Smallmouth Fishing Rises While Economy Falls

Can you name a sport that actually increased during the recent recession?

Fishing for smallmouth bass did. Smallmouth bass fishing on rivers is the rising star within the outstanding growth of freshwater fishing.

Half of all Americans enjoy outdoor recreation, and fishing is the most popular outdoor sport of all.

Freshwater fishing is by far the most dominant type of angling

According to a special report in partnership with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)[2], freshwater fishing accounts for fully 41 million of the 48 million American who fish. Freshwater fishing is the only type of angling that increased in the most recent year (from 40.3 million people in 2008 to 41.0 million in 2009 (14.5% of Americans age 6 and up). “Freshwater fishing, which is by far the most popular type of fishing in the U.S., has been able to reverse a two-year downward trend into a one-year positive increase in participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson.[3]Within this trend, smallmouth bass fishing is the rising star

The most recent study by the US Fish and Wildlife Service [4] reports that 40% of freshwater anglers (10.0 million of the 25.0 million who fished freshwater sources other than the Great Lakes) fished for black bass (including both smallmouth and largemouth bass). This is up from 38.21% five years earlier. Of the black bass, smallmouth are the most rapidly growing in popularity, according to surveys by state fisheries departments.

The exploding popularity of river smallmouth bass fishing is readily apparent

Smallmouth are featured in more outdoor television shows, magazines and fishing expos each year, and smallmouth fishing guide services on rivers have grown exponentially. “Smallies have hit the big time,” says Tim Holschlag, smallmouth fishing guide and the author of RIVER SMALLMOUTH FISHING. Smallmouth are the primary gamefish in rivers, and more anglers are fishing rivers than ever before. Ten smallmouth fishing guides work on the river where I was the only one guiding years ago.”

The most recent Outdoor Foundation study[1]reports that nearly 50% of Americans age 6 and up, (137.8 million) participated in outdoor sports in 2009, taking 10.1 billion outdoor outings. Fishing is the most popular of any outdoor activity.Forty-eight million Americans (17 % of those age 6 and up) went fishing in 2009. This is nearly 1 in 6 people (1 in 5.88). This beats the second-most-popular outdoor sport (Running/Jogging and Trail Running) by over 3 million people (48,046,000 compared to 44,732,000).

Retail sales also reflect the growth of smallmouth bass fishing in rivers

Fishing tackle shop owners report that smallmouth bass tackle is one of their fastest-growing categories. Increasing sales of river fishing boats have also been a bright spot for outdoor retailers, according to David Mudd, Business Intelligence Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association.[5]”Outdoor retail sales have been tough, except for canoes and kayaks, which seem to be flying off the shelves. More and more people want to get onto the river. Smallmouth bass is what most of them fish for, so smallmouth tackle sales are growing rapidly, too,” reports Mudd.

[1] “2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report” from the Outdoor Foundation, released October 2010, reporting activities in 2009. (http://www.outdoorfoundation.org)

[2] “Special Report on Fishing and Boating,” released July 2010 by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) (www.rbff.org/uploads/Research_section/SpecialReportonFishingandBoatingWEBFINAL.pdf)

[3] “New Research Reveals Freshwater Fishing Participation Up”, July 14, 2010 (www.outdoorfoundation.org/)

[4] “National Survey of fishing, hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation,” US Fish and Wildlife Service, released November 2007 (http://library.fws.gov/pubs/nat_survey2006_final.pdf)

[5] Interview with David Mudd, Business Intelligence Manager, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), discussing OIA Category Reports and OIA Trend Reports data (www.outdoorindustry.org) (www.oiavantagepoint.com/Trend-Reports)

Tim Holschlag has been a recognized authority on smallmouth bass fishing since his first book on the topic, Stream Smallmouth Fishing (Stackpole Books, 1990). An avid smallmouth angler for nearly 50 years, he is a fishing guide, instructor, speaker, award-winning conservationist, and custom fly, rod and gear designer. Holschlag has fished more smallmouth water than any known angler—over 300 rivers and 100+ lakes—his boundless passion for the sport earning him thousands of loyal fans. Over 600 of his articles have been published in major fishing magazines nationwide. He is also the co-author of Smallmouth Strategies, author of Smallmouth Fly Fishing and creator of the DVD Stream Smallmouth Fishing.
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