I was looking in one of my old tackle boxes and the thought struck me that I was really lucky to have fished in the late 1960s through the ’80s, an era that set the tone for all of us as anglers. So how does that past era compare to today’s?
For starters, the generation of anglers who were the pioneers of the late 1950s came from what has been called “the greatest generation.” I fished with these guys – many who were World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War vets, as well as my dad’s good fishing buddies. These folks were the kind of anglers who put the same focus and intensity into their sport as they had in the military. They had a “can-do” attitude and nothing stopped them. These men were the kind of quiet guys who epitomized integrity, resourcefulness and toughness all rolled into one.
It was a whirlwind period of new and exciting fishing ideas, with breakthroughs and technologies that were cutting-edge. This period also marked the time when anglers began using plastics for almost every fishing application. Rubber worms, all kinds of lures, poles and new fishing lines all came onto the scene, as well as new kinds of boats and engines. It was a real learning curve time for fishermen.
It’s easy for us to forget that in that period there were very few ways to find out about new products or ideas. Most of us relied on several main avenues. First, it was critical to get the best outdoor magazines you could. We were thirsty for knowledge, and this was where the newest breakthroughs and ideas would show up. We would scan the whole magazine from cover to cover. It was an exciting new frontier!
You also needed to stay in touch with the fishing stores in the area. This was an instant pipeline into the “fishing information hotline” depending on your trust factor with the fishing manager or hotshot. A few good tips here and you were set since the store needed you, and you needed the store. It was a symbiotic relationship you don’t see as much today.
Lastly, guys depended on an active fishing group of good anglers, ones you trusted. Lake information, the best techniques and the hot lures were all top-secret items you didn’t disclose to anyone outside your trusted buddies.
This era also was characterized by rapid changes in technology as well as the way we fished. Most bass anglers in the early ’70s were still fishing the shoreline and deepwater techniques were just penetrating the sport as the first depthfinders hit the market. I still remember how excited we were to get a green box “flasher” unit and how much it helped us.
It was also hard to find the right kind of equipment for specific applications. If you were looking for something to bass fish with, it was probably a Mitchell 300 reel strapped to a 7 1/2-foot fiberglass rod and spooled with 8-pound test line. If you were going for stripers, it was probably the same outfit upgraded to 15-pound line. That, or you had to move up to saltwater stuff. We used what we had!
No, we didn’t have a zillion lures, incredible sonar technologies or fingertip information back then. But I honestly think the anglers were as good as any today. Why? Well, I believe that it’s easy to become dependent on the fancy new stuff if you think that’s why you’re successful. I still think that the real acid test of an angler is attitude. Who you are, and what you think transcends whether you have the newest tools or not. Old era guys practiced this more. My conclusion: if you give a true angler a cane pole and a worm, he’ll still be a good fisherman!
Never give up!