Every day there are more aspects of pop culture I donít understand. Maybe itís a sign of getting old. Iíve always held to the belief that you knew you were old when you started liking crappy music, like Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers. Or sang along to "Mony, Mony" at weddings.
In any case, while bass fishing usually keeps it old-school, thereís an influx of modernism from time to time that shakes things up. In the past, Iíve always done my best to embrace these changes Ė even adopt a few Ė but lately Iím struggling.
For starters, whatís with the phones? I live in a college town and the no-communication/phone culture has become comical within the young-adult age group. During times in between classes, I laugh as I watch these zombie-like creatures walk from building to building, heads down as they endlessly scroll away on their devices, nearly stepping into oncoming traffic at every intersection.
While I assumed such behavior was reserved for losers, imagine my horror when I recently fished with a guy who brought that lifestyle into the boat. My boat! Try as I might to engage in conversation or point out cool aspects of our natural setting, everything went in one ear and out the other.
Nothing seemed real, or ďingestedĒ, if you will. It was like he was simply on a job site, going through the motions to get through the day, anxious to return home to some other life, or person, or whatever was on the other end of that phone. Maddening!
Or maybe Iím just getting old.
Another thing I just canít get Ė and maybe you can help me out Ė are these tackle-box subscription services. There are several on the market, all with a similar premise: Each month, a box full of unknown fishing items is mailed to the recipient for a fee of about $20. The only decision in the matter is the species of fish that the boxes are designed for, and thatís limited to a couple choices. Bass, or other stuff.
Supposedly Ė and Iím making a big leap here Ė millions of these boxes have been shipped to date.
While I never doubt the power and effectiveness of back-door marketing in the fishing industry (remember the Banjo Minnow?), I wonder how long this will go on. You see, with the exception of a Christmas gift to a great uncle living in Alaska, I just canít see who fits these services.
When I ask myself, do I want to spend an additional $16.99 each month on tackle that someone else picks out for me, that Iíll likely never use, that may very well be intended to catch bass in Idaho, the overwhelming answer is NO.
When I ask myself if I know anyone who would appreciate such a subscription as a gift, my answer remains the same.
Who, then, has a different answer? Feel free to clue me in. As luck would have it, my neighbor stopped by the other day to blow his horn about his new subscription box. Holding out the lures for proof, he claimed ďI got 30 bucks worth of stuff here.Ē
News flash: I got nothing for nothing, instead spending my $16.99 on a beef jerky and gas in the boat, both of which I actually used.
Ok, maybe Iím old. Whatever. I suppose we can look at the positives of all this. Regardless of the fad, such things are intended to get people out fishing, if nothing else. Whether it be a copy-cat Slug-O, a tackle box full of mystery baits or another worthless app on an iPhone, the intention is to increase engagement or, in our case, participation.
Believe it or not, thereís a whole contingent of people Ė often behind the scenes Ė who work on this very concept each and every day. You see, without active, increasing participation, fishing wouldnít have a leg to stand on. Our sport continuously faces challenges from every angle and needs a full-time cheering section, along with recruitment, to beat the odds. God bless Ďem.
But I canít help but wonder if the new recruits are missing the boat, so to speak. Not by intention, but just as a product of society. I like modern conveniences like anyone else, donít get me wrong, but Iíd rather watch a bass eat my topwater than watch it on YouTube. And I donít need more stuff. None of us do.
I can remember getting dropped off at the local pond with nothing but a bag of plastic worms, a Snagproof frog and 50 cents for a Coke. Those fishing trips still rate as some of the best of my life.
Maybe Iím just getting old.
(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.)