The Way Ahead

Annual Report 2020

Up through the very last weeks of RBFF’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), participation in recreational boating and fishing continued to grow, indicating real progress towards achieving our shared goal of 60 in 60 — 60 million anglers by December 31, 2021.

  • Fishing participation up
  • Boat owner re-registrations up
  • Female & Hispanic fishing participation is up

Now, as together we find ourselves in rough waters, RBFF is already navigating the way ahead, helping fishing and boating resume their central position in American life as reassuring constants — even in the most challenging times.

Jeff Marble
Message from RBFF Board Chairman
Jeff Pontius
Retired CEO, Zebco Brands

When I began my term as the new Chairman of RBFF at the end of 2019, I looked forward to working with a strong team that already had produced a very successful year and were on course for yet another. Fishing participation is up. Boat re-registrations are up. And consumer engagement among key market segments of women and Hispanics is at record highs. Our state partners are seeing a surge in license and registration sales from RBFF-generated referrals, and they turned out in unprecedented numbers for our annual marketing workshop. Industry stakeholders’ satisfaction with RBFF is higher than ever, and our relatively new partnerships with federal agencies already are engaging anglers in new ways.

So yes, when I came on board as Chairman, the sky was clear, the waters calm. And then the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and we all moved into challenging, uncharted waters.

The good news was that RBFF’s strong FY20 proved our marketing is doing a great job connecting consumers with boating and fishing, and that our activities and strategies are working effectively with partners. More good news: not only are RBFF’s operations solid, but its funding for FY21 is in place.

Perhaps the most powerful asset we have going for us, though, is the unique nature of our sports. Boating and fishing are safe, great activities for enjoying family, friends, and the outdoors. They are sports that don’t need a crowd, that allow you to choose your companions and easily manage social distancing. The fact is, boating and fishing are ideal for enjoying the “staycations” many of us will be taking.

So when the nation’s shutdowns began, RBFF already had the talent, record, relationships, funding, and confidence to quickly adapt our strategy and campaign message to address the 'new normal'. We were fully prepared to act on our obligation to our mission, stakeholders, and conservation to prime the pump of participation — to engage consumers — at this unique moment in history, and we did.

I truly believe that recovery may in fact present new opportunities for boating and fishing, possibly a chance to gain market share. Know that RBFF will make the most of those opportunities. As more and more Americans give fresh thought to their preferred recreational activities, we’ll help them discover — or rediscover — the sports we love and the joys of a day on the water.

Jeff Marble
Message from
Frank Peterson
RBFF President and CEO

From the first word of this FY20 report onward, you’ll see new high-water marks in participation, license and registration referrals, R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) program performance, social media and digital asset engagement, and conservation awareness. At the end of our fiscal year 2020, all RBFF’s metrics indicated robust participation in every targeted group, and strong support from state and industry partners, at 81% and 78% satisfaction respectively.

Clearly, when the coronavirus pandemic hit at the end of our FY20, RBFF had just completed another successful year. The reasons for this success — the excellence of our people and marketing partners and the commitment of our stakeholders — are the same reasons we were able to quickly adjust to the unprecedented environment we suddenly found ourselves in.

Here’s what we did. First, we set aside the commercials and strategy we were ready to roll out on April 1. Second, we developed a detailed response plan covering every aspect of our marketing communications, ranging from our own consumer advertising, social media, and online engagement programs to state agencies’ R3 marketing and industry partnerships. Third, we executed against that plan, creating new marketing right for the times. New messages encourage lapsed and infrequent anglers, as well as newcomers, to enjoy boating and fishing as ideal family activities, particularly now. Also we made a big part of messaging the fact that RBFF can help consumers find anything they need to enjoy our sports, including fishing spots, skills, and equipment.

As we introduce and fine-tune this new campaign region by region, I’m optimistic it will do well. My confidence is based not only on RBFF’s ability to shift quickly, but also on changes we already see in consumer behavior. In April, even as Americans were told to stay indoors, a record number headed straight to Take Me Fishing™ digital assets to learn how and where to enjoy our sports. We logged approximately 3 million visits to our digital properties in April 2020, about 1.23 million more visits than during April 2019!

