From Thirty Feet to Thirty Yards

When I was just getting serious about bass fishing in the mid 1970s, Bassmaster Magazine, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield all told me that if I could cast accurately out to about thirty feet, I’d be able to catch all the fish I wanted.

Longer casts were just for show … and, given the facts that monofilament (the only type of line anyone used back then) stretches a lot and most rods were just five and a half feet long, hooking and landing fish at distances much greater than thirty feet was a real challenge. We just weren’t equipped to do it.

All that started to change by the late ’70s. Flippin’ got popular among the bass crowd, and that meant we all needed a stout seven and a half foot rod. Reels got smoother. Lines got thinner and more pliable.

As a result, casts got longer. Anglers and the tackle industry realized that longer rods meant greater leverage, and even longer casts.

Baits were modified so they were more aerodynamic. If you think casts were mostly shorter back then because of the rods and reels, you should take a look at the lures we used. They were mostly lighter and definitely harder to cast than what we use today.

Braided line — basically the only game in town before monofilament caught on in the 1940s and ’50s — came back in the form of “superlines.” By the late 1990s, fluorocarbon was more than just leader material for fly anglers; you could fill a reel with it.

And today (when I’m not “pitching” into Florida’s heavy vegetation), I bet that most of my casts are in the neighborhood of thirty yards — not feet. I’m not as accurate at that distance, of course, but now we’re told that we need a long cast to get the bait away from the boat and to avoid spooking the fish.

Okay, I’ll buy that.

These long casts are made possible by amazing reels like Shimano’s Metanium DC, Abu Garcia’s Revo EXD, Lew’s Pro-Ti SLP, Okuma’s Helios SX, Quantum’s Tour MG, and all the Daiwas with the T-wing system. These are fabulous tools, and there was nothing like them 40 years ago.

I think fishing tackle evolves, and it often evolves in response to some small change or development within the sport — a new technique, a new technology, a new philosophy. Methods and baits that were once popular, fall out of fashion. Lures come and go, not because they stop catching fish but because something else captures the fickle attention of the angling public. Rods, reels, lines and baits rocket to prominence or fade into oblivion because they are well or poorly marketed, because they win or fail to win a big tournament or because anglers raved about them or kept them a closely-guarded secret.

And when one thing gets real traction, you can absolutely count on it impacting other aspects of our sport. A “better” line changes how we make hooks, how we build rods, how we machine reels … it changes how we fish.

Sometimes the evolution seems slow, but I know that it’s always happening.

I can see it every time I cast.