A few months ago, I embarked on something of a social experiment. I wondered what would happen if someone finally spoke candidly about the world of fishing. What would be the reaction to unvarnished opinions about the realities of bass fishing and the industry at large? Would those who place themselves in the public eye – in an industry that knows nothing of critical analysis – continue to do and say and promote outrageous things?
As a writer, one of your biggest fears is running out of material. So far, this has not been a concern. To use military jargon, fishing is a target-rich environment.
Why? Because the culture is – and always has been – a closed system. It’s as if everyone has taken a Mafioso oath of omerta when it comes to speaking up, regardless of how ridiculous the subject matter. Granted, to be a part of the industry, to make a living from it is a true gift. That said, it is also a seething cauldron of vested interests, populated by those who want to continue paying their mortgages. Duly noted.
The problem should be obvious: If you expect to hear the truth and nothing but from anyone who has a career in fishing, you are truly delusional. The industry has become a corptocracy of the highest order as the companies in charge have coalesced into multi-divisional behemoths. Hardy reels, the venerable gold standard of fly fishing tackle was recently purchased by Pure Fishing. I would like to think pleasant thoughts and, golly, hope for the best. But, like the late comedian George Carlin once said, “I do this real moron thing, and it’s called thinking.”
Thinking, of course, frequently demands a grasp of history. When was the last time you spoke of Fenwick rods in reverential tones? If I was a tackle collector, I would be buying up every pre-sale Hardy reel I could get my hands on. For the Pollyannas out there who are aghast at such blasphemy, I urge you to spend a few hours watching “Antiques Roadshow”. Then, tell me how often corporate takeovers have increased the intrinsic value of quality brands.
The unwillingness to point out deficiencies in the fishing industry is not something new. It’s always been like that. When the money was flowing in the 1980s and 1990s, everyone was making bank. Companies could afford to have bloated pro staffs and throw free gear at the Larry Local anglers who proved that, indeed, there is a price on loyalty. It’s called “free stuff”. Unfortunately, the good times are way in the rear-view mirror, but strangely the vow of silence remains. Now, a much smaller group of people makes a living at fishing and they still can’t speak up. I get it. Quite frankly, inside the industry is where I’ve found some of my most vocal support, off-the-record of course.
What I don’t get is the reaction of many average guys-on-the-street. That would be you. Aren’t you the same people who Tweet and Facebook and do the chat room thing? You seem to relish exposing every small detail of your lives to countless strangers, yet have a problem with someone who dares challenge the A-rig ban? Or Johnny Bench?
You are the ones who should be dictating your choices, demanding innovation, rewarding information and ignoring the selfish interests of fishing professionals and industry insiders. Do you really think they care about you? Perhaps, if you consider your wallet to be part of your anatomy.
Unlike the fishing industry, who always wants you to do something, to show how much you care, I’m not asking for any of that. My only request is this: Don’t be a dumbass. Distance yourself from the hype and the hypocrisy and look at things from your own perspective. You’ve been a good soldier far too long. It’s time to ask the hard questions. It’s time to look through the folksy bullshit and understand who makes the fishing industry run. That would be you.
The only advantage they have over you is that you really love the sport. They know it. And, like the worst lover, they know just what buttons to push. So, if being the beleaguered boyfriend or girlfriend makes you happy, good for you. Not really. I was just being nice.