“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Bass fishing is about as “America” as it gets. And, just like most aspects of our American culture, our favorite pastime is often influenced by trends and popularity, despite what the bass have to say about it. Bass fishermen are notorious impulse buyers, often putting more emphasis on the latest fishing gadget than other aspects of life.
Unfortunately, not everything we once deemed so revolutionary turns out that way in the long run. Many items eventually prove to be more hype than substance.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at a few products that seemed to slip out the back, despite once being innovative. What ever happened to:
> Pork rind: Without question, I personally caught more big bass in my fishing adolescence on a jig-and-pig than any other lure. The mystery of the rind was alluring: was it the shape, color, texture or taste that made this strange trailer so effective? Manufacturers and pros alike later convinced us all that pork was superior to plastic in early season, due to its supple nature in cold water, yet we no longer see pork in public, as if icy conditions don’t exist.
> Pistol-grip rods: Back in the '80s, every good bass fisherman had an arsenal of pistol grips. While Jimmy Houston surgically dissected shoreline cover each Saturday morning on TV, Hank Parker took home his second Classic title, both thanks to 5 1/2-foot weapons of death. A little pistol grip, they said, was essential to making the underhand roll cast, so effective at putting lures tight to cover. Today, good fishermen do the same thing with 7-footers. Who knew?
> The Color-C-Lector: I can remember when nearly every guy at the Cleveland Sportsman’s Show left the building with a Color-C-Lector, so guaranteed was its effectiveness at choosing the proper lure color. Did we simply become smarter than the machine, or do we just think we are?
> Low-gear “cranking” reels: At one time, manufacturers had us believe that high-speed baitcasters were incapable of winching big bass out of heavy cover, or keeping tabs on deep-diving crankbaits. Now we’re realizing that’s simply not true. High, and even higher, speed is in, regardless of technique.
> Copolymer line: Not totally dead, but no longer such a big player. "Line within a line” was all the rage at one time, said to be strong, yet manageable; even “guaranteed to catch more fish” in the case of Prime Plus. I must admit, copolymers were incredibly abrasion-resistant compared to the monofilaments of the day, but the adaption of fluorocarbon took a big bite out of the copolymer market. We’re seeing a murmur of activity again today, however, as more anglers realize that fluoro isn’t necessarily the line of the Gods.
> Insert rattles: At one time, it was totally impossible to get a bass in stained water to bite a jig, lizard or tube, for that matter, unless that lure had a rattle inserted in the plastic. Evidently, bass no longer feed using their ears.
> Flashers and paper charts: Sure, it’s easy to see that liquid crystal graphs have replaced these antiquated units of yesteryear. But remember, it was the flasher’s supposed “real time” data that was the big selling point, along with the ability to record at high speeds. Paper graphs were heralded by a cult-like group long after being tossed aside by the mainstream, as the holdouts claimed better resolution and the ability to interpret more subtle marks. Today, it’s tough to find an angler using either machine in open water.
> Fish formula: While there are still a few anglers who refuse to quit, most have abandoned the “scent for bass” theory. Others claim their lures do the job for them, basing their opinions on scientific research done in the labs of those selling the lures themselves, or the belief in a sales pitch given by a TV pro. Heck, a few anglers even believe bass like the taste of coffee. In any case, lack of scientific proof, coupled with the ability to catch bass on things that don’t smell, continue to throw a wrench into Dr. Juice’s plans.
Who’s next on the chopping block? Perhaps it’s my cynical mindset, but I have my doubts about a few key products currently being praised by the pros. Or maybe I’m just missing the boat and should do a little shopping.
It gets me every time.
(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.)