Few activities are as heavily based on tradition as fishing. Due to the nostalgic nature of the sport, people don’t see the need to change something that has worked for years. A rod, reel and bait have always caught fish and that method shows no signs of needing to be tweaked. There are upgrades to manufactured materials, but the general design of equipment has stayed the same for years. It’s a similar concept to sports like baseball. It’s always been played with a bat, ball and glove. The basics have seen few changes.
The business side of these industries, however, are often subjected to manipulation. With these changes often comes pushback. The first professional fishing competition was aired on TV in the mid-1970’s. It marked the beginning of what has become an extremely profitable industry. Many people were frustrated with these changes because of the extra exposure it gave to fishing. The traditionalists were worried their secret spots would be found and there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone on the water.
However, the businessmen and women in the industry were thrilled with the airing of the tournament because their companies could finally get recognized by people outside of the sport. They would sell more merchandise without having to work as hard at advertising. They could purchase commercial time during the televised fishing tournaments and gain many new customers.
The optimism and doubts from the traditionalists and non-traditionalists were valid, but the money always seemed to win.
Sportfishing Grows Its Audience
Sportfishing saw a major increase as a result of the airing of the first Bassmaster Classic in 1985. More guide and charter services began and fishing was no longer seen as a sport reserved for the wealthy or extreme outdoorsman. The average 9am-5pm laborer could get off work, drive to a nearby body of water and fish for an hour or two before dinner. Saturdays could be used for day-long excursions and holiday weekends were planned around the hottest fishing locations.
Pretty soon the favorite weekend of the year for people was fishing opener. It came with weeks of preparation and left with stories that lasted a lifetime.
By the 80’s, fishing had become even more popular and showed no signs of slowing. In the early stages of the internet, fishing forums were created. People started posting online about local fisheries and offered tips to anyone who may be interested. There were suggestions on everything from bait to the best time of day to fish. Fishing became more and more accessible. Somebody who had never picked up a rod and reel could do a few hours of research on a local fishery, go to the store to purchase a setup and be on decent fish within a couple of hours.
Again, this wasn’t ideal in the eyes of the traditionalists. They still saw beauty in trial-and-error. There’s something to be said about heading to a lake without any prior knowledge and spending the entire day on it only to catch one fish. Sometimes it requires trying everything in the tackle box and still failing.
Learning water takes time and many believe that it should be done without the use of technology. They argue that an online forum isn’t going to do anybody any good because no two days on the water are the same. The only way to become proficient is to spend hours on the water getting to know the tendencies of the fish and learning to play their game.
Along with the development of online forums, came extremely affordable fish finders. While they’ve been on the market for the better part of 60 years thanks to a pair of Japanese brothers, they were often too expensive for the average angler. More and more companies have tried their hand at creating them, and they can easily be found affordably today. Again, this took some of the tradition out of the fishing.
Fishing Enters the Age of Social Media
In the last five years, fish finders have almost gotten to the point of becoming unnecessary with the arrival of social Apps. Apps like FishBrain make it possible for people to mark locations on a lake showcasing where fish were caught. They can post the picture of the fish, the exact tackle it was caught on and at what time of day. The specifics of it all make it that much easier for people to replicate.
As we’ve ventured further into the 21st century, the fishing industry has readied itself for another transition. This transition, however, has brought about an extreme amount of controversy. Social media has seeped into the industry as it has done almost everywhere else today.
Now, all it takes is for somebody to post an 8-pound bass on their Instagram and everyone in the world can see the exact location it was caught. Gone are the honey holes that have been a family secret for years. The pressure to post a prize catch is becoming too tempting. The phrase “picture or it didn’t happen” rings especially true in the outdoor industry.
People can now even live their adventures through social media influencers. Can’t get on the water for the next couple months due to a busy work schedule or inclement weather? No problem. Search on YouTube for the exact type of fishing you’d like to see and chances are there is a 15 minute high quality video for you to watch. Aching for the hit of a beautiful trout on a small mountain stream? You could spend two straight days watching all of the videos available on mountain trout fishing. What about deep-sea fishing? You could block off a week and still not get through all of the videos.
Why is there so much content? It’s easy. There is money to be made on the media side of fishing. Companies like Googan Squad are taking over an industry that was in desperate need of an upgrade. They’ve simplified the world of fishing. They’re a one stop shop for everything from apparel to soft plastics.
They give the novice angler a chance to learn all about the world of fishing without much research. All five members of the Squad have YouTube channels with nearly a million subscribers. On the channels are extremely detailed videos ranging from how to fish the bass spawn to docu-series on what it’s like to fish in Australia.
Some would hate to say it, but fishing is becoming a trendy thing to do. More and more people are purchasing inexpensive setups and giving it a try. Sure, it may be frustrating to watch because they may not know what they’re doing, but at the same time people are getting outside and trying new things.
Getting the Young off the Couch and on the Water
The biggest plus, however, may be the influence that fishing media has on the younger generation (Gen Z). It’s a common opinion of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers that the youth are spending too much time playing video games and staring at their phones. Eventually, Generation Z will realize that there’s only so much fun to be had watching others fish online. They’ll want to get out and try it for themselves. They’ll ask mom or dad for a fishing pole and bait to get them started.
When this happens, it’s a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to bond with their sons and daughters at a time when it may seem impossible to do so. Kids want to be like these YouTube stars. Be thankful that they’re watching outdoor related channels instead of some of the other things they could find on the internet.
New Opportunities for Sharing an Old Tradtion
It’s possible to combine this new era of fishing with the traditional methods that some of the older generations look back so fondly upon. There’s no amount of video watching that can teach experience. The traditional skills of fishing are only gained by trial and error. By learning these skills, people also must learn patience, observation and responsibility.
Yes, the YouTubers make it look easy, but they do so because they’ve spent thousands of hours on the water perfecting their craft. This is where the traditionalists can step in and share their words of wisdom. You’re unsure how to fish a river after a heavy rain and overcast skies? Here, this is what has worked for me over the past 20 years I’ve fished this spot.
Now is not the time to bring the division that the majority of the world has into the world of fishing. For years, fishing was seen as a time to get together with old friends or family members and make memories. Now, it’s becoming a competition full of class systems and secrecy. We should want the next generation to become diehard anglers; not steer them away from the sport.
Yes, it may require an extra amount of patience and teaching, but fishing can still hold the same meaning it always has. There needs to be a strong set of teachers and mentors for the youth to admire. Encourage your son or daughter to watch these fishing videos or play a fishing video game. But also be sure to do your duty and take them out onto the water. Show them how rewarding it is to catch that huge fish after a long day of hot sun and no action.
These lessons go deeper than knowing how to tie a nail not or select the proper bait for a clear lake on a cloudy day. They teach the younger generation the importance of hard work, responsibility, respect and perseverance. These are the life skills that everyone needs. Out with the old and in the with new doesn’t have to be the motto. Keep the old, embrace the new and see what happens.
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