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Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Steely Done
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Do you believe in magic?


Do or do not?
Why do we give up on certain things? As fishermen, why do we move on from lures and techniques and products? The simple answer is some don’t work as well as they used to. Or, technology moved far enough forward to offer something better. But what of those things with a value that is hard to measure?

In the 1980s, the only things streaming in bass fishing were the oily squirts coming out of Fish Formula bottles. For those of you who were not yet on the planet, fish scents were everywhere. Liquids, gels and all manner of crawfish-garlic-game fish-scented products crowded the shelves. (Yes, back then, things you bought were still found on shelves, in stores no less). Of these, the Fish Formula brand clearly held sway, producing greasy slicks on lakes and reservoirs from coast to coast.


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It was a true phenomenon the way anglers embraced the science of fishing from liquid scents to liquid crystals. Innovation was bubbling up from nearly everywhere. A Norman, Oklahoma university professor proved that bass not only saw colors but could differentiate between hues across the spectrum. In his research for the Color-C-Lector, Dr. Loren Hill took the basics of a light meter and gave back a device that seemed to unravel yet another mystery. At about the same time, we began to learn more regarding the importance of pH levels. So much so that second-generation Color-C-Lectors came equipped with a pH monitor.


Yet, for all this sound and fury, has it come to mean nothing? Shakespeare (no relation to the tackle company) wrote something to that effect over 400 years ago, but the sentiment still applies. Did we raise a ruckus about something that didn’t mean a whole lot?


Well, yes and no. Historically, fishermen often resemble fickle pre-teens in a mall food court. So many choices, so little time. We tend to jump on bandwagons and do so for a number of reasons, not all of them steeped in logic. But, to excuse the pun, lure scents did make sense. It appeared to be one more small key in unlocking the code, one that bait fishermen had always enjoyed. What was overlooked in a torrent of spritzing and slathering was that not all applications benefited from a lure dripping with smelly goo. It was sprayed on everything, including hard baits incapable of absorbing the odor or laying down a scent trail. While there were plenty of testimonials as to the power of scents, there was also enough doubt sowed by others claiming to have laced their lures with everything from gasoline to Red Man chew that I looked for a middle ground. How could it hurt? If for no other reason, the simple comment “It couldn’t hurt” seemed to satisfy everyone. Half shrug, half Zen, it was an argument at the cerebral core of fishing: If you think it makes a difference, it makes a difference.


Things were not as simple with the Color-C-Lector. Although Dr. Hill had done the heavy lifting by scientifically determining which colors bass could see best under specific conditions, my fishing partner for ten years, WON columnist George Kramer, and I couldn’t get our hands on a prototype Color-C-Lector. Hill promised us the first one west of the Rockies, but until then, we had to satisfy ourselves with the graphs and charts of his research study. That’s right, Kramer and I hunkered down in my bass boat, gauged the height and intensity of the sun — coupled with the time of day — and made a close approximation of which color to use. Damn if it didn’t work. Moreover, it most often reaffirmed what we already knew about the most visible colors and what our experience had taught us. When the meter showed up and we dropped the probe over the side, we learned even more. This is when things got weird.


Once the meters hit the market and the advertising might of the tackle industry was unleashed, how it was marketed to the general public bore little resemblance to the Color-C-Lector Kramer and I knew. The unrelenting media onslaught was as massive as it was generally devoid of experience with the product.


First, the unit registered the most visible color, not necessarily the one fish preferred. Second, a subtle blush of the color, mixed with natural hues, was all that was necessary. The world was not waiting for, nor did the fish want, a Day-Glo purple Zara Spook. Third, no one needed a complete array of Color-C-Lector colors. Close was good enough as most anglers only fished a relatively limited range of water clarities anyway. For the occasional oddball conditions, a lure paint kit (also popular at the time) would have sufficed.


The sad truth of the situation was in its polarizing effects. Those who bought into the propaganda probably spent more than necessary. And, they may have never completely understood the power of what was ultimately a useful instrument. As for the doubters who recoiled from the sometimes-bombastic marketing, they dismissed a concept that offered real value.


What happened to such things as lure scents and Color-C-Lectors only points out the delicate tightrope we all walk as fishermen. On one hand, we all want to be the guy or girl that is ahead of the curve, the early adopter who has the right stuff before everyone else. Then again, we all want to be the wise, skeptical angler who recognizes tackle designed not to catch fish but to catch fishermen. Between these two opposing forces is precisely where you will discover the very best anglers.


Although this is the eternal conundrum of fishing, the burden all of us must bear through life, I believe there are some common sense rules to make the journey less painful: Whatever angling experience you possess, use it. Whatever life experience you have accumulated, don’t ignore it. Listen with a discerning ear. When you buy something new, give it a fair and thorough trial. Go with your gut. If you keep getting fooled, you’re doing something wrong. And, above all else, keep casting. Remember, the only currency capable of buying success is that earned by experience.


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