When I was seven years old, I spent a lot of time fishing with my brother and our buddies. I would ride my bike about a mile from our house, rod and reel resting comfortably across the handlebars, to an old bridge that spanned a river in the local park. Catching fish seemed incredibly easy back then. We'd fill a hook with corn, straight out of the can, and it was rare when we wouldn't wrestle with a day's full of fish. We caught some big fish in those days - monsters for a kid my age - but we always dreamt of a better day when we could fish from a boat. As it turns out, there are about 8.5 million fishing enthusiasts who currently are not only dreaming of owning their own boat, but they are also actually considering boat ownership, as well. Do you have something to offer them?
According to a study conducted by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation, there are currently 48.5 million anglers in the United States. Of those, 33 percent (12.7 million) own a boat, and of the 35.8 million anglers who don't own a boat, nearly 25 percent are considering a purchase. That sounds like a prime opportunity to me.
We all know (and the study makes it official) that boats make access to fishing better. Fishing off a dock, a shoreline or an old rickety bridge is tolerable for only so long. The fish are either there, or they're not. There's no way to change your strategy and go find the fish. Boats make that possible, which is another reason that we can add to the list of thousands of reasons why boats are desirable.
But the catch is that 46 percent of those who are not considering a boat have made that decision based on the fact that boats cost "too much money," according to the survey. Now, we've seen a number of boats introduced this year and last that are smaller and more affordable, and that's an excellent step toward attracting new boaters, especially in this economy. We need more of this.
On the dealer front, too, there are ways to get these people into boats. You just need to create them. You can offer rentals. You can offer guide services. You can put them in a pre-owned boat, treat them like gold and work them up to a new boat. The opportunities are endless.
I fished for years, through college, in fact, off of docks, shorelines and that old bridge. I own a boat that I love now, but I purchased it after taking a path familiar to many long-time boaters. I bought a small, old boat with a small, old outboard and worked my way up. Now I have my eyes set on something better.
So do the 8.5 million fishermen and women out there just waiting for an opportunity to get in their first boat. Go get 'em.