Generally speaking, anglers are among the largest group of do-it-yourselfers in the world.
It’s been like that forever. From biblical times when coloring a piece of cloth as a decoy, to today’s best decoys, the industry revolves around change and making a better mousetrap.
Today’s fishing market is all about novelty, and every year new designs are what drive it forward. It seems like most anglers are never satisfied, but in reality they know that a tweak here or there can make many products better.
There’s no doubt that today’s high-end baits have better paint jobs, better hooks and perform better than ever before, but we’re still finding ways to tweak them. Ask any angler and they’ll tell you, “It’s the little things that make great bait great.”
We all believe in some sort of secret lure when history tells me it doesn’t exist. There’s no doubt that each lake has special baits that locals say work best, but as a general rule, some that are less used can work just as well.
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I call staggered lures “exotic”, and a hundred times over which ones have the craziest action, craziest colors, or just do something different can make all the difference. But bait selection is only part of the equation. The biology of the time of year, seasonal patterns, water color, temperature, and day length are things that make fish tick.
There is no doubt that every angler has a group of “go-to” baits in their arsenal that they may have tweaked, sanded, changed hooks or used with something in conjunction with which they have undying confidence. Trust is the key.
For the record, fish are not very intelligent. They are creatures of their environment and will sometimes bite a clothespin. They do three things very well: swim, eat and spawn. But as anglers, we give them too much credit for their intelligence. They have a brain the size of a pencil eraser and can’t reason or balance their checkbook, but they love to eat, and thank goodness we love chasing them when they decide something looks appetizing.
Fishing is fun, but catching is what keeps us coming back. The lack of capture part – we all have these days – is what makes us try different techniques or take a different approach. The rear sight is still 20/20.
The whole fishing industry is a result of trying something new or taking what works and finding ways to make it do different things. Unless it’s a minnow or live bait, we have to trick the fish into thinking it’s something to eat or kill.
In particular, when spawning, gamefish will try to move or kill something in their territory, not necessarily to eat it, but just to take it away from them. It can be a bluegill, lizard, or crayfish in the live world, or an imitator in the lure world. They just don’t want to be bothered by it and will drop the stuff out of it just because they can. They will do this with baits laid on the bottom, but will also do this for surface tenders, hitting it multiple times with their mouths closed.
Anglers are entrepreneurs and are always thinking of ways to make money with one of their own creations. Countless companies have been founded on a good idea and many have become giants in the tackle industry. It’s really about spin-offs and spin-ons that make new products great, but marketing also plays a major role in their success.
This clothespin, marketed correctly, can easily become the next pet rock and can sell for millions. But because anglers are a savvy bunch, their lifespan can be short if they don’t catch any fish.
A good example is swimbaits for hollow-bodied frogs. For the past 10 or so years, they’ve taken off like a house on fire. Every shape, every size, and the heads, bodies, and hooks themselves have become a whole new niche. What was once a ball head crappie jig on a Sassy shad or plastic has become a new category in every area and a whole lot of new products for anglers to enjoy and try.
Tackle junkies love this stuff and rest assured it’s not the end of the new, because without the new the peach dies on the vine. The new is the fertilizer and the water to grow it, and thank goodness we have people who love both the old and the new. They too are the lifeblood of fishing, and it will be a fun ride to see what new kind of tackle will rise to the top of the pile this year.
No doubt the old will still work too, but growing in your fishing requires learning the new, and it’s certainly fun to collect and see the nuances of the mix of old and new.
McLean County Pheasant Fundraiser
The 34th Annual McLean County Pheasants Forever Banquet will be held April 9 at the Interstate Center. Doors open at 4 p.m. with dinner and program from 5:30 p.m.
Contact Bruce Thomas at 309-830-5281 for tickets and details.