Florida Sportsman’s founding sales director blazed trails for magazine, industry
Bob Mitchell was a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. On a professional level, what I remember best about Bob was his commitment to precision.
We were fishing one day years ago, and Bob was counting the seconds as we watched my paper depth recorder. Exactly as he predicted, when he hit 60, the seabed rose 200 feet. He was calculating compass heading, speed over ground and closure rate to the target, much of what a modern day GPS will do, but this was Loran-C days. I was in awe. But I should not have been surprised.
A former combat and active commercial aircraft pilot, Bob had carried his knack for mathematical precision into a career in advertising sales for Florida Sportsman, the magazine founded by Karl Wickstrom, my father, just over 50 years ago. The year was 1968 and Bob was a commercial airline pilot for National Airlines. While some pilots relaxed by the hotel pool on their layovers, Bob took the opportunity to make advertising sales calls. He once told me, laughing, “Your dad would have never paid me in those days to make personal visits to New York.”
Florida Sportsman flourished. Bob’s dedication and attention to detail allowed Karl to focus on conservation issues and the editorial product. They were a perfect match to launch a new magazine.
As if counting the seconds for a sea hump to rise off Islamorada, Bob would tick off the number of calls he’d make each day. Not just calls made but calls answered with some sort of resolution. “Fifty-one!” I remember him exclaiming one day. It was the mid-1980s and I was working for Bob as a sales rep for the magazine while living four hours away in St. Petersburg. I soaked up all I could from Bob. I used a similar call sheet, marked the number of calls, even got a phone headset, but I rarely achieved the same success as Bob.
For more than four decades, Bob connected advertisers with Florida Sportsman readers. He personally sold more advertising than any other rep at FS during this time. In so doing, Bob nurtured the growth of many hundreds of marine and sportfishing businesses, from Florida hotels and charter captains, to leading national manufacturers of boats, engines, fishing tackle, and yes–satellite navigation systems. Readers looked to the advertising pages to learn about innovative products during a period of unprecedented development in fishing and boating.
Bob never missed a deadline, and when a 236-page magazine landed on your desk with a thud, fresh from the printer, Bob, with a slight smile, hardly looking up, headset on, was already ticking off the numbers for the next issue.
I will miss Bob, but I’ll never forget what he meant to our Florida Sportsman family.
The Florida Sportsman staff extends its deepest condolences to Phyllis, Bob’s wife of 56 years, and to their daughters, Jessica and Jennifer.
–Blair Wickstrom, Publisher