Founded in 2008, Bass Brigade is an unlikely offspring of streetwear, inspired by the outdoors and the world of urban bass fishing. Much like you’d skate, bike, or hitch to your favorite spot as a kid, this crew from California’s Central Valley also found a way to test local authorities’ patience as youngins, albeit with a rod and bait, instead of a spray can.
Now in its 6th year of operation, the company founded by trio Anthony Luna, Lloyd Gomez and Taylen Miguel, has become a full-time job for the three amigos, expanding its retail into countries worldwide and broadening its production range with hard goods to complement its popular line of apparel. Acknowledging its place as leaders of a new generation of fisherman, Bass Brigade not only focuses its attention on making a living through clothing, but is also aware of how its own success has provided a platform to give back to the community through youth workshops and skill shares.
While in the Bay Area, I caught up with the urban anglers for a chat about their role in spearheading a youth movement in the world of bass fishing and how inspiration from streetwear has produced global growth within a subculture whose presence continues to expand with each passing day.
Bass Brigade co-founders Anthony Luna and Lloyd Gomez with their angling crew
LUIS: So let’s start with this… what exactly is an urban bass angler?
Lloyd: To us, it’s an outdoorsmen who takes his/her love of bass fishing, or any fishing in general, into city limits slash urban settings. Whether it’s downtown or in the urban landscape of cities that have water ways where fishing is acceptable. Basically, taking the urban setting and going out and fishing in that type of arena; no boat, gear in hand, backpack full of bait and just fishing.
Is that a term you guys coined or is it something that’s always existed?
Lloyd: It probably existed [before] but we kind of — I don’t want say that we set that example and coined it, but I think from the platforms we’ve created, it gave us and the thousands of other anglers that are likeminded a way to showcase their love for fishing and that name just came about. It’s someone who just walks out of their backyard and goes fishing, rather than hiking up hills or driving miles away to a lake.
Is Modesto [California] what you’d consider a perfect place to do some urban fishing? Is that we’re you’re all from?
Tay: Yeah, we’re pretty much all from Modesto. We’re all from different parts [of Modesto] but when we were kids we were always urban angling, because of the accessibility for fishing [in the area]. We couldn’t drive [as kids], so we’d skate or ride our bikes to a pond and start fishing from there… Growing up in Modesto was a good thing because we have a ton of local ponds and a lot of untouched waters.
Lloyd: It’s actually not that surprising that Modesto is a hub of what we do because we’re surrounded by some of the nation’s great bodies of fisheries. We have the California Delta right in our backyard - we’re probably only 30 minutes away - and we’ve got the Motherlode lakes that are east and they’re all very much prime lakes here in the US. We’re really blessed to be surrounded by that, so it just made sense to define the sport even more. Because there’s this subculture of bass fishing alone and when you dig deep into [it], it gets very intricate of how just fishing alone can be so interesting with the different types of approaches and methods. We’ve got a pretty unconventional approach to bass fishing, compared to most of the people that don’t live in California. Somehow here in California there’s a certain style, a certain look, a certain approach. I think even to this day we still kind of get frowned upon by the things that we do in order to chase these trophy bass.
Bass Brigade teaching the young bucks a thing or two about bait
For someone that isn’t well versed in fishing culture or isn’t familiar with terminology/etiquette, what makes you guys so different from the rest of the country.
Anthony: Everything we do is different. From the lures, the rods - you have your standard production rods and reels and we take that to the next level by customizing them and tuning them so they outperform other reels. Lures, we’re customizing them, we’re making them different in the way they swim and move; anything the person next to you is doing, we’re trying to do it differently… We’re not just trying to catch the small guys, we’re going for the trophy sized ones - ten pounds plus. It’s just a different dedication. I’m talking waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning when everyone’s sleeping so we can fish their apartment lake. It’s really having to stay off the grid so we don’t get caught. We try to do it in the most legal way possible.
I sense a sort of rebellious attitude with what you guys do, sort of what’s shaped streetwear. In a way.
Lloyd: It’s no different than when we used to skate and find our spot; it’s the same thing with fishing. We’re trying to look for those spots, but knowing that they’re either private property - we get permission or we can’t get permission - but we still have that mission to fish that spot and grind that spot. We don’t condone it whatsoever, but at the beginning of Bass Brigade, that’s what we did.
We were the dudes hopping barbed wire fences to get on the old man’s property and doing what we had to do. Get the bite, boom, bounce, do it the next day. That was our thrill and that was our pursuit and it reaped our rewards. We’re doing that all for the excitement of catching a fish, taking a picture, and then putting it back; that’s all. It’s that rush, that bite. The fifteen seconds where you’re fighting this fish, the two minutes where you’re fighting this fish; all just to release and do it again.
Central Valley News report on Bass Brigade’s work within Modesto’s youth community
Bass Brigade co-founder Taylen Miguel
I’ll admit, when I think of bass fishing, I go back to my days as a kid, on Saturday morning, tuning into ESPN and being pissed that the only programming was a bunch of old dudes on a boat, looking for fish. For those ignorant like myself, would you say the sport’s grown younger in recent years?