Based on this early FY21 data, consumers, it seems, are eager to get out in nature and go boating and fishing with family. The entire boating and fishing community is rallying to help them do just that.

FY20, then, actually did end up a good year, and even with widespread safety and health restrictions in force, FY21 is off to a great start. We hope it will continue strong, and that our sports will thrive. Thankfully, it still holds true — boating and fishing are easy to enjoy locally, affordably, and safely. Which means many millions of us will be getting back to making new boating and fishing memories, just around the bend.


Each of these FY20 achievements is a powerful marker in The Way Ahead

Fishing Participation 5 0 . 1 M

Up from 49.4 M

First-time Fishing Participants 3 . 1 M

Up from 3.0 M

6 0 , 8 1 0 Boats Re-registered $ 2 . 2 3 M gross program registration fees

Up from 50,000 registrations, $1.9M gross program registration fees

All-Time Highs Fishing Participation - Females 1 7 . 9 M

Up from 17.7M

Fishing Participation - Hispanics 4 . 4 M

Up from 4.3M

Reactivated anglers 6 . 8 M

Up from 6.5M

Consumer Connections
Markers in the way ahead

Whether through advertising, social media campaigns, RBFF digital assets, or earned media, Take Me Fishing-branded marketing engaged a record number of consumers in FY20.

Social Media
3 8 3 , 7 2 7 Followers

Up 20% over FY19

Earned Media
7 9 3 M Impressions

from 2,330 Unique Stories
$2,273,677 Publicity Value

Digital Asset Traffic
1 8 . 2 M visits

TakeMeFishing.org, VamosAPescar.org, Embeddable Places to Fish & Boat Map, YouTube

Brand Awareness

The 2019 Brand Awareness Evaluation measured not only how widely the Take Me Fishing brand is known, but also — even more significant — whether brand messaging is actually drawing consumers closer to the water.

Its findings:

Increasingly, brand awareness leads to a new intention to try fishing.

3 5 % Brand Awareness
9 0 + % Intent to Fish

Among those who recall brand or advertising (20-30 points higher than those not aware)

Award-Winning Consumer Campaigns

RBFF’s multi-platform marketing pursued targeted consumer groups and reeled them in, creating long-lasting awareness along the way, and all-new intentions to give fishing and boating a try.

Making Waves

RBFF’s Women Making Waves campaign spread the word that more than ever, women belong on the water.

Appearances and interviews at the 2020 Progressive Miami International Boat Show, ICAST, and other industry events — plus new influencer partnerships, blogs, videos, and ads — invited women across the country to experience the family fun and solitary rewards of boating and fishing.

Fishing charter captains and RBFF social influencer partners Emily and Amanda Gale brought along a large following as they hosted women veterans and two families for a day on the water.

Jessica Mendoza — Olympic gold and silver medalist, ESPN analyst, Take Me Fishing social influencer partner, and mom — posted on her social channels a sweepstakes about making outdoor memories.

Stories of Anglers

RBFF partnered with media groups to help real anglers tell their story — how they got into fishing and what they like best about it. Custom videos, articles, and social media amplification cut across Women Making Waves and other RBFF consumer campaigns, changing the face of fishing and engaging new anglers.

Custom Online Stories
2 8 , 9 3 3


29% more than goal

Online Editorial Sponsorship
2 8 6 , 6 2 6


15% more than goal

Facebook + Instagram impressions
1 3 , 0 6 2 , 3 6 7

From content created and promoted by RBFF & partners

Alliance with Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Media Networks

RBFF’s media and onsite alliance with Disney, world-renowned leader in family fun, expanded this year into Disney-owned ABC and ESPN. Joint efforts with Take Me Fishing included Good Morning America segments featuring Ginger Zee highlighting viewers’ fishing photos and a Strahan & Sara segment featuring Olympic Medalist & ESPN analyst Jessica Mendoza, Disney fishing-related wallpapers, DIY crafts and coloring pages, and commercials and sponsorship spots.

