SKA IS SOLD & TRANSFORMED
early ’99 I received a call from my partner, Jim Armstrong. One of our members, Sid Steverson, had just bought the one share of stock John Jones, my original partner and SKA co-founder, still owned. I couldn’t figure out what in the world he wanted with one share but Sid was getting into the retail boating business. Diversifying you might say. Steverson was a very successful industrial contractor by trade. He was a regular on the SKA circuit and an accomplished fisherman, so I embraced his presence knowing he could probably add something to the management team and we became friends. at Show I was at the Houston Boat in January of 2000 when I received a phone call from Sid that would impact my and Deona’s life, at least for a while. He informed me that he had just bought Armstrong’s shares. He was out and I now had a new partner. I asked for a meeting knowing that Sid was not only my new partner, but with that one share of stock he bought 20
from Jones a year earlier, he now had controlling interest. I was concerned but Sid and I were still OK. Sid and I met at the Miami Boat Show in February to discuss some ideas he had. Sid was convinced he could take the SKA to “The next level.” I never have understood just what that means even though many a person has said the same thing. The only thing that would ever enhance the trail are more sponsor dollars and those are very hard to come by. Nonendemic sponso f it sponsorss saw no bene benefit
Above: Jim Armstrong, Dave Workman Jr., and Deona Holmes. Three very influential people in the development of the SKA. Left: Sid Steverson and his Deuces Wild Contender.
ANGLER | June 2010
from our organization even though we bought many of their products. Take trucks for example. They knew that we would buy a thousand to two thousand trucks a year. They had dealers who sell that many trucks in one or two months. Plus, they knew that it was an even split between Ford and Chevy with an occasional Dodge thrown into the mix. Now the bass guys were another story because they could sell as many as 200,000 a year. They have a membership base of over 600,000 people. Numbers make all the difference which is the other part of the formula. It’s why guys who don’t join the SKA but fish the events aren’t doing us any good. The association needs numbers to make any impact with sponsors. Steverson understood, but to this day a lot of people who fish with us don’t. Like when a captain signs up so he can get in on the TWT, but none of his fishing partners join. Or the team that comes to an event, shares all our work and efforts but won’t spend the $65.00 to become a member. Sid was committed to get or find more members. Deona and I agreed to stay the course. We would continue to run the organization. One of the things Sid did that certainly helped was that he expanded our “Break the Record” program. Fisher people who never would come on board did. They just couldn’t leave money on the table or the notoriety if they caught a big fish. The worst happened however—records were broken and the insurance company had to pay off. It didn’t take them long to figure out this was a nowin for them. Premiums went up dramatically. At the same time Sid was working exorbitant deals with television producers to get the SKA on the tube. Money was flowing out and there was no way you could keep a budget. Sid and I had a big blow-up one Saturday morning at breakfast. He was bound and determined he was going to put the SKA on television. I thought the idea was a good one, but only if he had a good company doing the production work, got on the right network, and we found the sponsors to fund the program. I told him I didn’t think our current sponsors would be receptive. He said he would find the sponsors or produce the show himself. He did, and the production company took him for a ride. June 2010 | ANGLER
Shortly after that breakfast meeting, I went to Sid and informed him I didn’t like what was happening and asked him to buy our shares. He, like the gentleman he was, agreed and we left the company. It wasn’t two months after I left the SKA when friends in the marine industry were calling asking me what was I going to do. “Don’t retire,” was their cry. So with their encouragement and sponsor dollars
Top: The original SKA logo. Center Left: John Jones (shown) along with Jack Holmes founded the SKA in ’91. Center Right: Sandy Smith with Pam Behnke. Pam, from Mercury Marine, was influential in the success of the organization.
