Saturday, August 18, 2018
A recent encounter with a pesky fly served up a reminder of the days when I fished on a shoestring.
“Enough!” Barb said as the bug buzzed her one time too many. I fetched a fly swatter that had been hanging for years from a nail on a 2X4 in the basement. As I stood sentry in the kitchen waiting for the annoying insect to land where I could take aim, I noticed the price tag still stuck to the swatter’s handle.
Twenty nine cents, declared the orange Phar-Mor sticker, or even better, four for $1. For that price, we could afford to keep swatters handy in rooms throughout the house.
For reasons understood only by fellow fishers, the fly caper instigated a chain of memories about what I might have bought for $1 to lug to the lake in earlier times.
Lead sinkers, for example, were dirt cheap. Today many of us fish with tungsten sinkers, as they are heavier and harder than lead and thus are more compact than old-school sinkers and help telegraph bottom contact and fish bites up the line to anglers’ fingers.
A three-pack of quarter-ounce tungsten bullet weights costs $7 or more these days and, sadly, I might lose all of them to snags in a single day on the water. Back when we purchased fly swatters four for $1, I paid less than a buck for enough lead sinkers to last two summers.
Everything costs more these days, which is understandable considering the impact of inflation (bad) and the effect of better materials and engineering (good).
I recall filling the boat’s fuel tank with gasoline that cost 99 cents a gallon. I could stop at McDonald’s after fishing all day and chow down on a double cheeseburger for the same price.
Today I pay $6 and up for a single crankbait – and much more for the super premium brands. But back when Don Thompson opened his Bass Pro Shops store on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown, my favorite Bomber Model 6A’s were $1.39 each.
Remember when the guesstimate for the price of a boat was $1,000 a foot? We’ve blown past that number as tricked-out 21-foot bass boats’ are approaching $100,000.
My first Mitchell 308 spinning reel cost me $9.99. Today, it’s very easy to spend 10 times that on a premium reel and a whole bunch more if you are inclined to buy the very best.
Those were simpler times. I recall scoping out the bulk plastics at Miller Rod & Gun and the sale bins at the Consolidated and Bargain Port stores. I can’t even guess how many paper order forms I tore out of the Bass Pro Shops catalog, filled in with a pen and mailed with a check. Quaint, eh?
Stuff costs more these days. Not just fishing stuff, of course, but just about everything we eat, wear, drive and use to entertain ourselves. Thankfully, along with the bigger price tags comes the fact that much of our 2018 stuff is better than the goods we bought 30 years ago.
Materials, engineering and quality continue to improve. Fishing products are lighter in weight, perform better and generally last longer than the equipment we lugged to the lake in the 1980s.
All in all, we still get a good deal when we go fishing. But good deal or not, we’re going to go fishing. After all, how do you put a price tag on quality days on the water? They are priceless.