing knowledge. He cited etiquette and being helpful to others, "It's about helping individuals. When you help, it helps you back." He feels the walleye tournament industry will take off again. He urged every person even remotely involved participate by joining the NPAA. He felt tournaments were the best way to catapult anglers into the game with sponsors.
This season he will likely fish the FLW Tour, some MWC, a few Leech and Cass Lake team events and the International Falls Bass Championship.
Bro's marketing partners include Frabill, Northland, Strikemaster, Humminbird, MinnKota, Cannon, Lakemaster, Ranger, Evinrude, Bionic fishing line, and Bro series rods and reels.
Bro is more than a spokesman for major companies like Frabill, Northland Tackle and Strikemaster. He has "street-cred" and explains how and why he uses their products in ads, on TV, at shows and wherever he stops. His input to product design like ice shelters, apparel, rods, reels and gadgets for ice fishing leads to consumer-friendly products while being extremely satisfying. "I'm in at the ground-floor level, and actually sought Frabill out because of their reputation," he said, "I wanted to get behind them and their great products."
Being on the ice for dozens of winters now, Bro was influential in the Storm Suit, which won best apparel at the 2010 ICAST show. "It's the best engineered ice fishing wear period - nothing better," he said. He expects products like this from a company where the owners and employees all fish. They're number one in fish houses, have a great conservation message with their nets, and know that keeping bait alive is critical. Speaking about his position, Bro said, "I'm the front-man, but not better than the rest of the team; we all work together."
Bro adds more "street-cred" to Northland's ice fishing lure line-up. He is the spokesman and namesake for the Bro series of panfish lures. He's been designing the Bro Bug for almost a decade, and revitalized it as part of the "Bug" family, including Bloodworm, Scud Bug, Slug Bug, Mud Bug, Gill Getter and the new Hexi-Fly. "The creative design team leads the parade in the industry with a lot of great people at the table," he said, admitting ideas from the dusty attic in his brain keep popping out. The lures work and have generated repeat sales. "They plain catch fish," he said. He credited John Peterson as the most creative business owner who is also an expert fisherman, and understands the need to produce the best lures for consumers.
He's also the spokesman for Strikemaster augers, and appreciates that honor, saying, "They were instrumental and helped me move ahead with marketing. They also make the best auger on the planet." He adds significant input to all the companies he partners with, bringing real-world knowledge and experience to so many board room tables.
He never forgot those early lessons, and helps as much as possible with kid's events and urges all anglers to do the same.