Every year, hundreds of new pieces of fly fishing gear and accessories enter the market. Consequently, for many brands there is a significant chance that their latest and greatest will get overlooked. The days and dollars of research and development don’t pay off as expected. Marketing campaigns might not resonate with consumers. And an item that carried the hope of being revolutionary or groundbreaking gets phased out after a few seasons.
That reality is true for the long established players in the fly fishing game. It is that much harder for new companies to penetrate a saturated market. But in an age where an advertisement doesn’t need to be on a physical magazine page or even a television commercial, potential customers have unprecedented access to marketing.
Arising out of the photography accessory company ThinkTank, MindShift Gear has been making camera bags and packs for outdoor photographers for years. Their storage solutions combine the latest in outdoor innovation with specific features that cater to those carrying cameras and the associated peripherals in all environments. “MindShift, and ThinkTank as well, is a company that studies how people use things,” says Gene Sutton. As an account executive for the California business, Sutton believes they are addressing one of the biggest issues for people using backpacks: “We’re solving the access problem.”
A proprietary feature of MindShift bags is the 180o rotating belt pack. “We took the technology, a concept that was developed 15 years ago, and patented a 180-degree bag that solves a problem that most people don’t know that they have. It is all about access, getting to your gear.” Sutton, a fly fisherman himself, immediately saw the potential for using the design on the water. And he wasn’t alone. “At outdoor retail shows people would stop by the booth and constantly comment on how this could be used in fly fishing.”
In a sport and industry where vests have been the de facto storage choice for generations, more anglers are seeing the benefit of getting encumbrances out from in front of them. Sling packs have risen up as the heir apparent to vests for this reason. Yet, like the vest, there are certain limitations with sling packs. Capacity and versatility is limited with something that is meant to constantly swivel around the anglers’ body.
MindShift’s Rotation 180o Catch & Release Fly Fishing Backpack is, in Sutton’s words, “an evolution in backpacks.” What looks like a traditional hiking pack is actually filled with fly fishing-specific features. Although tremendously useful, rod tube holders, tippet spool rings, and fly patches are pretty common in backpacks designed by fly fishing companies. But MindShift’s drive to solve problems in pioneering ways means that the rotating belt pack releases from the bottom of the backpack. Once swiveled to the front, it serves as a waist pack. Or, by snapping a strap over the left shoulder, as a chest pack for preference or deep-wading scenarios.
The features don’t stop there. The negative space created by the rotated-out waist pack functions as a “garage,” and can be filled with a wet rain jacket or waders. The waist pack sits against the body such that there is a secure rod rest. “Small design elements can make a big difference,” Sutton says. “The top lid of the pack opens away from your body, so if you need to get into your main backpack on the water you don’t have to take it off. You just have to spin it around on your shoulder.”
In less than a week of exposure, the Rotation 180o Catch & Release Fly Fishing Backpack has made some significant ripples for a brand that is new in the angling world. “One thing about crowd sourcing sites, really with Kickstarter, is that there has been a quantum change in the past few years.” Sutton reflected on the launch of the MindShift label, “when we got on Kickstarter to launch that brand out of ThinkTank it was all about crowd funding. Now more and more established companies are using it as a marketing tool.”
Within the fly fishing industry, there have been a number of crowd funding success stories. Taylor Reels, Tacky Fly Boxes, and Bloodknots’ film Our Two Hands are all testimonies of the power of platforms like Kickstarter to launch, progress, and expand what companies are doing.
Websites that essentially pitch an idea to consumers hit a variety of demographics at numerous levels. The way people, fly fishers definitely included, interact with ideas and promotion online is more cooperative than ever. Anglers love gear, and many have a great affinity for new and state-of-the-art equipment. “People who are early adopters go to Kickstarter to look for stuff,” Sutton says. “People like to be the first to know, the first to try something.”
Plus, there is a tangible benefit. Smaller contributions yield pint glasses or other “swag” that anglers enjoy. Bigger investments result in initial access to the product or even exclusive opportunities like guided trips. By pre-purchasing the pack through contributing online, someone can literally be the first to have, use, photograph, and even brag about their new pack.
Regardless of the purpose of exposing the public to a product or concept through a crowd funding site, investment is the goal for the company involved. The investment could be literal in that a fledgling business needs help getting off the ground. Or, as in the case of the Rotation 180o Catch & Release Fly Fishing Backpack and even MindShift Gear itself, the investment allows those early adopters to be on the forefront of what is new and exciting. Customers get to be a part of something in a way that was once only accessible to industry insiders or friends and family.
Without going hands on, there is only so much that can be said about the backpack. But the concept is novel, the presentation is sharp, and the buzz is indicative that Sutton and his team at MindShift have identified a potential solution to a problem that fly fishers have. As we’ve seen in recent history, this excitement can translate to big changes and new players in the industry as prototypes become purchasable products. And as a group, fly fishers are most definitely quick to support quality companies that can help them out on the water.