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You don't need expensive tools to enjoy fishing

June 1, 2008
Bill Harding
If you read this column you know that I always tout fishing as one of the best bargains in the family budget. I still believe that, but you also can spend a bunch of money if you really want to do your part for the economy.

When it comes to tackle, I have gotten by with some really cheap bargain store rods and reels. Some of them had terrible action and the reels would have made good coffee grinders, but they caught fish. Just keep in mind that a lot of fish have been caught using inexpensive cane poles, and even willow sticks from the creek bank.

How good must a rod be? I think it depends on how serious you get about fishing. Before I realized that becoming a music teacher was not for me, I was a trumpet major at Youngstown State University, and a musical instrument is a good analogy. There is no reason to spend a small fortune on an instrument if you just want to play in the school band. But, once you move beyond that level of interest, nothing but the best will do.

A few years ago I began to regret selling my good trumpet at a garage sale and thought it would be fun to toot a few tunes. The cost of a good instrument was beyond my budget and I was given my grandson’s beginner class horn. After a few sessions a lot of it came back to me, but there was just something missing with the cheap horn and I stored it away.

The same thing can happen with a fishing rod. They all catch fish, just as the cheaper trumpet makes music, but there is a difference in the feel. My advice is to use whatever you can afford and go catch fish. If fishing becomes a serious hobby, you will eventually want better tackle. Either way fishing is fun.

Even a serious fisherman can have sticker shock. I recently began looking for a new spinning reel and began by researching the confusing material in several catalogs. I actually found reels in prices up to $600! I am sure a $600 reel is smooth as silk, but I doubt it will hold line any better than the one I finally bought locally for a fraction of that price. In fact, if I had that kind of a budget, I would put the money into a better rod. I do not have that kind of budget.

If you fish from a boat, a fish finder is almost a necessity. Fish finder is really a misnomer as these electronic devices are really a form of sonar. I bought my first one many years ago and it was one of the famous “Green Boxes”. It had no video screen and it took a while to learn how to read it.

Modern fishing sonar is amazing. You can have full color screens, water temperature and even boat speed. The price also can amaze you a bit.

Today it is hard to find a high-end sonar that does not include GPS and lake maps. The GPS is nice, but I never see the smaller lakes I fish listed in their lake map index. I see no reason to pay in the thousands of dollars for features I don’t really need.

My theory is that the engineers who develop new sonar are so enthralled with the technology that they go overboard. They may even be frustrated cell phone designers. Do we really need all of the features built into cell phones? All I want is a device that I can work without an engineering degree. I use it to send and receive phone calls; nothing more. If I want to take photos I have cameras and I see no enjoyment in watching the NFL on a tiny screen. The same is true of sonar a.k.a. fish finders. Give me something that will help me find structure and I will be happy.

If there is a lesson in today’s column, it might be that fishing can serve a wide range of interests and budgets. I can think of no other pastime that can be as inexpensive as a cane pole and still allow you to buy a $600 reel if you have the inclination and the budget. No wonder so many Americans fish.



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