PEQUOT LAKES -- The Minnesota Office of Tourism recently appointed Pequot Lakes resident and fishing pro Bob Hanson as its fishing spokesperson.
Hanson's role and duties are still being developed and he has no official title, but the agency says it's found the right person for the job.
"Bob's a friendly guy who's comfortable around the media," said Bob Erler, product marketing manager with the Minnesota Office of Tourism. "Even if we didn't pay him he'd still be talking about Minnesota fishing."
Maybe a good job title would be "Minnesota's Fishing Ambassador."
That, afterall, is a role that comes naturally to Hanson. Wherever he travels on the Professional Walleye Trail he brings up the good fishing that's available back home in Minnesota.
At a recent tournament in South Dakota he did 14 infomercials for a television station in Sioux Falls. On his way home from a tournament in Ohio he stopped at the U.S. Steel plant in Gary, Ind. and presented a seminar on walleye fishing. In both instances he wore a shirt with the Minnesota Office of Tourism's logo -- which is also on his truck and boat -- and mentioned the fishing information available at www.exploreminnesota.com, the agency's web site.
Hanson, who also works as a customized training representative at Central Lakes College, approached the Office of Tourism with the idea of promoting fishing over a year ago. At the time the agency had an opening for an Outdoors Media employee. That job went to someone else but Hanson signed on as a free-lancer.
"We have limited staff and we can't be everywhere," Erler said, "so Bob is like an extension of our staff. This is an opportunity to get our message to more people. We've never done anything like this before but it seems to be working and we're learning as we go."
Hanson stresses the importance of safety while fishing and got an unexpected opportunity to promote that message while at the first PWT tournament on Lake Erie. On the second day strong winds whipped up four-foot waves on the big lake. Hanson and his amateur partner were preparing to head for shore when the amateur noticed a light waving in the distance.
"I looked over and could see the bow of the boat," Hanson recalls. "But by the time we got our lines in and started our boat we couldn't even see where it went down."
With the help of three other PWT pros Hanson pulled the fishermen from the 46-degree water and radioed their position to the Coast Guard.
Safety will always be important but the main thrust of Hanson's message is that fishing is fun. He is the father of five children and knows how to teach others to enjoy the sport.
"My philosophy," he said, "is to keep it simple and enjoyable. It's a thrill when a crappie pulls your bobber down. I enjoy seeing somebody's eyes light up when they land a big bass or northern."
Hanson, who has worked for Nisswa Guide Service since 1988, will promote the fishing opportunities available throughout Minnesota but won't hesitate to put in a plug for the local area.
"There are 72 fishable lakes within an hour of Brainerd," he said. "We have 14 different species of gamefish in our lakes. That says a lot about our area."
Expect to find Hanson in a prominent role at next year's Governor's fishing opener, which is scheduled for Pelican Lake. He said he also would like to explore the feasibility of establishing a Governor's Cup fishing tournament similar to those in the Dakotas. And though Minnesota's peak season for fishing is June through August, Hanson said he will promote the "shoulder" seasons of April-May and September-October.
"Fishing is something that can be worked in with hunting or golf," he said. "Why not a half day of each? I think a lot of people would enjoy that."
Especially in the company of Minnesota's Fishing Ambassador.
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