The Fashion of Fishing

If you’ve been an angler for more than a decade or so, you’ve probably noticed that fishing is a very fashion-conscious sport. I’m not talking about clothing, either. One look at a group of anglers pretty clearly establishes that we can barely dress ourselves. I’m talking about gear and, most particularly, I’m talking about lures.

The lures that caught fish a century ago will still catch the same species today. Maybe they’re not as attractive, not as high-tech, not as well-constructed as some of today’s baits, but if you gave them a fair shake, you could catch fish on them.

But lures live in a fashion cycle that only makes sense in the marketplace — not on the water. When was the last time you heard about a major bass tournament being won on a single-spin spinnerbait? Jason Christie almost pulled it off at the 2016 Bassmaster Classic before Edwin Evers caught fire, but it’s been years since a single-spin has been a factor on the tournament trail. To a great degree, spinnerbaits have seen square-billed crankbaits and vibrating jigs claim much of their time over the past decade. Will the pendulum swing back? Probably … but it could take decades.

Colors can be even more fickle. In the early 1970s, Bill Dance wrote that any color plastic worm was fine … as long as it was blue. Today, you’ll struggle to find an honest-to-goodness blue worm in even the most well-stocked tackle shop.

And if you fished for bass in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, you probably remember the color known as “motor oil.” In its day, it was a top seller. Now you’ll be hard-pressed to find it at all.

Did the bass stop eating blue and motor oil worms? Of course not! But anglers stopped buying them. They traded them in for tequila sunrise and watermelon … and later green pumpkin (the greatest soft plastic color in bass fishing history — thank you, Ed Chambers!).

If you think fish are fickle, they have absolutely nothing on us.

Anglers get it in their heads that a new bait or a new color works, and they’ll use it until it does. If a fishing report claims that bass are hitting fire engine red buzzbaits, a sizeable percentage of the anglers reading it will tie on fire engine red buzzbaits, and a considerable number of bass will be caught on them simply because that’s what’s being used. Was it the best lure and color choice? Who knows?

What are you doing to stay on top of the fashion out there? If you’re not offering at least some of the latest baits and colors, you’re probably not riding the fashion trends very well. Yes, there are some standbys that will always sell — shad-patterned crankbaits, black jigs, white buzzbaits — but most of your customers already have plenty of those. What else have you got that’s the latest fashion?

I used to shake my head in wonder at the fashion industry, thinking people were crazy to care about the width of their ties or the lengths of their skirts. Now I realize that we are just the same.

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