About a year ago, my wife convinced me to get a Kindle. Well, she convinced me that the little electronic reader would be a nice Christmas gift for her to give me, so I went along with it. If nothing else, I figured I could use it to read in bed while she slept – something she seems to do better than me these days – without worry of waking her.
I’ve always been an active reader, you might say, and my voracity has only increased as I’ve grown older. A few years back I found that I was falling into the trap of absorbing digital media as my primary form of entertainment – websites, social media posts and the like – and it wasn’t until I went back to actually reading decent content that I found how much I was missing. I think a lot of people suffer from this; they don’t know how much crap they’re consuming.
Anyway, during an endless delay at the Atlanta airport, I found myself absorbed in another Kindle novel. This thing was really working out. The story was the life tale of Lefty Kreh.
Most of you have likely heard of Lefty, the personable jokester who grew to become one of the world’s foremost authorities on fly-casting and fishing, mixing in a lifetime of journalism, photography and instruction. In fact, I believe Kreh was one of the first celebrity fishers to admit that teaching. and bringing the joys of fishing to others, was truly his life’s passion.
Kreh’s autobiography, My Life Was This Big, is like sitting on the porch with Lefty for an entire afternoon. I never met the man, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
In any case, it dawned on me the idea of how little we hear these types of stories, especially in the bass fishing circles, and how unfortunate that is. In addition, so much of what we rely on as media in our sport is so rehashed and overdone – and I hear this complaint constantly from people all over the country – that it’s often not even worth reading. That’s crazy to me.
Another case in point. Not long ago, while again burning time in the airport, I came across a periodical called Angler’s Journal; I may have mentioned it here. After just one read of a single excerpt from that magazine, I felt sorry for myself as a bass fisherman.
Here was a volume of such rich narration, and genuine story-telling, that it reminded me of publications I remembered as a kid, when beautiful articles had no page restraints and gave the reader a sense of wonder and adventure second only to the fishing itself.
Where did that go in our world?
That day I read stories about commercial eel-catchers and a family lineage built around fishing in Texas stock ponds. Upon reaching the back cover, I immediately subscribed to the magazine, never second-guessing the elevated price. It was that good.
My experience in the fishing world has offered me the advice and know-how of accepted authorities on many things. From editors who helped me craft a story, to manufacturers teaching me all about retail sales.
But one thing I have never trusted or agreed with is the given belief that all today’s readers want is a quick fix. That we all have lousy attention spans and no need for anything to challenge us in terms of entertainment. Photo galleries and quick tips add up to more hits, the hits the advertisers want, and that’s all that matters.
What ever happened to the reader? Baloney, I say. You can keep your endless photo galleries.
In Kreh’s book, he lists empathy for the reader as one of the primary tenants of his life. I get the feeling that we’re all in the same boat, so to speak, attempting to learn how to catch a few more fish, or sharing in the stories of others to pass the time in between trips.
The same holds true to some degree in hunting. I remember the first time I read a book by famed African adventurer Peter Capstick; over the years, I bought every Capstick book I could find at Barnes and Noble. Here I was, a kid from the Midwest who’d never pursued anything more dangerous than a whitetail deer, enthralled by stories of lion hunts in the darkness and man-killing hippos.
Many of you recognize my desire to create alternative content for the fans of bass fishing. But where can we all go to read more?
Behind the scenes, I’ve had this conversation with other writers, regarding the needs and wants of those devouring content, and the lack of a balanced diet. Am I alone in thinking that there’s a market for real journalism?
For some time now, I’ve contemplated rounding up our last remaining fishing stories and bringing them to life for others. Whether that be a day on tour with a rookie, or a trip with a 30-year veteran trying to stay afloat. Maybe it’s bass adventures in places far removed for many of us, like giants in Japan, or record West Coast spots. Or maybe it’s just a good farm pond story.
Perhaps I’m a romantic. Maybe all anybody needs is an assortment of quick facts to read on the pot, or another story about using Colorado blades in muddy water. In any case, that’s all we have to choose from.
(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.)