This year also featured an original video, A Weekend at the Lake, as well as RBFF social media promotion of fishing and boating at the Disney World Resort on blogspots and newsletters. Meanwhile, Disney promoted Take Me Fishing messages online and played Take Me Fishing videos and public service announcements on Disney media channels.

Disney media performance
9 0 . 4 M

Impressions overall

7 6 %

Video completion rate

N e a r l y 5 0 0 K

Video views

1 0 +

Brand on-site locations

Off the Hook

RBFF’s pop-up fishing experience instantly appeared in four markets across the country — Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC Metro area.

Launched during National Fishing and Boating Week, this series of free experiences introduced folks of all ages to fishing. Each pop-up provided fishing basics, designed to make newcomers feel comfortable fishing later on their own.

Industry partners Bass Pro Shops®/Cabela’s, L.L.Bean, and Zebco Fishing took care of supplies and equipment.

Thousands Attracted to Fishing
  • 2.3K people went fishing
  • Twice as many people were “Very Likely” to go fishing or boating after the experience
  • The number of people who said they were “Very Likely” to make a purchase from our sponsors more than doubled after their fishing experience
Millions more caught on to the fun
102.5M National newswire release impressions
27.5M Local media relations impressions
301.8K Owned social impressions
72.9K Olympic Medalist & ESPN analyst Jessica Mendoza impressions
950.7K Local influencer social impressions
$515,011 Earned media total value

RBFF’s Women Making Waves campaign won two of American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Gold Circle Awards — one in its Media/Public Relations Campaign category and another in its Video category.

Off the Hook won two 2020 Neptune Awards, the King Neptune (Best in Show) Award and the Marketing Innovation Award.

New, Better Marketing Gear

RBFF introduced next-gen online tools for catching and keeping anglers and boaters.

Alexa, Where Can I …

This was the first full year anglers and boaters could verbally ask Alexa for places to fish and boat.

Downloads of the Take Me Fishing Alexa Skill app inaugurated RBFF’s use of Amazon as a channel to reach consumers.

“Love it!! It’s so helpful. especially if you’re in a new area or town!”
  • 1,770 unique customers
  • 3,936 successful sessions
  • 10,273 utterances/requests

Places to Fish & Boat Map

This increasingly popular interactive tool guided more than a million users to the best nearby places to fish and boat, let them know the fish species they might find there, and directed them to the closest places to buy fishing gear, licenses, and equipment.

  • 1,310,717 users
  • 2,165,133 sessions

New in FY20

  • NOAA Marine Protected Areas are now on the map
  • Reduced map load time
  • Improved overall map performance
  • New welcome screen
Invaluable as Ever — Research

RBFF’s research program took a close look at consumer groups most likely to respond to the idea of boating and fishing.

This research will continue to guide RBFF even as consumer messaging shifts.

Marketing Segmentation Study

Based on surveys of over 3,000 individuals and families, the study identified “Active Social Families” and “Family-Focused Relaxers” segments as prime groups to target, and offered actionable insights into how to reach and motivate them.

Multicultural Fishing Research

Strategies for engaging the potentially huge multicultural market emerged from this study, such as using influencers and inclusive imagery to help audiences immediately identify with — and try — boating and fishing.

2019 Special Report on Fishing

The study found unprecedented diversity among current anglers, and market sub-segments ready to cast a line for the first time.

  • Women and Hispanics have been participating in record-breaking numbers.
  • More non-anglers than ever are interested in giving fishing a try.
State Partners

Through RBFF support, state agencies grew their ability to conduct successful marketing programs that will continue to recruit, retain and reactivate (R3) boaters and anglers.

R3 Skills & Collaboration

The R3 strategies and insights that RBFF helped state agencies acquire will be more important than ever in the months to come.

This year’s workshop, presented by Fishbrain and held in Atlanta, took place for the first time in February and attracted a record number of attendees.

