Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Why Fishing Isn't Fun and Other Social Trends

A necessary element of blog writing is brevity. So as inspiration presses me to articulate recent ruminations, I struggle with length and also whether it should be a series or stand alone. The prep for this post has been difficult because it should be two separate articles but the ideas are connected in the tea leaves of societal trends.

There is a war brewing inside competitive fishing right now. As with any meaningful competition, there is always tension and testosterone fueled, toothpaste out of the tube moments of hyperbole and regret. And there has always been generational suspicion and back biting in everything from golf to NASCAR.

But with the unfortunate help of social media (comments of the crazies), the bickering over FFS (forward facing sonar) technologies and whether it should be utilized in fishing competition is more than heating up.

I am somewhat shielded from this because I don't even pretend to be a competitive angler. Fishing is fun for me- a release. But more and more, I find my friends bent out of shape to the point that I'm finding fewer and fewer folks happy to just fish and find blessings of sun, water, sky, and the joy of finding a fight with these elusive game fish hiding in cover; infused with a God-given ability to resist the temptation of a pulsating jig right or twitching jerk bait at their nose.

Is there anyone left that just likes to fish? Can we be happy for guys who did their work, caught that big bag, and likely will be humbled the next time out? Can we all agree that the difficult part of competitive fishing is that it takes the cooperation of the aquatic creature who may not be in the mood to oblige us that day?

At the end of almost every tournament at all levels these days I find more whiners than winners. Because of human nature and the large isolation of the arena, it is a sport that is prone for cheating.... but find me a tournament where the winner isn't accused of impropriety and I'll likely think it took place on Mars. Can't we just shake hands and try again tomorrow? Do you have to hold your club's trophy to be validated as a man?

So for brevity sake- what about technology? How much is allowed and should any of it be banned? In fishing there are a number of rules on help, advice, etc that can get complicated and can even be harder to prove guilt or innocence. There are probably more polygraph tests used after fishing tournaments than in murder cases. And again, there are cheaters... and those proven to cheat should understand that it comes with a very high penalty. I'm all for punishing those folks, but I don't support blackballing people based on the intensity of unproven accusations either.

Thought this was funny in the debate

 FFS- is it a bridge too far? 


There have been a lot of people weighing in on the subject.

Let's think about it...shall we?

My best friend in fishing is Jeff Davis. Jeff grew up at Lake Logan Martin and that has been basically his home lake for decades. He has fished tournaments, and knows just about every knot and crevice of that very pressured reservoir on the Coosa chain near Birmingham.

Jeff remembers the first time he got a depth finder on a boat. Before then, they would use their concrete bucket anchors to drift around until it ran aground of a high spot in the middle of the lake. Jeff was an offshore angler before the offshore was cool. He remembers when there was a Texaco sign at the Texaco hump in Cropwell- a community stop by most anglers when the bite is on.

What I admire about fishing with Jeff is his imagination. He has all the latest in electronics. All the graphs did was show him WHY all those waypoints were good back in the day. The close together contour lines were already in his mind before he ever saw them in color on a graph.

But when Jeff is casting, he is already well acquainted with what is underneath him- he 'sees' the ditch, and the point, and the notch, and the chunk rock. All his lure does is confirm what he already expects. 

And because of that, he knows to anticipate the bite- it keeps a positive expectation in his fishing. He isn't just casting, he is truly fishing. He knows what the lure is doing and before long, he knows what the bass need to finally bite what he is serving them.

I'm just throwing out and retrieving, 

I still think there will always be a separation to those who have talent and those who don't. Fishing talent is part instinct and a lot of hours of very hard work. 

But the technology is not going away. There is too much money at stake. As long as people will stretch their credit to purchase the stuff, they will keep making it and selling it. 

It may not be sexy to see guys staring at graphs and playing video games, but what produces big fish will be used.

The catch-22 is that it may not really be producing great anglers. That is what time will tell.

All competition requires adaptation. The only immutable entity is God, everything else must adapt or die.

Again, I am somewhat immune from a lot of this. I don't have the time or money to use the latest and greatest. I'm happy fishing even if I am not catching. But I also am THANKFUL for side imaging, spot lock trolling motors, and power poles. Is it a crime to use things to help me find what I am searching for?

There are limits of course....

 I wouldn't be happy to send a robot out to swim down and bring me back a fish- unless I needed it to eat of course.

To the older generation- don't whine. Either use the stuff or be happy with your way. It doesn't matter but the technology isn't going away unless we all become communists.

To the younger generation- be careful and learn from the past. Don't be so tech obsessed that you never learn how to truly fish. Know the 'whys' and still use your imagination when fishing. Instead of staring at the graph AFTER the cast, why don't you learn to work the lure and study the line and rod tip? You are frustrated that he isn't eating because you aren't fishing, you are just playing a video game.

But can't we just learn to have fun again?

OK- that is the fishing part- feel free to stop reading here- but here is the cultural implication:

I am worried about the mood of our society and what we are leaving behind.

I recently took note of some things I am seeing and hearing regarding our becoming unlinked or maybe un-moored is a better term from foundations of the past.

I know of a situation where an athletics director was advocating for a person to be hired for a coaching job. One of the winning qualifications for that person in the AD's mind was 'longevity' and 'loyalty' to the school. That coach had been in place there for over 15 years.

That AD was surprised to find that a lot of the committee members he was working with counted longevity very low on their list of qualifications, even considered it a detriment.

The conversation was something like this: "We could care less (about whether this person has been around). That is all in the past. This current generation has little use of anything from the by-gone years. We have to be forward facing and not chained to the status quo of yesterday".

Is this a generational divide? There are some nuances here to be sure but I took that situation and compared to a recent political discussion I observed.

It was mentioned in this discussion that there is a growing sentiment among some younger voters that our founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, the Constitution) are 'out of date' and no longer relevant to the challenges of current society.

This terrified me, but I noticed that it didn't even raise an eyebrow of many who were watching the debate.

How is this related to the fishing debate at the beginning of this post?

How can we glean value from history and still remain relevant to the future?

To me, you have to allow past experiences to govern the direction of the forward movement. History is a rudder that allows someone to grow without crashing over the cliff or hitting a target off course. Virtue and memories prevent mistakes and regret.

A generation that jettisons the past will repeat the same mistakes. Throw out the old documents? Doesn't that infer the greatest founding document we call the Bible?

Times change and we are prone to amnesia:

Exodus 1:8
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 

We need to be careful!

I want to close with a short portion of the poem, Mending Wall by Robert Frost
The narrative is that two neighbors meet each spring to mend a rock wall between their properties. The applications are deep and powerful to our discussion here:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

If you had the patience and time to read this- thank you for my rambling.

My prayer is that we learn to cross the divide and find charity and unity.

We need to honor the past- learn from it- but not be chained to it.

We need the moorings attached to keep us on a good path, but the leash needs to be loose enough for great creativity and growth.

The fundamentals do not change. We need to love people and use things instead of loving things and using people.

We never want to be cut loose from God, for in Him we find freedom and foundations.

Let's find some joy and fun in the process. 

I'm headed out fishing now......

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