When Fact Becomes Fiction

When Fact Becomes Fiction

In my opinion, everyone has a right to an opinion. If you decide to publish that opinion, good for you. If you decide to support that opinion by citing historical references that are completely manufactured and utterly devoid of fact, not so good for you - or for any of us. In other words, if you don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, everyone loses.

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In my opinion, everyone has a right to an opinion. If you decide to publish that opinion, good for you. If you decide to support that opinion by citing historical references that are completely manufactured and utterly devoid of fact, not so good for you - or for any of us. In other words, if you don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, everyone loses.

Are you listening Joe Balog of BassFan? In his recent blog listing the satanic verses of umbrella rigs, he decides to give us a little history lesson. Only one problem, he forgot the facts. At least I hope it was something like forgetfulness or laziness or ineptitude. Whatever the case, someone needs a refresher course in tournament bass fishing history and/or fact checking.

First he started off by telling us how trolling methods such as Buck Perry’s spoonplugging were “recognized as a way to catch bass above and beyond any method used by cast-and-retrieve fishermen”, techniques so deadly that tournament committees, Balog guesses, avoided them like the plague.

Unfortunately, I have never had the phenomenal ability to pull facts out from between my buttocks. I’ve always had to do it the old-fashioned way, you know, call someone who knows something, maybe someone who was actually there. It’s called “due diligence”.

Paul Prorok, co-author of “In Pursuit of Giant Bass” and someone who participated in the spoonplugging craze (check the photos in the back of the original editions, he’s there) said it rather succinctly, “In those days, as now, fishermen who favored casting were, by far, in the majority. Most guys didn’t troll and spoonpluggers weren’t all that interested in tournament fishing anyway. To say that tournament organizations were in fear of spoonplugging is totally false.” 

Prorok’s view of the umbrella rig? 

“Clearly, this guy has bought into the magic lure theory and the propaganda of fear generated by tournament anglers. In essence, the A-rig is another sales pitch of another era. If you buy into the sales pitch, you’re an idiot.”

Another Balog history lesson was the reason for tournament trails settling on the 8-foot maximum rod lengths. In his alternate universe, the reason was that “guys were dipping into the brush with 14-foot rods” and “the tournament trails finally said enough is enough.” Uh, not so.

Instead of reaching into my back room filing cabinet, I called Dave Myers, the former Fenwick man who designed and built those first flippin’ sticks for Dee Thomas. 

“Trying to stop the long rods was because of competition concerns, not the effectiveness of the technique. Out west, people realized it was Dee’s ability that was beating them.”

According to Myers, it was then-BASS tournament director, Harold Sharp, who quickly put a stop to any foolishness before it ever began. Sharp knew the whining would never end and hated the thought of dealing with endless catfights over an extra inch or so. Sharp also knew that Myers and Thomas could live with a 7 1/2–foot flip stick, so he set the bar at eight feet. Problem solved.

And, who do you think was the first person to recognize that flippin’ wasn’t going to be the ultimate answer? Dee Thomas.

One day, Myers recalled, Dee asked him an odd question.

“Do I have to keep winning tournaments to keep my sponsorships?”

“Why are you asking,” replied Myers.

“Because I know I’m gonna have to learn to do other things,” admitted Thomas.

Unlike bass fishing’s version of Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort, a not-to-be-named clique of FLW and BASS pros from whom Balog seeks counsel, Dee Thomas knew it wouldn’t last forever.

But somehow, says Balog, the umbrella rig is different - this from a blogger who seems to divine his facts from a cosmic crystal ball.

Okay, let’s say you’re willing to overlook a little fudging in the truth department, what about foul hooking? Balog thinks it sets a bad example to the average angler. Then what of those countless fish gaffed by Zara Spooks or Norman DD-22s or every stickbait ever invented? And, what of jamming a needle in the bladder of a bass caught in deep water? Yeah, let’s not concern ourselves with those nettlesome little details and only focus on the boogeyman du jour.

Oh yes, Hemingway also doubts that umbrella rigs will not generate exposure or profits for the tackle industry. Huh? Aren’t we talking about it right now? Isn’t everyone? Turn on the fishing channels and try paying attention. Aren’t those commercials about umbrella rigs?

It’s hard to talk to an ostrich with its head in the sand or whatever dark place their head is currently located. The same is true of those anonymous pros, standing in the shadows, cowards every one. If you want to have an opinion, stand up and be heard. Don’t hide from the light under the kitchen sink and don’t bend the facts to fit your argument.

Mike McClellan has stood up and he’s taken some licks from yours truly. I don’t agree with him, but at least he manned up, we talked and I respect him for it. I wish I could say the same for the rest of you.  

Click here to read Joe Balong's article on Bassfan.

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