HOW TO: INDEPENDENT FIELD TESTER
Willis Beam, long time tournament angler and field tester.
Field Test: To use a product up to and beyond the manufacturers standards
NOTE: Independent Field Testing is not a Get Rich Scheme nor a way to obtain Freebies.
by Willis “SNAGMAN” Beam
In early 1998 I was approached to look over and use (test) a bag of tubes that was supposed to be hand dipped and unique. They were sent to me with the understanding I would use them and in return I would provide a detailed report of (only) their fish catching success’s. After some research and product comparisons I found these tubes were not what was claimed and that actually they were factory seconds and closeout stock. I did use them and sent a report not exactly the report that the fellow wanted to read or expected, my personal beliefs and convictions of my ideas in field testing would not allow me to support a product for deceit of my fellow anglers for the profits of one individual. Needless to say I never heard from him again nor did I see or hear about any other marketing scheme to sell this individuals products.
Later in 1998 I was contacted to test a new Fish Attractant/Scent that was fresh on the market. I was to test this attractant in every aspect and species of fishing and I was instructed to report the good, the bad and the indifference of this product. I tested the product not only fishing for bass but for other species and as instructed I sent my reports and photographs of success’s, included my thoughts and ideas to the company and still to this day I am testing and using the Attractant and I still send photos and reports along with testimonials for this company.
These two chances to test companies products be them big or small started me to thinking, Since I am retired and am on the water almost everyday anyway, why not promote and execute what I eventually came to call myself “Independent Field Tester”.
This way I had figured would put me if you will “In The Know” with manufacturers for new and redesigned old products on the market. I figured I needed to create a profile and tailor it to a field testers creed and adhere to it in order to stay unbiased in the tests and with any product.
Now with the introduction to the vast technologies and the loads of information available using the internet, I would be able to locate and contact literally thousands of companies.
I was set I used my moniker Willis “SNAGMAN” Beam Independent Field Tester, I had a couple products as background experience and I wrote up what I thought was the Mother of all profiles. I had photos holding fish and I had set and developed my personal code of ethics and creed. I developed both a generic product review form and a product specific form allowing me to show my flexibility in testing and reporting to manufacturers and especially those that made lures.
So I had everything in place and I sat in front of the computer and I went crazy, sending out my profile and introducing myself to the vast world of fishing products companies. I will tell you, I was not prepared for the results that was about to happen with that mass mail out and Man what a learning experience it was. Thank Goodness I have over the years developed a tad bit of a thick skin and I don’t take too many things personal. I guess because of my beliefs in myself no one else would question that and with my bold intentions of helping the manufacturers how could they refuse. I said to myself Willis what was you thinking?
Here are some of the responses I received in that first mast mail out attempt:
- NO THANKS!
- You Have To Be Kidding
- We have Pros do our testing..NO THANK YOU!
- Do YOU know how many requests we get a day for FREE stuff…NO THANK YOU!!
OK so I was a little dumb and inexperienced to self-promotion and marketing. How could I forget that there was Big Name Pros and Celebrities out there championing products who had television and magazine exposure and in some areas they were household names. So I stepped back and slowed down, reviewed my tactics and everything I wanted to do to become a field tester. I regrouped and started looking at companies who had budget restraints and who couldn’t afford big names pros. I compiled all the data on these companies and organized them by who were getting close to breaking into the big time and who would likely become well known amongst anglers and sportsmen. Then I looked at my location and the demographics of Central Ohio and I came to the conclusion I was not in the greatest area for field testing. SO I started to look for a new area which held great fishing and could claim trophy fish. I immediately looked Southern States like the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida but I wasn’t satisfied. Then I got an invitation to come to Ontario to sample the fishing on lake St Clair. One day on the lake and I was sold, arrangements where made and I relocated. I had the best of all worlds in fishing areas. The western Basin of Lake Erie, Detroit River Basin, Lake St Clair and a planned trip east to places like Simcoe, Rice and Lake Ontario and many other bodies of water as well. The testing grounds where unlimited. Talk about timing, just around the time I made my move, A big high profiled bass tournament was held on Lake St Clair, forever changing the once prized obscurity and the secrets St Clair held. It would end up playing a big role in future field testing success’s.
About the same time I teamed up with my soul mate, friend and fishing partner, Sherry Lynne aka Bassette. Together we recompiled a new profile as a team structure and focusing on the aspects and perspectives of a woman's view in fishing. Manufacturers in the United States and Canada took to the ideas and concept of Sherry and the independent field test team was born.
Today Sherry and I test products for over ten companies, some have been one season agreements and others are still doing tests from season to season. Later I will list by name the companies we have dealt with.
So if you ever thought about field testing, remember several things:
- Field Testing is not a venue for Freebies.
- You can’t be thin skinned.
- You have to know and understand what manufacturers want.
- You must create a detailed plan and have a code of ethics and a creed by which to follow.
- Never accept money for testing it will end up as biased reports.
- Never trump up a test to make it look good, manufacturers need and want to know the truth about their products in the field.
I would like to recognize and thank the following companies who we have field tested for in the past and the present. KicknBass Attractant-Scent Company- Arizona (active), Canadian Wiggler-Lure Company- Ontario (active), JackFish Lures-Lure Company-Alberta (active), Bear Paw Hand Poured Baits-Plastics Lure Co-New York (active), D&D Lures-WholeSaler/Manufacturer of Lures-Ontario (active), Montauk Mike Lures-Lure Company-New Jersey (active), ABT Lures-CrankBait Company-California (active),
Little Zim Lures-In-line SpinnerBaits-Indiana (completed), Spikes Fishing Products-Lure Wraps-Rod Socks-Tournament Bags-Ontario (completed), Precision Baits Co-Scent Company-Pennsylvania (complete), Mad Man Craw Tubes-Plastics Lure Company-Texas (complete),
I would also like to acknowledge and thank Dan Denomme, Owner of Sea & Ski Marine Shop –Tecumseh Ontario, whom has done everything to help keep the boat and electronics in top shape and in the water.