I jumped at the chance recently to appear on Ike Live – the junkie podcast hosted by Mike Iaconelli and Pete Gluszek – invited on to voice my view of the rapidly changing professional bass industry. I couldn’t pass it up, as I often feel my opinions are more important than they are and, in general, I like sharing them with whomever will listen.
Truthfully, I was a bit apprehensive at first, as I learned from the producers that I’d be following featured guest Fletcher Shryock; his purpose to explain a social media uproar in which he expressed his opinion on a number of things that later escalated to childish banter.
That being said, I certainly wasn’t going to give my take on the whole thing, because I had none. Like anyone heavily involved in the industry, I had heard of Shryock's outburst, and even read through a few social posts on the subject, but quickly signed off and redirected my attention to the more important aspects of fishing. Like fishing.
In any case, Shryock did a good job on the show explaining himself and I did a good job, I must say, steering the conversation back to reality and away from hearsay and overrated displays of machismo.
What I told Ike and Pete is what I’m going to tell you, in case you missed it. At this point in my career, I’ve done and seen enough to know that, in general, things will settle out and we need to focus on more important things than B.A.S.S. vs. MLF or five fish versus 500.
We need to focus on fishing and getting more people involved in whatever ways they see fit.
In fact, as anglers – heck, as society – we’ve become so involved with casting blame and catching others in the act that we’ve often forgotten what’s important to us. Even in the world of bass fishing. Tournament organizations, media – even the fans, as much as anything – are so obsessed with our changing scene, who’s right and wrong, who belongs and who doesn’t, that we are all losing touch with what brought us together in the first place.
And personally, I don’t want negativity to ruin my day on the lake.
Now whether you want to blame social media, the country’s political climate, the holidays or whatever, the fact of the matter is that negativity has become the first response for many people toward just about anything. Maybe people have always been negative and now just have a way to express it due to our addiction to Facebook – regardless, it’s surrounding us.
My recent podcast appearance was a case in point. Early in the show – even before I came on – viewers were criticizing me for not being transparent or truly objective because I freelance for a company that shares ownership with Major League Fishing.
These Ike Live! fans obviously don’t know me or they would quickly realize that I don’t actually work for anybody because I’m too bull-headed to be a good employee. And they certainly don’t know how important it is for BassFan to stay impartial in every detail, regardless of who signs the checks.
Anyway, interestingly, I’ve always felt an affinity – an envy, if you will – for people who seem to constantly stay laid back and positive. I once assumed this was some type of subculture that I wasn’t exposed as a kid, like the leftover children of the '60s. Occasionally, I’d bump into a fisherman made of the same fabric – that guy who puts fishing at the forefront of all of his thought processes and everything he does, and seems totally engaged, even when simply recounting the details of a big catch. Oh, how I wanted to be that guy someday.
But life catches up with you. School and jobs and mortgages and contracts. In time, we all find ourselves waking up to an iPad full of insults or a newscaster more concerned about sensationalism than reporting the facts. Because bad news sells, and putting down others has become more common than compliments.
Poor Fletcher likely knows that as well as anybody. And while it seems overwhelming to him now, things will settle out, as we discussed. They always do.
As quickly as the throngs of onlookers direct their negativity on a subject, whether that’s the finger-pointing at B.A.S.S. or the hangman’s noose taken to Mike Long, or the infuriation of the posts of a bass pro, they all fade away quickly.
I mean, ask yourself this: What the heck do you care what Fletcher Shryock posts on Instagram? If your answer was anything other than “nothing”, take a page out of my playbook and get back to the fishing.
This week, my dad plans to visit for a three-day burnout bass session in the Ocala National Forest. With me as his guide, instead of the other way around, we’ll visit the places he first came to 50 years ago, when he and his best friend read the early issues of Bassmaster Magazine and heard stories of giant bass hiding in the remote jungle waters. We’ll fish Rodman, the place where dad caught his first bass big enough to swallow a softball, and later swallowed it himself at the KOA fish fry.
Oh, how times have changed, and how far we’ve come. I’ll likely see firsthand this week that progress isn’t always the right answer and that old-school can still get it done. One thing’s for certain, there won’t be talks about the professional bass industry, and neither of us will care what someone else said about us on Facebook.
Because, you see, we’ll be too busy fishing.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)