Fishing guide Lee Pitts swings a bragging-sized crappie aboard fishing the Alabama River recently during a CrappieNOW Writer’s Camp. Pitts says there has been an almost overwhelming demand for his services since the COVID pandemic hit last year. (Photo: Richard Simms)
COVID: There is a Silver Lining
by Richard Simms
It has been a painful process, but there has been a silver lining to the COVID pandemic for the outdoor industry.
Everyone is quick to say they wish it had never happened. However, people in the outdoors industry admit, there has been a silver-lining to the pandemic.
Gary Dollahon is the owner of Dollahon PR based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For years his company has represented some of the biggest manufacturers in the fishing industry. He knows the pulse of what’s happening as well as anyone.
“[When COVID hit] the only option for people to have recreation and social distancing was getting outdoors, and certainly fishing was one of the biggest benefactors of that opportunity,” said Dollahon. “We had brand new anglers, we had reunited anglers and we had the guys who just like to fish anyway, they just did a lot more of it.”
Dollahon says there is no completely accurate way to measure, but he says there has easily been a 10-15 percent increase in the number of outdoor users.
“Just about any state game and fish department will tell you that they have definitely sold more licenses this last year versus any previous years,” said Dollahon.
That increase has come with a corresponding decrease in the supply of many outdoor goods. Everyone in the boat industry has seen a huge increase in sales, when they can get product.
Terry Kelly with Island Cove Marina in Chattanooga says his business has simply been overwhelmed.
“I’m getting boats, said Kelly. “But they go out as quick as we get them in. Last year was our best year ever and so far, this year is even better.”
If you need repairs, however, Kelly says don’t expect a quick turnaround.
“Right now, we have 181 active work orders backed up in our system,” he said. “We have eight technicians working on them, but in many cases, we can’t get the parts we need.”
We met fishing guide Lee Pitts fishing with Dollahon at a CrappieNOW Writer’s Camp in Elmore County, Alabama last week. Pitts guides on Lake Weiss and Logan Martin. Like many other guides in the industry, Pitts has seen a massive increase in calls for his services.
“I’ve had more phone calls over the last fifteen months than ever before. People are regaining the passion for the outdoors,” he said. “In my business it’s been a whole different group of people that I’ve gotten to enjoy fishing with this last year and I’m seeing more families.”
“Just about any state game and fish department will tell you that they have definitely sold more licenses this last year versus any previous years.” ~ Gary Dollahon, Outdoors Public Relations Consultant
Of course, there is down side for Pitts as well. An increased number of calls does not come with an increased number of days.
“There’s just so many days and unfortunately I can’t handle them all,” he said.
As the COVID pandemic wanes, Dollahon and Pitts suspect the huge demand on outdoor opportunities are likely to wane as well.
“With things opening back up I think they’ll have more opportunities to do other things, such as kids playing ball,” said Pitts. “But I think a lot of them will continue to go fishing, go hiking and continue getting outdoors.”
Dollahon added, “Regardless we have benefited from this in the outdoor industry in every category, from boat to rods and reels to motors, electronics, RV’s – just about anything you can think of. I’m definitely NOT glad COVID happened, but the fact is, it has been a real blessing to our [outdoor] industry.”