There's much more to fishing gear than just measuring how successful it is

by: RON RAASCH/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The lure of fishing

As most fishing gear manufacturers and salespeople are aware, lures are made to catch more anglers than fish. The same holds true for any fishing product. But, unlike most anglers, fishing gear is not cheap.
   The advertising folks must get a hoot out of naming new products. Who wouldn't want to buy something called the BassGetter, NetBuddy, TroutFood or the X-90 Super Rod and Reel Combo 4000? Who cares if it doesn't catch fish; it sounds cool.
   There is just so much gear on the market today (and on our property), that when a friend calls to go fishing, you tell him you need at least a week's notice to get your gear together. Then you start gathering up tackle from the shop, garage, den, under your bed, etc.
   Back in the old days (10 or even 20 years ago), a lure might have cost as much as $1. Today, however, they average $3 to $5 with some as much as $20 or $35. When you tie one of those babies on, you better be sure of your knot. And an insurance policy on your entire collection wouldn't hurt either, in case your tackle box falls overboard or gets stolen.
   After paying so much for some lures, you never want to use them for fear of losing them. Letting your buddy borrow a lure that costs over $3 doesn't even register on the radar screen, unless of course you consider a rental fee.
   It may surprise you that your old worn-out lures may be worth more than your boat. That's the worse dilemma an angler can face, finding out you can't use your new or old lures. This leaves a few options - going on the Antiques Road Show or using your buddy's lures.
   There's no doubt that the bragging factor comes into play when displaying new lures. There's nothing like opening that tackle box and showing off the vast array of past or recent purchases, especially the really expensive ones. Of course none of these has been (and most likely ever will be) used. Your buddies will be in awe as they stare at the colorful and unique display.
   "This little number here cost me $25," you brag.
   "Did you ever catch anything on it?" your buddy inquires.
   Moving quickly to the second tier in the box, you continue, "And this little beauty here."
   Your buddy asks if he can borrow a few and you quickly go to tier #4, reach to the back of the tray and retrieve an old beat up spinner for the offering.
   Lures today can do more things than a Swiss Army knife or a Barbie doll including rattle, wiggle, dive, float, vibrate, bounce off rocks and logs or even glow. These inventors are brilliant people. If we took all the lure inventors and put them to work saving the world, they'd probably accomplish it in a week.
   In the old days you could go to a store or look in a catalog and see only a few different kinds of lures, rods, reels or other gear and your choice would be relatively easy. Not so today. Now it takes an hour just to peruse the tackle box section. It seemed so much easier when we had so few choices.
   There's something intriguing about a tackle box. I keep the first one my dad gave me next to my desk in my office (the tackle box containing my $3 and $5 lures is down at the bank in a safe deposit box). As a kid, I would open the old tackle box every few nights and appraise each lure. Now, I wonder if the lures dad put in it were fish-catchers or ones he didn't like. But that didn't matter then, they were mine. I kept the tackle box right next to my other praised collection - the baseball cards.
   As the years went by, the old plastic worms welded to the bottom of the box. Eventually, there was only a black shadow of the worm that used to be, like the result of a nuclear explosion. I still open the box today and examine each lure in the three trays, picking up or touching each one. And those fossilized worm outlines on the bottom are still there.
   There's no doubt that some of the gear of today actually does help catch fish but, in a way, it almost seems like cheating. In the old days you simply slipped a worm on a hook, tied the line to a bamboo pole or a stick, laid down against a tree and fell asleep along the crick. When you felt a tug on the line, you pulled the fish in, put it on the stringer and repeated the process.
   Today we have high-powered motor boats to get to the best spots quickly, fish finders to locate fish, lures that do everything but tie themselves to your line, scents and attractants to entice fish into biting. Now where's the fun in that? There's no time to sit and ponder the meaning of life; you just catch fish and go home. How boring.
   It is exciting though, to scan every outdoor catalog arriving in the mail or every aisle in a sporting goods store to see what comes out on the market. I often have dreams of being on a deserted island and a shipful of the best fishing equipment floats into the lagoon like on Gilligan's Island.
   Scents and attractants are also becoming popular to lure fish into biting. Some even make fish feed when they aren't hungry. I guess that's just like someone putting a piece of chocolate cake in front of you after a big meal. No matter how stuffed you may feel, there's always room for dessert.
   Another item I see more of is plastic grubs and worms and most of these, amazingly, work. I recall long, hot summer days of fishing plastic grubs on shallow rivers. We'd have to get out and drag the boat over riffles or even make our own channel, but we caught a lot of fish. By the end of the day there were battered and bruised parts and some limbs even came up missing. The grubs weren't in too good of shape either.
   With the plethora of tackle available today, the question arises - do fish really care what we toss their way? When fish are biting, I believe you could throw anything at them and they'll strike it. As a kid, I recall catching plump cutthroat trout in a high Colorado stream on bare gold-colored hooks.
   And don't be caught calling a fishing rod a fishing pole. They used to be called poles because that's what they were - a pole with line tied onto the end of it. Now there are rods designed for every species of fish in a variety of lengths and strengths.
   As for flies, anything that resembles a bug will work. It doesn't matter what fancy name an angler attaches to it. It seems there are more artificial flies than natural flies out there in the streams today. So many, in fact, that the artificial flies are now having their own hatches.
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