In two session-packed days, state agency representatives learned from fellow agencies’ R3 programs, RBFF’s own research, and industry marketing professionals — while brainstorming together to come up with new strategies for reaching consumers.

A full agenda

  • Actionable angler R3 strategies
  • Focus on the theme of Inclusivity and Connection: The Water Is Open to Everyone
  • State agency presentations on R3 best practices, digital marketing, partnering with state parks, social media, focusing on millennials, and other R3 programs
  • R3 experiences of Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia

Record-level successes

  • Greatest number of attendees
  • Highest amount of sponsorship funds
  • First-ever presenting sponsor
  • Greatest number of state agency directors attending
  • Highest event satisfaction

“A wonderful learning and growing experience.” — Indiana

“A great workshop…Excellent … A great deal of inspiration, information and food for thought.” — Maryland

“Really useful … content spot-on.” — Wyoming

A Year of
Webinar Learning

Distance learning is nothing new to RBFF and its state partners. RBFF has offered a regular schedule of webinars for years.

Three webinars brought state agency partners updates on RBFF’s national marketing plan; news of successful marketing programs in Iowa, Virginia, and Wisconsin; and social media marketing tips and techniques.

4+ out of 5

Webinars consistently rated

More Efficient Alerts

New segmentation of RBFF’s NewsWaves emails — between state and industry stakeholders — ensures that state agency representatives are getting state-specific content. Every update is packed with information relevant to state agencies.

R3 Programs

Boat Registration Reactivation Program

RBFF’s boat registration reactivation program helped states connect with a ready market: consumers who already have a boat, but have let their registration lapse.

Funded by RBFF, the campaign reached boat owners in 19 states. Each state agency sent letters alerting owners their registration had lapsed, and encouraged them to re-register. A record number of boat owners responded, bringing a tide of registration revenue states’ way.

Boats Registered

6 0 , 0 0 0

Up 10,000


$ 2 . 2 3 M

Gross fees received


$ 1 4 M

Received since program’s 2012 start

R3 Program Development

Supported by RBFF, state agencies advanced their R3 capacity by expanding R3-dedicated agency staff, developing R3 plans and programs, and obtaining critical grant support.

New Levels of State R3 Commitment Nationwide

  • 24 State Angler R3 Coordinators
  • 30 states with R3 Marketing Manager/team
  • 16 states receiving RBFF R3 planning assistance, up 5

New State Programs Powered by State R3 Program Grants

  • Overall, 11 R3 programs in 10 states
  • $180,000 in R3 grants
  • $900,000 in total funding support with state agency funds and in-kind contributions

State r3 programs

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources launched a digital marketing campaign co-branded with Take Me Fishing. The campaign yielded 5,791,357 impressions, $1.6M in sales, and a 13.5% increase in reactivated, lapsed customers.

Referrals from take me fishing

TakeMeFishing.org first excites visitors about boating and fishing, then links them directly with their state’s fishing license and boat registration sites.

License and registration revenues rise, along with consumers’ ongoing awareness of their state agency activities.

Fishing license referrals

u p 3 0 %

Over FY19

Boat registration referrals

u p 3 1 . 5 %

Over FY19

George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar ™ Education Fund

New Anglers for a Lifetime

Thanks to RBFF’s George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar TM Education Fund, thousands of primarily Hispanic families were introduced to boating and fishing — new experiences they can continue to enjoy for decades to come.

2019 Grants

  • 12 organizations
  • 8 states
  • Approximately $125,000 in total funding ($60,000 in grant money plus state matching funds)
  • 182 events
  • More than 4,830 participants

Research For Going Forward

The year’s research studies offered state agencies guidance that will help them improve the effectiveness of their angler R3 efforts.

The Actionable Strategies for Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) study, funded by the Multistate Conservation Grant Program and RBFF, conducted national surveys and focus groups with U.S. residents and R3 professionals to determine how changing demographics and new technologies impact the ability of agencies to recruit, retain and reactivate anglers.

The data collected led to key findings and recommendations for angler R3.

