Fishing’s Authenticity Crisis

Gather round tackle retailer troops. I doubt that I have to tell you this, but somehow it feels necessary. And if it’s not said here, it might not get said at all.

You are the last sentinels between real and fake, between what’s legitimate and what’s not … between sportfishing authenticity and oblivion. You are the thin, true blue line.

Take a look around. I know you see all the junk out there — all the stuff that catches lots of fishermen but few fish, made by those who only recognize fish when it’s fried or grilled and stretched across a plate with a side of rice pilaf.

I call it “the authenticity crisis,” and it’s real. It threatens all of us in the sportfishing industry, but most particularly it threatens those of us who care, those of us who fish and those of us who work in this industry because we love it — not because it pays the bills.

It matters because a lack of authenticity eats away at us and undermines the cause. For me as the editor of FTR, the cause is communicating about fishing gear and keeping you informed about the industry. For you the cause is selling gear and the fishing experience. But when people, companies or products lack authenticity, they hold us both back, make our jobs harder and widen the gap between where we are and where we need to be.

“The market” takes care of some of it. Eventually, the stuff that’s not authentic stops selling, falls by the wayside and ends up on the trash heap. Unfortunately, a lot of good and authentic stuff goes with it because a dollar spent on junk is a dollar that cannot be spent on quality and authenticity.

You can spot a fake or a poser a mile away. Some can talk the talk … until you scratch below the surface. None walk the walk.

We see them too often and in the wrong places — “leading” a company in the fishing industry, calling the shots here, making decisions for others who know better there. Many of them are well-intentioned and likeable, but they do us no good.

As that thin, true blue line between what’s authentic and what’s not, the tackle retailer may be smaller than the companies to which he offers shelf space, but that doesn’t make him powerless. Quite the opposite. It gives the retailer power and responsibility.

Power: It’s up to you to identify the authentic and offer it to your customers.

Responsibility: It’s up to you to reject what is not authentic and to educate your customers.

It’s a great irony that the part of the giant sportfishing industry with the most power and discretion is not the part that makes the products (manufacturers) or reports on the products (media) or even uses the products (anglers). It’s the part in the middle that matters — the retailers that buy (or don’t buy) the products and then sell (or don’t sell) them to anglers.

And while it may be true that “the customer is always right,” he’s more likely to be right if he’s educated and has some guidance.

So before you lament what you see in our industry, know that you can change it. And know that if that thin, true blue line doesn’t solve our authenticity crisis, nothing and no one else can or will.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.