The First Taste is Free

  1. I went to the boat show on Saturday and other than the nine bucks I spent to get in I didn’t drop a dime. That’s a shame because I had an itchy credit card and was hoping to see something new and exciting that I just had to add to my overflowing tackle collection. Alas, it was not to be.

That’s been the case for the past decade or so, as the rise of internet retailers, message boards and tackle review sites have made “new and exciting” into “old and seen-it-before” by the time each January rolls around. That doesn’t mean the day was a loss, though. I still got to visit with quite a few old friends who I don’t see as often as in the past. That’s because I no longer fish tournaments, and therefore don’t make the consistent rounds of local waters and statewide tackle shops like I used to.

One of the highlights was talking with Lin Bell. When I first started fishing tournaments back in the mid-90s, Lin had a cool little tackle shop in the hopping burgh of Toano, Virginia, near the James and Chickahominy Rivers. I don’t remember exactly how or when I discovered his shop, but I do recall that it was a day of horrific weather, and fresh off a practice day on the James I needed some particular item. Into Lin’s shop I went, and it unlocked a world that at the time I didn’t know existed. At the time I fished products from all of the domestic manufacturers, but back in those days, the idea of fishing foreign tackle (other than “Made in China” products) wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t even hear of Lucky Craft until a few years later when some top finishers in a Western Open used a Pointer to do well, but Lin had all sorts of cool stuff from Japan – as he was one of the earliest U.S. Megabass dealers, among other JDM products that he offered. Even among his domestic offerings, he had all sorts of special run colors that you couldn’t find in the BPS catalog or your local big box store.

That day he regaled me with lore and details of all sorts of products I did not know previously existed. Thus I began what has now been a 20 year descent into the rabbit hole of exotic tackle.

I don’t think I’d seen Lin in at least a decade, but I knew through Facebook that he’d reconfigured his business as “Hitman Bass Tackle,” and sure enough he had a small booth crammed to the gills with all sorts of oddball desirables that no one else offered. We had only a short time to talk – one fan and customer after another wanted his attention – but he told me tales of his early days selling Megabass, and I described some of the spoils of a tackle shopping expedition I’d taken to Japan. I did not get to thank him, though. Perhaps my checkbook still would have suffered under the perils of exotic tackle without his influence, but on that long ago day, in that little wooden shop in Toano, he lit the fire that became an obsession.

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