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Sportfishing app Fishbrain is catching on in Florida

Tom Swick was introduced to the app by his 12-year-old nephew after a summer of fishing.
Published Jul. 15, 2016

It can be used to figure out what type of fish are hitting what lures, how big they are and where they're being caught. But Tom Swick, head of U.S. relations for the Fishbrain social network, sums up the app's popularity among anglers this way: "Fishermen are braggers."

Fishbrain, launched in 2013 in Sweden, has more than 2.2 million users showing off their catches and sharing information. Half are in the United States, and more than 250,000 of those are in Florida.

Swick of Tierra Verde is spreading the word on the app, along with members of a local fishing team that it sponsors.

"We like to brag," he said. "It provides a neat platform for people to share their catches and information about their catches with other like-minded people. People comment back and forth. Fishermen like to keep track of what they're catching, where, what time of day, the weather conditions. We do all that for them."

Swick first came upon Fishbrain after a summer of fishing with his 12-year-old nephew. As the youngster got ready to go back to school, "He said, 'Uncle Tom, you need to get on Fishbrain and log your catches so I can keep up with what you're doing.' " After a 15-minute tutorial from the nephew, he was hooked.

"Obviously, it was a really good fit," Swick said. "I think I have a couple thousand followers on the app. I've made a lot of good connections with other anglers in the Tampa Bay area that I never knew, and we've become really good friends."

Swick and other proponents of the app are in Orlando this week for the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, the world's largest sportfishing trade show.

Fishbrain was conceived by Swedish entrepreneur Johan Attby after he sold a software company in 2011. Attby said he concluded that social networks were "ripe for being disrupted."

He saw little value in the photos of kids, pets and travel destinations that typically show up on Facebook and Instagram. When he saw an article listing the world's 10 most popular hobbies — sportfishing is No. 1, by far, with 60 million participants, making it twice as popular as golf and tennis combined — the proverbial light bulb went off.

"My thesis is that if you have a passion, if you have a hobby, no matter what it is, you want to share with peers, not with friends," Attby said in an interview from Stockholm.

He and a development team in Sweden created Fishbrain. It allows those who register to post photos, share tips, connect with other anglers and to log fishing activity. A GPS connection can log wind direction and speed, water temperature, current movements and other data.

It's free, but an upgraded premium account is offered for $5.99 a month or $39.99 a year that provides access to deeper data and analysis, including the Fishbrain Forecast, a unique algorithm using meteorological information along with the crowd-sourced data.

Last August, Fishbrain partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, encouraging anglers to report sightings of endangered species, which can help the service provide information to field biologists.

"Fishing has to be done in a sustainable way," Attby said. "Fishing is regulated at the local and national and, on too few cases, the global level. But when we talk with researchers at those organizations, they base their decisions on very limited data. If we can contribute back with the data to help those organizations make more informed decisions, it's certainly good for us and it resonates with our users."

Fishbrain is still in development, with Attby having raised about $11 million in venture capital and making continual improvements to the app. The intention is to continue to grow the subscriber base worldwide, with the app eventually becoming profitable based on the premium subscriptions.

Attby is focused on that 60 million anglers figure.

"I want to have a large chunk," he said. "I want to have many of them on Fishbrain."

Contact Jerome R. Stockfisch at (813) 226-3390 or jstockfisch@tampabay.com.

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