The State Fishing License Sales Trends Analysis, conducted in partnership with the American Sportfishing Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, studied the fishing license sales of 12 states over a 25-year period.

Its data revealed factors that most affect sales … and can be influenced by a state’s R3 actions.

Industry Partners
Markers in the way ahead

Industry partners’ commitment to 60 in 60 remained strong, along with their confidence in RBFF to maximize participation, whatever the conditions may be.

Fishing License & Boat Registration Website Plugin

A growing number of industry partners added this to their consumer-facing websites — thanks to the ease of inserting a single line of code available on RBFF’s corporate site.

Site visitors simply click the tool, and connect with their state fishing license and boat registration pages.

106 Companies hosting plugin
2.09M Plug-in tool sessions since introduced
76,019 License referrals
3,662 Boat registration referrals

Daiwa was among the partners that highlighted the plugin on their social media channels and on YouTube to boost license sales, boat registrations, and customer brand appreciation even higher. And it worked — customers loved it!

"This is awesome! Good job, Daiwa, going the extra mile!"
"Game Changer!"
"And THAT is why I always buy Daiwa."

Mobile First Catch Centers

Bass Pro Shops® began providing equipment to support 10 Mobile First Catch Centers with more than 125 rod and reel outfits, nets, coolers, rod racks, and photo props needed to bring a fishing education experience straight to novice anglers in urban environments. The new Bass Pro Shops®-equipped Centers are 7x12’ trailers fully wrapped with graphics and branding logos, and are set for use by 10 state agencies at 8 events each beginning FY21. An early Mobile First Catch Center program in the Philadelphia area reached more than 8,000 people.

New Partners on Board

Amazon, Farmers’ Almanac, Fish Anywhere, Tailored Tackle, and L.L.Bean began partnering with RBFF in consumer engagement, events, and promotion.

New and long-standing trade media partnerships raised awareness of fishing, boating, and conservation through their sponsored content, advertorials, banner ads, and newsletters.

Improved Communications

RBFF segmented its stakeholder communications, so all blogs and emails directed at industry partners now focus exclusively on their interests.

Continued Teamwork

The State Marketing Workshop had its first-ever presenting sponsor, Fishbrain, along with major support from other industry partner sponsors, including Brandt Information Services, the American Sportfishing Association, Aspira, and Discover Boating.

Corporate partners’ contributions to the George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund made possible 16 programs in 12 states.

  • $100,800 in corporate donations
  • Approximately $205,000 total funding, with matching funds from grantee state agencies

With the help of Yamaha Marine and Grady-White Boats, RBFF’s Women Making Waves initiative again made a splash at the Miami Boat Show and during National Fishing & Boating Week, highlighting the opportunities of drawing women to fishing.

View Video
Federal Agencies

RBFF’s recently-forged ties with Federal Agencies began to yield new lanes of cooperation, partnerships, and programs.

Partner with a Payer

In coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), RBFF developed a “Partner with a Payer” program to connect state agencies, industry, manufacturers and the USFWS by showcasing how the Sport Fish Restoration excise funding is used to enhance the fisheries resource, access to the resource and increase participation in boating and angling. These “field days” offer manufacturers the chance to see firsthand how the exercise tax dollars are spent on conservation, fisheries access projects and agency R3 efforts.

The Gift of Fishing

RBFF’s holiday social media campaign with federal partners asked followers to share their thoughts on what the “gift of fishing” means to them and name some of the gifts they’ve received from fishing.

RBFF and Take Me Fishing’s own gift to the campaign included a photo inviting visitors to fill in the blank, “To Me, The Gift of Fishing Is …”, and a link to @Take_Me_Fishing for information on everything fishing.

Scan, License & Go

When anglers take to U.S. Forest Service lands, they can get a fishing license on the fly.

All they have to do is center their mobile phone camera on a state-specific QR-code posted in visitors centers, then click the pop-up notification.

Anglers are instantly connected to their state’s fishing license webpage, ready to finish the license purchase right onsite.


