Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Dollars and Sense

Snap, crackle, text
Not long ago, I went on something of a rant about cellphones. It related more to the audio portion of the program, specifically how they distract us from the true experience of catching fish. However, as for the cellphone’s photographic capability, I’m all for it.

Having toted a camera around for most of my adult life to the point where it seemed like more of an appendage than a tool, the last thing I ever wanted to do was take photos in my spare time. Oh, how a cellphone could have helped negotiate some tricky personal quagmires. What do you say to the new girlfriend who volunteers you as party photographer? Or someone who begs you to shoot their wedding? I once fell for that teary request and not long thereafter ended my wedding photography career at exactly one. If you’ve ever hired one of these poor souls, trust me, whatever you paid them wasn’t enough. 

A PHOTO OF George Perry showing a very large bass, but perhaps not the (22-4) bass.

Of course, no one, certainly not me, saw the wireless locomotive headed our way. Who knew how a little camera in everyone’s pocket could be so addictive? If I never have to witness another plate of food being photographed at a restaurant, I will die a happy man. Or, if I never get pulled into some semi-meaningless group shot for immediate release on Instagram, hallelujah!

Still, in all fairness, there has been a tremendous upside to cellphone cameras. When it comes to non-fishing situations, nothing has quite surpassed its effect on the frequency of Bigfoot, Yeti and UFO sightings. Once everyone acquired a mobile phone, it seemed as if alien encounters all but disappeared. Coincidence? With Sherpas and end-of-the-roaders alike embracing digital technology, Sasquatch, the Snowman and E.T. apparently got the message.

In the world of fishing, there has also been a cellular awakening, specifically in how a certain portion of the angling fraternity has begrudgingly embraced the concept of honesty. For years, I was the guy who got the assignment to track down, interview and report back on the latest claim of a largemouth world record. Most of them happened out here in California, so almost by default, I became rather proficient at interviewing people who had a big story to tell.

When George Perry’s 22-4 was still the record, the pursuit of this mythic standard — one I admired for what it brought to the sport but never quite believed in — took on a somewhat sinister tone. There were fishermen who wanted the record so desperately, they would do almost anything to get it. And, some did.

In nearly every case, the record claim fell apart quickly if for no other reason than the story just didn’t add up. Invariably the tale would come to a point where I would ask myself, “Is this what the average person would do?”

Would you not start yelling to the high heavens and corral the closest person, as soon as humanly possible, to serve as witness to your good fortune? Would you not try to get it to the nearest certified scale? Would you not call fish and game? Would you not take a picture?

As much as most of these questions seem to have obvious answers, those recounting their world record experiences often said something different. They veered from the path of credibility onto a winding switchback where the only ones who considered their actions sensible and above reproach were them. However, of all the answers given, the one that didn’t immediately raise a red flag concerned photographs. In those days, you could be forgiven for not having a camera. Not anymore.

Today, it would be laughable to use not having a phone as an excuse. Even the most trusting souls would be suspicious. If the event didn’t occur in Antarctica or Outer Mongolia, we expect photographic evidence. In fact, when there isn’t a photo or video of something, we’re surprised - really surprised.

While big fish eras seem to be cyclical, dependent on a host of interlacing conditions, you can’t help but wonder if the digital age didn’t have at least a little to do with the drop-off in record claims. Before cellphones, the stories evolved. Now, they’re instantaneous. And, no one back then was worried if someone else had a camera, one that could offer irrefutable proof of what actually transpired. The guys with the big catches weren’t concerned about the random video that might show their boat trailer in another parking lot at another lake when they were supposed to be catching the record fish somewhere else. Honestly, I’m not a conspiracy theorist guy. I tend to believe that when the answer to the mystery is finally uncovered, it will probably be the simple one. To me, cellphones are the simple answer.

My mom always told me, “Locks are there to keep honest people honest.” I think she was right. Given the opportunity — and with a gentle nudge — most of us will do the right thing. That said, the cameras on our cellphones have exposed some less than savory parts to our personalities. Like you, when I catch a nice fish and know my friends are stuck at work, I can’t help myself. I snap a picture, crackle out a snarky comment and pop goes the text message with photo attached: Wish you were here.

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