Game Changers Galore

In the past week or two, I’ve had four industry people tell me that their company will be introducing a “game changer” at ICAST.

To say that I’m skeptical would be an understatement.

I sometimes wish I could fine companies for using the phrase “game changer” in their marketing, but that would be wrong. We shouldn’t demonize a word or phrase of any kind. It just makes communication more difficult, and good communication is tough enough without that kind of short-sightedness.

But we should certainly be careful with our words and phrases … even trivial ones like “game changer.”

If you’re going to throw “game changer” out there, you’d better revolutionize the sport, immediately take over at least half of your market or find some other way to establish dominance. If you can’t do that, please — in the name of angling decency — don’t say “game changer.” You’re only drawing attention to yourself that you probably can’t back up.

Of course, I’m not saying that “game changer” never applies. There are certainly some game changers in our industry. Every decade or so, a lure comes along in the bass world, for example, that changes the game in a meaningful way.

In the 1970s, it was the Big-O and Lunker Lure. In the ’80s, it was the Slug-Go and AC Plug. The ’90s gave us the Senko, and the ’00s produced the Chatterbait. The Alabama Rig might have been the “game changer” of this decade, but it was foolishly banned by the big tournament organizations, and that crippled its chances to impact the sport as fully as it might have.

Rods and reels have game changers, too. We had spinning and spincasting gear in the 1940s, graphite rods in the 1970s, and new techniques pop up every so often that demand new equipment. Some — like Flippin’ — are game changers. Others — like split shotting — are not, even though they’re important and interesting; they just don’t change enough of the gear or impact enough anglers.

When people tell me they have a “game changer,” I typically ask, “Really? A game changer? Show me!” A few minutes later, I usually walk away disappointed — not because the product isn’t good, or even great, but because it falls short of the hype.

I am not a fan of hype or hyperbole, which is probably why I cringe at the phrase “game changer.” The amount of hype a product or event gets is directly proportionate to the likelihood that I will be disappointed.

Once in a while — and that’s far too often — I will find a new product described as a “game changer” or even “revolutionary,” but when I see it, I realize that it’s actually an old design. Lure manufacturers fall into this trap all the time. Apparently, there’s an army of lure designers out there who think lures began around 1990.

Too bad for them … and the companies they work for.

The area where I see the most honest-to-goodness “game changers” is fishing electronics. The technology there has changed so fast that it seems we have a real game changer or two every year. If you’ve been around the industry half as long as I have, you know what I’m talking about. The difference between the fishing electronics we used 25 years ago and what we have today is like the difference between throwing a bullet and shooting one from a high-powered rifle.

Of course, ICAST is where the game changers — real and imagined — gather, and I’m looking forward to seeing them.

If you spot one before I do, please let me know.