Chris Thomas, regional development coordinator at America’s First Federal Credit Union, is an avid angler.

Fishing program hooks a whopper in boat loans

Members take the bait with Bass Cash promotion.

June 1, 2022

Anglers are taking the bait for Bass Cash at America’s First Federal Credit Union (AmFirst), Birmingham, Ala.

Bass Cash offers a $1,000 bonus prize to AmFirst members whose catch ranks in the top 40 in an Alabama Bass Trail Tournament if their boat is financed by AmFirst. The bonus payout doubles if the member pulled the boat to the tournament using an AmFirst-financed truck.

“We paid out $49,000 in 2021 winnings,” says Phil Boozer, senior vice president and chief sales officer at the $2 billion asset credit union. “But that $49,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to what we’ve saved members on loan rates.” 

AmFirst is involved in about 50 fishing-related events annually. The credit union also boosts cash prizes for members who rank in local tournaments, sponsors local tourneys, holds a boat show, and offers gift cards to reward winners at high school fishing club events.

Falling hook, line, and sinker for fishing events makes sense in a state where bass fishing tournaments are “a huge sport,” Boozer says. “It gives us a lot of exposure. Anglers may never have looked at us before, but now realize they get a better deal on loans from AmFirst.”

A marine dealer that offers AmFirst indirect loans suggested that the credit union sponsor fishing tournaments, which led to the launch of Bass Cash in 2018. Now some buyers ask dealers for an AmFirst loan or even refinance their boats or trucks to qualify for participation.

AmFirst’s tips for making your credit union a “keeper” by promoting indirect loans to anglers:

  • Create detailed rules for participation and payouts. 
  • Use advance registration to track growth and share materials, like the free decals, caps, and shirts that participating members are asked to wear or display. More than 110 members registered in 2021.
  • Reinforce tournament promotion by sharing information at branches and online. 
  • Reinvest in the sport through sponsorships and promotion. 

AmFirst has financed 2,192 new boat and truck loans in the past three years while strengthening indirect lending relationships with marine and vehicle dealers. 

While AmFirst does not track Bass Cash loans separately, Boozer says there’s nothing fishy about the credit union’s claims that it’s making more boat and truck loans to anglers. 

“I couldn’t ask for a better value on what I spend than what I get in return,” Boozer says. “It’s just fun to do it.”