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Many years ago it was normal to idolize the local phenomenal fisherman. You know that guy that always caught his limit, hung out at the boat dock with a stringer of fish and never failed to catch his limit. His every word was the “gospel” to aspiring anglers. Being the expert on the lake, people marveled at the ability to find and catch bass any time of the year. How did he do it, what was the trick?

Turn the clock back decades, there were uncrowded, new lakes, very little fishing pressure a limited amount of tackle and small boats rowed or if lucky powered by tiny gas engines. Those who were fishing knew little and had cumbersome rods, reels and a minimum of artificial lure choices. In fact many folks were used to baiting up with the most abundant available live baits. Minnow seines as well as traps were used to collect shiners, creek minnows and other types of baitfish. A quick trip to the garden spot with a shovel could always be counted to produce a few red”wigglers” and maybe a nightcrawler or two. Crawfish, frogs, crickets, grasshoppers and more were all fair game and potential fish bait. Myth, theory and a little common sense logic ruled the day while eventually some archaic technology came on the scene giving way to a few battery operated instruments. A fishing barometer that predicted how good the fish might be were all the rage. A Color-C-Lector emerged measuring the amount of light penetrating the water and which shade was more likely to fool a largemouth. Limited, infrequent and hit and miss success was the norm for most bass casters. The mobility of the boats, upsized engines, trolling motors allowed for covering more water and increased casting and catching.

Enter education and electronics. Outdoor and boat shows drew crowds to listen to the watery wisdom of the new wave of TV fishing stars. Fishing seminars flocked to the fishing presentations anxious to see their idols and hear what tricks and techniques were being used to boat bass. Magazines were now dedicated to those seeking to catch bass, crappie and catfish. TV shows followed adventurous angers across the USA and soon globally to exotic locations to catch fresh and saltwater species. Radio, magazine, TV, personal appearances and then came the advent of a new age where for a nominal fee you could purchase something called a “tape” to view in the privacy of your own home and watch and learn the all the trade secrets of fishy and famous. Huge stringers of fish were on display everywhere. The birth of the plastic (sometimes referred to as the “rubber”) worm was a giant innovation. Worm rods, level wind aka baitcasting reels and accessories were geared towards the bogus bass bait enthusiasts. Sonar flasher systems were introduced but were hard to read, they gave depth readings and allegedly signaled little hooked images that were identified as fish.

Fast forward. Electronics dominate dashboard space in super speedy sparkly boats. GPS allows for marking structure that is well defined and can be used for future reference. Water depth, bottom contours, points, shell beds, stump rows, isolated brush piles, subtle bottom composition changes, submerged weed beds, water temperature and more are all easily found, viewed in 3D, marked and become encrypted in the electronic devices. We have now made it easier, faster and more precise to become educated on fish behavior, find and catch fish. Scientifically developed rods of all lengths, actions and specific to species and reels that would confound our fishing ancestors. Super sensitive rods, reels that offer and speed of retrieve with a number of innovative line choices that are ultra-sensitive, strong, non-stretch and invisible are all on the shelf for the everyday angler. Lures manufactured to reach precise depths, in every color imaginable, multiple sizes, emitting sounds and vibration all determined by intensive research and development are common places and improving the odds of fooling the wariest fish. Needle sharp hooks, technique oriented are also available. Circle hooks requiring no bone jarring hook set, drop shot hooks, light wire, red hooks, wide gap, off set, live bait, keeper, jig style and rotating treble to name a few are all used by the modern angler to securely stick their fish.

I believe it’s fair to say we have reduced the fishing learning curve from years to months. We’re now so educated and effective we have a giant advantage over the fish. Along with the edge comes the responsibility to conserve the resource. Quick hook removal, carefully handling and successful release of fish, especially trophy fish is essential to maintaining a sustainable population of heathy fish. Keeping and cleaning the smallest legal fish is a recommended practice. The 15 inch and smaller bass are a renewable resource being replaced in a healthy environment takes about two or three years. For conversation sake let’s say a seven pound bass is probably eight to ten years old depending on food sources and water quality and also an efficient predator, capable of producing more of the superior of the species. Releasing these fish increases the possibility that your favorite fishing hole will continue to produce quality fish.
There’s no telling what on the horizon as education and advancements continue. Hopefully the pure joy of landing a true trophy will be preserved for future fishermen.