The Cool Kids at The Party
We have all been subjected to falling into "fads" at one point in our lives. Most of the the time it came while we were growing up and finding our place in the world and social circles. Sometimes it was fashion; which I am sure we can all say we've made some poor decisions. Other times it has been a type of music or other form of entertainment. Some fads fizzle out quicker than others and with many of them if you wait around long enough; sometimes they come back. Whatever your flash in the pan was; more often than not I am sure we just didn't do it because we wanted to do it or loved it, it was probably because our friends and people in our social circles were doing it too.
For me growing up; fishing was a huge part of my life. It is something that I have been doing longer than I can remember but pictures date it back to when I was about 3 or 4 years old. It was time spent with my Dad on weekend mornings or week long vacations to a cottage on a lake. When I wasn't fishing I was watching the outdoors block of programming on TNN. I still can remember the feeling of excitement I got when I heard the theme music to "The Bassmasters" TV show. My first B.A.S.S. membership came before my teenage years and in between magazine issues I would be thumbing through the Bass Pro Shops catalog. Despite the huge place it had in my life; I wasn't vocal about it. Fishing wasn't the cool thing to do when I was growing up. It was not something I necessarily hid about myself just not something I made a point to tell my friends about. None of my friends really fished so maybe it would have been different if I grew up with friends that did. However, I have talked to many people that have and it still was a closed circle where they would sneak off to go fish after school and they kept it secret from their other classmates.
It is much different now; both for me and how the industry is viewed. I talk fishing as much as I can and the people around me in the sport do the same if not more. If anyone knows me at all, you know I fish; that's an understatement. Kids growing up in the sport have it differently too. There are high school fishing teams and college fishing teams that get kids involved in the competitive side of the sport really early. Kids have their own YouTube fishing videos; some already have a list of sponsors under their belts. The industry has become much more mainstream now which has made the sport more socially acceptable; especially to younger people. At first I thought that my outlook was purely based on being involved in the sport as much as I am but when I take a step back and look at the sport/industry as a whole compared to how it was 20-25 years ago; it has grown by leaps and bounds.
There has also been a shift in the sport at the highest level. In a sport that was once dominated by southern anglers that had a certain "good ol' boy" style have now been replaced by young anglers with their own style that is more relatable to a younger crowd. Many say this is the result of the pathway paved by anglers like Mike Iaconelli, Skeet Reese, and others. Now we have anglers like Palaniuk, Ehler, Wheeler, and Shryock that have continued to change the "image" of the sport. With this new wave we see new sponsors getting involved in the industry that may or may not have had a tie to fishing. This too helps broaden the reach of the sport and brings it to a more visible light. These new anglers look different, talk different, and promote themselves differently but more importantly; they show anyone that everybody can make it in this sport if they try hard. You don't have to be from the Southern states to be a bass fisherman and succeed. You don't have to do things a certain way just because that is how it has been done for years; you can blaze your own trail and be your own person with your own style.
For me that is the most important thing. The sport needs to continue to grow and we need the young anglers to keep the sport growing because they truly are the future of our sport. The sport will continue to change and evolve but the sport needs participation and interest in order to do any of those things. For now this generation has it a little easier; the platform is there for them to get involved in this great sport. The social barriers are not nearly as high in the current state at the sport which is also a great advantage. There is no worries about hiding the fact that they fish and enjoy the outdoors; now bass fisherman are the cool kids at the party.