Fishing Stats Revealing

Johnny Wilkins explains how the statistics gathered in fishing surveys can be misleading.

Fishing from our earliest days

George Washington’s servants would have bait ready for him at the water’s edge where they would meet to get business done. In early days, the common folk and servants fished with hook and live bait. Washington’s handlers didn’t want him to be known for live-bait fishing because it was too common.

Using live bait was viewed as fishing lower class. They wanted him to fish like an upper-class lord. Washington refused to act “like a king.” His wish and the wish of the founders was for all men to have rights and be equal. Washington enjoyed the efficiency of live bait and the connection to fish. While I am not sure if he participated in catching his own bait, his fishing supplies show that he could and possibly did catch the baitfish. That was reality.

The writers of the day and Washington’s press corps put out the word that George Washington was a fly-fisherman. His style of fishing required a long pole and line with no reel. When he made casts, it may have appeared to look like fly-casting gear of the day. That is what they reported. They wrote that Washington was a fly-fisherman.

The lure of lures

To this day, the divide exists. Lures, lure stores and lure rods dominate the media. Bass is the easiest and most common lure fish in America and it is over-fished. Twenty-million-plus people target the bass—most of them with lures.

Lures get nearly all of the press, magazine articles, TV shows and all of the tournament coverage. This would lead one to believe that almost everyone uses artificial lures and flies to fish. In truth, like in Washington’s day, more people use live bait to catch their fish. Modern fishermen use live bait nearly 65 percent of the time. Forty-nine million people fish in America.

Inflated figures?

According to BASS, the “average” angler owns more than 14 rods and reels, a bass boat, motor and trailer and four tackle boxes! He spends an average of $2,300 a year on his hobby, which he enjoys an average of 97 days a year. Those are actual BASS member statistical averages, but BASS only represents 20,000 of the 49,000,000 fishermen in America.

The BASS figures aren’t the reality for most fishermen. Yet, if you go to any fishing show, there are loads of people printing up their own logo-filled bass shirts so they can be like the TV fishermen. What they don’t tell you is that these BASS anglers make $70,000 a year on average. For the rest of us, owning and spending so much is a pipe dream.

The ‘real’ fisherman

I want to paint a picture of a real fisherman. We get a few weekend days a year to fish, maybe a few days on vacation. When we fish, we go buy some choice live bait like minnows, crickets, spikes, wax worms and red worms. Most magazines don’t match how we fish. They do have articles about different species of fish we catch. But, it is mostly bass. We, the real fishermen, own a couple of good rods that we like. We have a bag of gear and maybe a few smaller tackle boxes that fit in a bag or something small. We don’t buy $900 in lures a year, but we do fill in the gaps. We get what we need and we use live bait. We catch fish and enjoy it. The majority of us fish from shore… like George Washington.

 

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