Right: Gordon Houser and Deona Holmes. Gordon was marketing Director for Wellcraft and is considered to be the top marketing guru in the marine industry. Bottom: Vinny Holmes from Penn, Mike Collins who is credited for building Donzi, and three time Angler of the Year, Dave Workman.
we started the American Striper Association. Sid carried on but was losing a lot of money. I truly believe to this day that the very people who worked for us plus Sid’s new hires were living the good life and weren’t paying attention to business and, of course, this was not holding well with sponsors. Sid’s sincerity and passion for the SKA never waned, however. Sid invited us to come down to the 2001 National Championship in Fort Pierce. The event did not go off as well as it could have. Whoever was in charge of year-end trophies had names and places all screwed up. Sid informed me that the sponsors were not happy either. He needed help. He asked me to return to the SKA and help him get things straightened out. I told him I would think about it and would get back to him right after the holidays. After all, we had the ASA and it was growing. Sid and I talked about salary, changes in personnel, SKA’s future, and what roll he y. This would continue to play. went on for about thirty days. Then I got this call from him stating he did not want to hire me but wanted me to buy back the SKA. I told him I didn’t think so. My thought was “why would I take my retirement money out of the bank and buy the SKA back?” However, I told him if he would give me 24 hours to put an investment group together we would have a deal. I knew if SKA was to survive we needed to be involved. It took me less than 12 hours to make the deal happen. I called a diverse group of SKA members plus a group of individuals from the marine industry. I got very few no’s. At the same time I was making calls, word got out and Larry Fowler called Sid throwing his hat into the mix. I backed away because Larry was also a good friend. I had the investors and the money could be in our hands in just a couple of days, so I took a step back and let SKA member and attorney Randy Crabtree take charge. A week later the deal was done. He’s so good! 22
Center Left: Ben Worthy from Loadmaster had a huge influence on the SKA. Still active today. Center Right: The SKA trailer and truck at the turn of the century. We still use them today. Above Left: John Zalud helped mold the SKA in many ways. Above Right: Sam White was editor of Angler magazine during the late nineties and until Sid sold the SKA.
that he had too much on his plate. Plant construction, his boat dealership, plus other interests, kept him out of the office enough to let the people working for him to take advantage. I can write pages on that subject. He never quite understood the marine industry aand while h his expanssion ideas h had merit, he n never could c convince s sponsors to oopen their w wallets. A lot of p people think of this industr as huge try Top: Vinny and Gary when in fact Walker were fixtures on the trail. They fished and it is quite the opposite. In fact over supported our efforts. the past several years it’s gone from mom and pop operations to conAbove: solidation. Gone are the backyard Bob Flocken was the SKA’s weighmaster, then entrepreneurs, giving way to manbecame a partner in the agement companies with one idea: SKA. He is the company’s build profit margins and sell. Just Operation’s Director today and still the official look at just how fragile the industry weighmaster. is. With this recession we’ve lost ov 30% of our industry and over se many bankruptcies, some seen en ending in failure, or breakups. The long-standing relations ships with the industry and the p performance levels established iin good times are helping the S SKA weather the current sstorm. Since 2001 the SKA has h had two other very respectable ccompanies look at acquisition. Nei it Neither met our criteria. T The SKA had 35 original inve investors. Seven have cashed in the their stocks and moved on. The rem remaining 28 are firmly committed to keeping the SKA spirit ali alive even in these very challengin ing times! Armstrong is still doing just fi fine and I run into him now aand then. He formed the IFA ((Inshore Fishing Association) R Redfish Tour and appears to be doing well. Jim had a lot of competition in the past Sid few yyears including FLW and the had all the right intenOberto Redfish Cup but, like us, tions and truly loved the SKA. He has run them all off. passed away in April of ’08 and I While Jim’s organization and we can honestly say I miss him. We at the SKA have survived over the used to talk quite a lot, not only years we have one more hurdle to about SKA, but the marine busiovercome, that being the recession ness he owned. Sid’s only downfall of 2008. Can’t wait to write the through his ownership days is story of that outcome. ■
ANGLER | June 2010
The fifth article in a series about the history of the Southern Kingfish Association.