Lloyd: From the conception of Bass Brigade, our visuals and tone of voice, down to the photography and imagery, and everything we’ve created, it totally spoke to the younger generation. And we didn’t do that on purpose, we did it because we ourselves as creatives wanted to do it that way and we felt that was the DNA and the brand essence of Bass Brigade.
So it attracted the youth, and from there, a subculture was created. We’re not only touching people here in the US, but we’re reaching folks from all over the world. We’ve got a following in Japan, we’ve got a following in Germany, huge following in Spain, [and a] following in Malaysia. We can name countless regions, countless countries that we’ve inspired. That Bass Brigade and its movement and its culture have inspired other fishermen throughout the world. The commonality over all of this is playing out - just having fun and resonating them on other things, not only fishing, but design, street culture, aesthetic, photography, and even street art.
Anthony: When we put out our first T-shirt, it wasn’t because [we] wanted to put it out there to sell. It was because we wanted to equip ourselves [with something we liked], because there was nothing on the market that spoke to us, as anglers, but at the same time as enthusiasts in street culture.
We were like, “Let’s make our own stuff.” So we wore Bass Brigade, put a YouTube video out and the next thing you know some guy chimes in and is like, “How do I get that shirt?” All of a sudden that’s when it spawned into an apparel brand… Being that we had all the resources and talent at our hands, we just said, “We’re going to do this, this is what we’re about. We love bass fishing, we love everything else that we’re inspired by so let’s just mash it up.”
Now it’s just crazy. We look up to you guys too. I remember when The Hundreds phenomenon blew up, we felt that way in our world - the fishing world. It’s mind blowing. But little did we know that there were other people that felt that same way. We thought we were the only dudes that were into gear, that were into hip-hop music, and at the same time were bass fisherman. But lo and behold we found a culture that was sleeping the whole time. They were there; they just didn’t have the platform to express it.
In addition to apparel, have you guys started/had thoughts about developing your own hard goods i.e. bait, rods, etc.?
Lloyd: Absolutely. Making hard goods has been on our road map for the past two to three years now. We’re in the works of creating a new line of hard goods in the future. We’ve had a lot of meetings with manufacturers that produce this stuff, as well as factories. So it’s definitely on our road map.
We’ve always been a company that supports manufacturers that we believe make great products, like bait and tackle stuff… I think now more than ever people are looking at us and saying we want Bass Brigade gear, we want rods, we want baits, so I think now more than ever it’s time to deliver that.
Are you guys selling in stores as well? Are you guys selling with major fishing retailers? Or is it mostly through your own ecommerce?
Lloyd: Our e-commerce has pretty much been the push since day one. This year’s been the year where we’ve restructured the company and we’re going after the market harder than we did in previous years, just because we’ve all gone full-time with Bass Brigade and have the man power to do so. We’re opening up new wholesale distribution with retailers, including distribution in Japan.
I think the last time you, Ant, and I spoke, we were telling you that we had just opened up in Japan. We recently launched bassbrigade.jp so you can definitely take a look at what Japan will be offering. It’s pretty much a similar mix of offerings, but we’re going to be developing some exclusive stuff that will only be available for that market. There’s some really cool streetwear brands out there, but Bass Brigade is definitely going to be in retailers, probably within the next four to five months. That’s where we’re headed right now.
Bass Brigade’s “Lunkers” T-Shirt
Has social media been the catalyst for connecting you guys on such a global scale?
Anthony: I think that was part of the biggest thing that helped us grow organically - we weren’t out there chasing viewers and the follows and all that. It was just us putting out what we thought was cool and by embracing social media - putting our own twist on things and putting it out there helped us unite with everybody. Seeing and meeting - even on the local level - how many anglers we met that lived three doors down from us, that were just like us; sneaking into local ponds or skating local parks to try to fish it.
I think that’s what really brought everybody together on a global level. They were all there, they were all sleeping. Embracing social media was one of the best things we could do. Just getting to connect and allowing them to share their stories. It always comes back to our following; they’re in it for the same reasons we are and it’s just great, man. That’s the highlight of the day, everyday, seeing what they caught over the weekend or what caused them excitement and just being able to turn around and share that with the world; it’s been great.
Lloyd: One thing too is a lot of people have asked why we don’t you interview the pro bass fisherman and do stories on them? But I think our approach has always been grassroots and giving back to the people that support us and the people that we think we can actually promote and highlight.
We’ve been there when we were younger. Nobody highlighted us, we were just a bunch of young street kids that just loved to bass fish. No one paid us attention, no one even thought we were bass fishing, because the perception of fishermen is typical rednecks rocking overalls and straw hats sitting on the bank in a chair with a beer. Our approach is way different. We’re more fast paced. Our apparel is different, our fishing gear is different, we’re rocking sneakers to the lake.
We have always been about giving back to our core community that have always supported us since day one. And that’s never changed, regardless of how much bigger we get. I think a lot of people have seen that with brands, when they grow larger, they tend to forget about their core community. I think the community is the most important element to the Bass Brigade brand. It’s those guys that did the same thing we did when we were 15, hustling over to the lake to get a bite before the sun went down, then back to school, and then after school to do it all over again.
It’s all about keeping it grassroots.