Guy Tillotson of Bonita Springs, Fla., called me the other day. He's rep for several companies. He reps TFO fly rods and Freedom Hawk kayaks among other things.
During our discussion, he asked, "Why do people think reps and fishing guides get everything for free?"
We don't, but that's what people think.
Only unethical outdoor writers get things for free. When I was working full-time as an outdoor writer, freebies hit me in the face almost every day. I was offered free trips to many exotic destinations.
One time I was asked to attend a gathering of outdoor writers from around the country at Boca Grande. Jack Harper of Miller's Marine had this crazy idea that he could stage tarpon tournaments in Boca Grande Pass and attract a legion of fans just like NASCAR. The boats would be very colorful and wrapped with sponsor names all over the hull. Harper, a former football player at the University of Florida, also envisioned television coverage because the event was stage in the confined area of Boca Grande Pass.
That dream eventually turned into the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, a very successful venture that is aired on the World Fishing Network.
Back to the beginning ...
I wasn't going to attend the outing. I filed the invitation in the circular drawer (trash can). But the marketing director called me and begged me to attend.
I relented, but only after telling him I'd pay my own way.
When I checked into the hotel, the desk clerk look at the comp list and said, "Your room is free."
I told her that I had to pay. And I did so by credit card.
I also paid for all meals.
A few months later, I recieved a call at home from the paper's managing editor. She was livid.
"Did you attend an outing for outdoor writers at Boca Grande?" she yelled.
I told her I had.
She wanted to know if I took the free room and meals.
I told her that I hadn't.
"I want to see the receipts in the morning."
I had the receipts, so it was no big deal. But it could have been a really big deal had I taken the free stuff.
Today's newspapers are very picky about freebies. They don't want writers obligated to any business or organization. Some outdoor writers don't get that.
Now, I'm a guide. I'm sponsored by a number of companies. My kayaks come from Native Watercraft. I get them at a good price, but not for free.
I use TFO fly rods and reels. They're not free, either.
I was talking with someone not long ago who said, "I know why you like TFO fly rods ... because they're free."
Wrong. Even if they were free, I wouldn't use them if I didn't like them. They're great fly rods and I'm fortunate to be on TFO's pro staff.
I learned long ago that nothings really free. There's always a catch on the freebies.