You can feel the holidays are in the air when the first Bass Pro gift guide arrives. Inside it contains hundreds of “deals” on items you will probably use once and forget about. The thing I really hate about these catalogs is the ratio of fishing tackle to other stuff. I mean, honestly, who is going to buy clothing from Bass Pro? When I’m in that store, there’s only one thing on my mind: fishing. Nevertheless, I do still enjoy getting these catalogs. My favorite part is that they leave out all the stuff I’d actually want so that I’m not tempted to buy it. Move over, high-quality fly tying tools, and say hello to the trout pattern Wingo Key Fob. Thank god I can’t drive yet, otherwise I’d probably have already bought six of these.
All jokes aside, the holidays are fast approaching, and it is once again time to replenish our depleted piles of tackle. The worst part about the sport of fishing is that purchases are never a one-time thing. We lose lures, use fly-tying materials, and break rods. Every part of our gear is expendable, but at the same time, it all costs lots of money. You have to walk a fine line between buying an overly priced item that will last two years, and buying a cheap, machine-made product that won’t last a month. I’ve began to realize the benefits of spending a little more money for a little more quality over the past year, but I’m still not ready to go out and completely splurge. I often blush as I put a new item on my wish list because I know that each thing has an associated cost. Fishing is a gear-intensive sport, and the cost of all that gear soon adds up.
Then comes the question of whether or not you actually need that item. Quite often, the answer is no. I think we’d all find that if we had to pick one rod, one reel, and one lure or fly to use for the rest of our lives, we’d still catch fish. That being said, it’s fun to experiment with new techniques. When you’ve been chasing the same school of stocked trout with a wooly bugger for the past two weeks, it can be reinvigorating to take a break and try something new. The ability to switch from fishing for panfish with an ultra-light rod to chunking huge poppers on the surf for stripers is what keeps the sport exciting. There is so much variety to be had, and I think this is what inspires us to pick up a rod and go fishing.
The problem is, I want all the variety. I have a feeling I won’t stop purchasing new tackle until I have gear for every known technique. Whether it comes to materials for fly tying, lures for bass fishing, or reels for fly-fishing, I want them all (figuratively, of course. There is no feasible way that I could own every known type of fishing equipment). It has gotten so bad, in fact, that my family insists on finding things other than fishing equipment to get for me this year.
I think that the hardest part of buying new gear is determining whether it’s a responsible purchase. In other words is it more of a (relative) need, or a want. Of course all fishing tackle is a want, but there are some pieces of gear that are more necessary than others to have with you when on the water. Unfortunately, my decisions often aren’t shining examples of intelligence. For example, instead of putting a stream thermometer or sunglasses on my wish list, both of which I had and broke earlier this year, I chose to put down a wide array of experimental fly tying materials that probably won’t be useful until next summer.
The funny thing is, I would consider a stream thermometer and a good pair of amber colored polarized sunglasses to be some of the most important pieces of your kit. I would never go fishing without a pair of sunglasses, even though the ones I’m using currently are held together by a few wraps of tying thread and some head cement. They allow you to see everything that’s happening underwater, which gives you a huge advantage when targeting spooky fish in clear water. I think the thermometer is incredibly useful for reference in the years to come. When I want to know what temperature the bass spawn at, or when the stoneflies start hatching, I can check my records of water temperatures from the past years. However, if you don’t recognize the importance of these items, and instead look to simply amass more gear, then it probably won’t help you become a better angler.
That brings me to my final point. How can you tell what will make you a better angler? Is it the lure claiming to catch 15 times more fish than its competitors? How about the crazy expensive rod that you assume will cast much further than your current setup because of its price? I don’t think we’ve found a surefire way to always catch more fish. Sometimes getting more gear can help, but I think a lot of the time tackle companies are trying to catch people, not help people catch fish. One of my favorite rod and reel combos cost less than $100, and I still love it after years of use. Keep that in mind as your shopping for yourself and others this season.
I would wish you all a happy holidays, but I’m pretty sure it’s still a little early for that. Anyhow, happy belated Diwali to those who celebrate it. As you shop for this year’s holiday season, just keep in mind that some purchases are smarter than others. Do your research beforehand, and you will seldom be disappointed.