When I was 9 years old and my parents bought me my first subscription to Field & Stream, I was wowed by the idea that someone could get paid to write about fishing. At that time, unlike some of you, I had no clue that there was such a thing as a pro bass angler, so writers filled that aspirational target. I mean, come on, with a name like “Ted Trueblood,” more Hemingwayesque than that bestowed on old Ernest himself, how could the F&S scribes not inspire me to chase a life chronicling the outdoors?
A few years later, as a newly-minted teenager – now at least slightly aware of Roland Martin and Jimmy Houston and Bill Dance – I subscribed to Bassmaster, where I was introduced to even more unwitting role models, guys like Tim Tucker and Steve Price and Don Wirth. Each month I waited for the next issue and then read each word carefully, sometimes twice, before stacking them neatly for future reference.
When mom would force me to go grocery shopping with her, I’d make an excuse to ditch her in the produce section and head for the 30 foot magazine rack, where I’d browse through the fishing periodicals and occasionally get one for myself or convince her to buy me one. There was Fishing Facts, with the exotically-named Spence Petros, and the Lindner brothers, plus Steve Quinn and others, at In-Fisherman.
Those days, I believe, are over.
Go to the typical supermarket today and most of them have only a handful of magazines, and rarely if ever more than one or two fishing titles. I don’t think that today’s fishing enthusiast teens wait by the mailbox, either. There are still plenty of magazines, and I’m not ready to sound the death knell of the written word, but with the immediacy of the internet, social media, and television, it’s no longer the case that the writers in the magazines and the outdoor page of your local newspaper (Do you still have a local paper? If so, is there still an outdoors writer?) are the primary griots of the fishing tradition.
It’s been 38 years since I first touched the glossy pages of Field & Stream. Four decades from now, some now-9-year-old will try to think back to who outside of his family lit the torch of his fishing obsession. Who will it be? A TV host like Zona or Mercer? A photographer like James Overstreet? Or some YouTuber that no one currently over the age of 15 has ever heard of. I can pretty much guarantee you that it won’t be one of today’s magazine writers. While that doesn’t necessarily make me sad, it makes me a bit nostalgic, but the nice thing about it is that although technology rolls along and changes lots of things, a bass today is pretty much the same as it was when I was a kid, and probably pretty similar to those that guys like Trueblood and Jason Lucas and Homer Circle chased in their youths, too. The point of entry may be different, but the passion remains the same.