Anglers and boaters have become increasingly aware of their role in conservation and protecting our nation’s waterways — thanks to RBFF-crafted marketing messages and how-to information, available on the Take Me Fishing website and other digital assets.

fy20 Conservation PSAs

$ 7 . 8 5 M

In-kind media

FY20 Survey

This year’s survey of 1,500 anglers showed high awareness of the link between fishing license purchases and conservation funding.

The Multicultural Family Outdoors segment, RBFF’s target audience, showed significant increases in awareness of the link between conservation and licenses, and they responded positively to the message that 100% licenses fees are used to fund conservation locally and nationally.

7 6 %

Survey respondents

are aware of license-conservation link

9 0 %

Survey respondents view

license-conservation link favorably

Already Charting The Way Ahead

The detailed FY21 Plan RBFF adopted early in calendar year 2020 — covering media, programs, PR, new research, states’ R3 activities, industry partnerships, federal agency programs, and creative content strategies for reaching key audiences — had to be completely reimagined just before it went into effect, in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. Almost immediately, RBFF got a new strategy underway.

The new FY21 Plan is a response to the unprecedented period ahead, and is designed to course-correct as new insights and conditions emerge. Rollout will begin June 2020 and is timed to coincide with the opening of waterways to the public.

The plan’s marketing messages will build on the timely and timeless strengths of boating and fishing: these are sports that can be enjoyed safely on one’s own or with family, outdoors amid nature. One can safely learn how and where to boat and fish, as well as acquire any supplies and equipment needed without leaving home, by just going online.

To that end, RBFF expects to rely more heavily throughout the year on digital assets and virtual connections for recruiting, retaining, and reactivating consumers. Already-popular online consumer tools will be heavily promoted, including the Take Me FishingTM Amazon Alexa skill, the interactive Places to Fish & Boat Map, and RBFF’s Fishing License & Boat Registration Website Plugin for industry partners’ websites.

In addition, RBFF will promote its new Angler Academy, which provides online boating and fishing-related activities parents can enjoy with their children at home. RBFF also will bring new content to its TakeMeFishing.org consumer website, and will make storytelling an even more important part of its consumer outreach. Influencers and other members of the community will increasingly connect with consumers by posting their boating and fishing stories, photos, and videos on social media and YouTube. For stakeholders as well as consumers, RBFF is evaluating its strategy, with the possibility of hosting virtual events and meetings moving forward.

Throughout FY21, RBFF will continually monitor boating and fishing opportunities across the country, along with consumers’ response to its marketing messages. Based on the data collected weekly, RBFF will make whatever changes are necessary to the consumer campaign and stakeholder activities. RBFF’s strategy is that each shift in direction or tactic will show consumers we truly understand what they are going through … and that boating and fishing are the way ahead.

All of the activities and accomplishments RBFF has reported for this year and the future are consistent with Our Mission, Vision and Goals. The FY20 Financial Report details the operational investments required to make these activities and accomplishments possible.

Board of Directors

RBFF’s Board of Directors is made up of individuals who have been appointed by RBFF and industry and state agency organizations. This group enables RBFF to keep the best interests of every facet of the fishing and boating community in mind as it carries out its mission.

Board List


To implement an informed, consensus-based national outreach strategy that will increase participation in recreational angling and boating, and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore the nation’s aquatic natural resources.


RBFF is committed to spreading the joy of fishing and boating to all ages, genders and cultures. We envision one nation united in our passion for fishing and boating, a nation committed to the pursuit of leisure activity on the water, a nation that embraces our fishing and boating heritage, and conserves, restores and protects the resources that sustain it.

Through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, tax dollars from the purchase of rods, reels, lures, flies, motorboat fuel and accessories go toward conducting research, reintroducing sport fish species, restoring habitats, offering aquatic education, and constructing boat ramps and fishing piers.

By incorporating the Sport Fish Restoration logo — a shared symbol of cooperative conservation — in communication materials, RBFF partners and stakeholders can help educate the public about how boaters and anglers contribute to funding conservation in this country.

Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Review


Thank you for your interest and participation in FY20's progress to 60 in 60.