Episode 20 //
In the 20th installment of the Beneath the Surface Podcast, Corey and Sean have a conversation with Rob McAbee, BOTE Creative Director and Founder of Bug Slinger™️ fly fishing gear. Rob started Bug Slinger in 2007, right around the time Corey and Magda founded BOTE. As the BOTE and Bug Slinger™️ brands grew within the outdoor industry, it was inevitable that the paddle board fishing-focused company would collide with the fly fishing apparel brand and produce epic collaborations for years to come.
The two companies have a lot of common threads, which include creating new categories within their industries and producing innovative designs that stand apart. In this episode of the Beneath the Surface Podcast, the guys dive into the creation of the Bug Slinger brand, the design process behind the BOTE brand, and a glimpse behind the scenes of the Bug Slinger and BOTE relationship.
Coming at you direct, from the middle of nowhere, to the center of everywhere.
Who's In The Episode
Lead Designer, Co-Founder, and CEO at BOTE, Corey Cooper is a licensed engineer hailing from Auburn University. Corey is the pioneer of the DarkRoom, assisting with the design of the machinery, concepting the layout and ultimately developing the workflow used in DarkRoom production. Corey's passion for this project is so strong that on any given day, regardless of how busy things are at BOTE, you will often find Corey working in the DarkRoom.
Sean Murphy is the Director of Photography at BOTE and a world-renowned photographer based in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. After spending most of his career based in Los Angeles, shooting for brands like Adidas, Red Bull, and Toyota, just to name a few, Sean moved back to the Redneck Riviera. You can find Sean capturing gritty America and spontaneous moments that translate into visually stunning photography.
BOTE Creative Director, Rob McAbee, brings the style when it comes to designing eye-catching stand up paddle boards and developing color palettes, patterns, fonts, and illustrations that unite and define the BOTE brand. With over 25 years of professional brand building and marketing experience, Rob combined his love for fishing with his love for creative design when he joined the BOTE family in 2013. An avid fly fisher, Rob is the founder of Bug Slinger™ Fly Gear and, in collaboration with Corey, the creative brain behind the BOTE brand.
"In 2007, I set out to create a hip clothing brand built around artistic designs to reflect a fresher insight into the fly fishing market. The designs and clothing reflected an outward expression of the way I viewed fly fishing. The designs were typically influenced by current trends from the action sports, fashion, and music industries. This trajectory has been applied to the BOTE brand over the last 8 years and has influenced the paddle sports space." — Rob McAbee / Creative Director / Founder of Bug Slinger™
"When Corey asked me to design a few limited edition Bug Slinger™ boards, I thought to myself, 'Sweet, I'll get a couple of free boards!' Eight years later, it's been a hell of a ride being a part of building this brand." — Rob McAbee / Creative Director - BOTE
Welcome to the Behind the Surface sponsored by Squadcast. Just kidding, it's still the Beneath the Surface podcast not sponsored by anyone. Big news! You can now find the Beneath the Surface Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.
00:02:35 How Rob Came to BOTE
Around the same time Rob moved to Amelia Island, the BOTE brand was just getting started. Realizing Amelia Island was a great place to fish for Redfish and trout, he called his friend Nick who produces Fly Nation with an idea to host a show in Amelia Island. Rob was looking for fishing paddle boards and came across BOTE. Reached out to see if they would want to provide boards for the show.
00:07:46 Bug Slinger
Rob started Bug Slinger in 2007, a free fly apparel brand. At the time, fly fishing apparel brands were really only focused on the elitist faction of the fly fishing industry.
"So I started this company called Bug Slinger, which was kind of a rock and roll, surf-influenced fly fishing brand. And I was like, if nothing else I'll get a couple cool t-shirts out of it and be done." BOTE Creative Director and Founder of Bug Slinger™️
00:09:10 Building the Bug Slinger Brand
Rob built the brand organically, focusing on building his following on social media and creating licensing deals with brands like Buff. The product line was built around a younger demographic getting into fly fishing spawning from other outdoor hobbies.
00:11:43 Getting into the Graphics
Corey had a Bug Slinger™️ Glider Buff, a flying fish pattern, on his desk and appreciated the unique graphics. So he reached out to Rob to collaborate on limited edition Bug Slinger designs for the Flood and HD solid paddle boards to premier at Surf Expo.
Payment? Two free boards. "Sweet! I get two free stand up paddle boards" BOTE Creative Director and Founder of Bug Slinger™️
00:14:33 Two Unique Brands Collide
At the time, the stand up paddle board industry was focused entirely on recreational paddling and racing. The BOTE brand was born from taking the concept of stand up paddle boarding and presenting it to fishermen and outdoorsmen. Meanwhile, Bug Slinger served fly fishing gear to a younger demographic with a passion for surfing and snowboarding. Integrating Bug Slinger designs with the BOTE product line started with two SUP boards and in the years since has evolved into an entire product offering across the BOTE line up--from paddle boards and docks to apparel and new Bug Slinger inflatable kayaks.
00:20:25 The Design Process
The annual BOTE line up, Bug Slinger™️ included, is designed a year in advance. There's a lot of trend and colorway forecasting that takes place based on gut feelings because sell-through data isn't available yet for the current year. Corey's favorite part of the process is seeing Rob's first pass at designs for the upcoming season because it starts really wild before it gets pared down for public consumption.
Corey paraphrases Rob from a previous conversation, "What's unique about our production is that we're a hard goods manufacturer with an apparel brand's style." Meaning that while the BOTE brand falls within the outdoor industry, they take cues from cultural trends and influences from around the world and other industries. They avoid looking within the industry for inspiration, which is one of the key elements that help the brand to stand apart from other stand up paddle board companies.
00:25:44 The Sky's the Limit
Most people are surprised to learn that the team who built this incredible brand is very small. As a BOTE team member, it's a basic requirement that you have a working knowledge of multiple pieces of the company--whether production and graphic design or videography paired with the energy to keep things moving.
Sean nods to BOTE as one of two brands in his entire career that changed his life. Why? It's lightning in a bottle. Corey grants the team a lot of artistic freedom. Sean and Rob agree the sky's the limit in terms of what the team can develop and create. As Corey says, what BOTE puts out into the world--whether is a new product line, a short film, or something as simple as a graphic on a t-shirt--it's commercialized art.
00:30:06 Here's the Thing about Rob's Designs
When shopping online, whether it's at boteboard.com or anywhere else, the experience is limited. You can't see the incredible detail that goes into a 12' board within the confines of your computer screen. The in-store experience at a BOTE flagship store or any BOTE dealer is wildly different. You see the boards at scale and can really appreciate the finer details that stand apart from other stand up paddle boards, inflatable kayaks, micro skiffs in the market.
"It's unique and I'm really proud to be a part of it." - Rob McAbee / BOTE Creative Director and Founder of Bug Slinger™️
Thanks for joining Rob, Corey, and Sean, going beneath the surface of the Bug Slinger™️ brand. See ya.