I hate to say it, but I’ve been around. I’m at the age when friends’ children are no longer babies but college graduates. With age, however, comes perspective and perhaps a little appreciation.
Having been a chronicler and active participant in the “golden age” of bass fishing – a time span that roughly encompassed two decades, the 1980s and 1990s – I feel for you flat hatters. Dudes, you missed it.
There was nothing more exhilarating than strapping a rocket on your back and being hurtled through a time when magnets made casting reels castable, when every syrupy word from a former Alabama insurance salesman was gospel, when magazines like BassMaster and InFisherman were as thick as catalogues, when a store in Missouri was every bass angler’s Mecca, when a new technique like flippin’ could change the world and when professional anglers actually contributed something to the sport.
With apologies to Yogi Berra, it is over. Bass fishing had a helluva run. It started when Ray Scott watched a televised basketball game and wondered why bass fishing couldn’t do the same and, interestingly enough, ended when the church of that religion, ESPN, laid the dream to rest. To be fair, the economy ultimately delivered the final coup de grâce to a sport already feeling the blood loss from an ESPN switchblade.
But here is where perspective matters: Bass fishing was dead but hadn’t laid down yet. In truth, we were never going to be what they wanted us to be. Nor would our personal fantasies be realized. Face it, we all fell into the tender trap of loving our sport to the point where we could no longer see its flaws. It was and always will be a participatory sport, one with a learning curve and steep buy-in that quickly deters casual anglers. The incalculable stupidity of ESPN only brought everything into sharper focus, proving that we were not the cool kids in this or perhaps any other generation.
Think bowling in the 1950s and 1960s. How about scuba diving from the 1960s through the 1970s? Or, hang gliding in the 1970s and 1980s? All of these were participatory sports that developed loyal followings and experienced high-water eras just as they appeared to be rising above their humble roots.
The reason for their respective rises and falls may differ, but the message remains the same: If a sport does not demand too much of its participants in terms of commitment or performance, if it captures the youth market with a social scene beyond the sport itself, if it appeals to the opinion-making tastemakers who, by and large, prefer more hip, less scary and more social pursuits, then you’ve got a chance. If that’s the formula, color bass fishing gone.
This brings us to the present and the reality of 2013. Anyone who thinks bass fishing will ever recapture the shimmering aura of those halcyon days are truly delusional. Get over it and move on. Good, perhaps great years might be just beyond the horizon. However, if you choose to the wear the frozen smile of a Pollyanna Positive, so be it. What everyone else needs to do is place the sport on his or her collective shoulders and start the heavy lifting. Now, it’s on us to make something of the pieces that are left.
We can’t trust the tournament organizations to do the right thing because they are rudderless, content-free wastelands. We can’t depend on the pros to help because they have collectively proven incapable of original thought in at least ten years. We can’t put our trust in the outdoor writers because they are deader than the deadest dinosaur. Those who struggle on, do so at rates embarrassing to even marginally talented gardeners.
Even in this uber-connected age when creativity should be at its peak, a major tournament organization can – with the apparent blessing of some major stars – ban something like the A-rig. This alone should tell you to look elsewhere for information.
It’s up to you to pull yourself away from the utter Pablum that masquerades as content in most magazines and websites and be more diligent in what you will and will not accept. There are voices worthy of hearing, if you know how to listen.
So, there you go, mister man-in-the-mirror. Do you want something more? Do you want to create some memories that just might last? Do you want to experience an era when bass fishing was instructive and fun and meaningful? Then flush those little Internet bitches out of the chat rooms and start thinking and acting like a fisherman.