It’s a debate that has gone on for decades. Is technology beneficial to the sport of fishing, or does it rob the sport of its millennia-old DIY spirit?
There’s no “correct” answer. Both sides of the debate have merit. It’s more of a question every angler needs to answer for themselves.
Old School Fishin’
For traditionalists, the nostalgic memories of youthful days spent at a favorite fishing spot with whatever hand-me-down gear you had is what truly defines the essence of fishing. It is not about results, but rather the authenticity of the experience. Whether or not any fish are caught is secondary to the quality time spent in natural solitude, or in the company of good friends or family members.
To this group, fishing isn’t as much of a sport as an institution, or a rite of passage. They are more inclined to believe that setting out with a new Garmin 1243xsv Fishfinder and Chartplotter rather than dad’s trusty old Zebco 33 lessens the “true” experience of fishing, robbing younger generations of the very thing that has endeared them to the sport for life.
A Changing World for Anglers
It is understandable why traditionalists are concerned. Online shopping has reduced the prevalence and visibility of the local tackle shop, shrinking the available outlets where the fishing community has traditionally gathered to exchange tales of “the one that got away.”
But while this may fuel the perception of a decline in fishing, the reality is that the sport is actually growing. A special 2021 joint report from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and Outdoor Foundation found that there was a net increase of 4.6 million recreational fishing participants from 2019-2020. 54.7 million Americans fished in 2020, the highest number since tracking began in 2007. This included 15% more children and 10% more female participants.
It’s generally accepted that bringing newcomers – especially children – to fishing is essential for the sport’s long-term growth, but only if they continue to participate. But how can this be accomplished? What is the best way to encourage newcomers to continue to fish?
This is the crux of the technology debate. Most commonly, those with fond childhood memories of fishing with makeshift or hand-me-down equipment tend to credit that experience for their lifelong love of the sport, and thus believe that only a similar experience can do the same for younger generations.
Yet others believe that it is not the “authenticity” that captures new anglers, but rather the positivity of the experience itself. They may argue that it is the results of the fishing that will make the experience more enjoyable and memorable, and thus value any technology that can help improve those results – by catching more fish.
But if technology can help neophytes to catch more fish, won’t that mean there will be fewer fish to catch? Does placing greater expectations on technology and equipment make it harder to cultivate skill? How far can technology go and still be considered “fishing?”
The more one considers technology’s effect on fishing, the more questions – and debate – that arises.
Where We Stand
At Boca Bearings, we can certainly appreciate both sides of this debate. In fact, we’re happy to perpetuate the conversation because it helps bring more attention to the sport of fishing.
We have long pioneered the use of ceramic bearing technology in this industry (and many others) because of the substantial increase in performance these products provide.
But it is not our place to say that being able to cast 40% further is enough to make a first-time angler a lifetime fishing devotee. Perhaps the joy of casting out will “set the hook” for newcomers, perhaps just spending time out in nature will do the trick.
What seems most important is that newcomers have the chance to try fishing, and are able to enjoy it. If having that new Abu Garcia or Shimano baitcaster helps that happen, then so be it. We will be happy to serve and support the worldwide fishing community for generations to come, no matter what.