by The Anonymous Deckhand
We've all seen this guy getting on the boat on a trip we're gonna fish. He's the one with two deckhands helping him to load his gear aboard. Twelve or more rods of all sizes and lengths, the milk crate with his rod belt, harness, boots, and tools, and rod holders, which will have to be placed exactly where he wants it so he can easily access his arsenal. Then comes a suitcase sized reel bag with more reels that he brought rods, so that in case one reel should fail he'll have a backup reel to slap on the rod. Next is the jig bucket with enough of his favorite irons to outfit every passenger on the boat three times over and then some, followed by a large tackle box weighing as much as he does. Both of these items will have to be placed along the boat's center line to keep it from listing to one side! Finally, there is his military sized duffle bag with his personal gear. All of this............for a 2 day trip! The dreaded "tackle 'ho" has arrived!
Even worse, sometimes there are more than one on a trip! Every boat has a finite amount of space to stow tackle in racks, a limited number of rod holders, and limited space in the bunks or cabins for personal gear. But this is not a problem for the experienced and well outfitted tackle aficionado equipped with the latest and shiniest toys. He's well versed in how to shove other folk's lesser tackle aside, knowing that they won't mind at all basking in the light of his excess! Not enough rod holders along the sides? Not to worry! He carries along cute little bungee cords and velcro straps in the event of such emergency situations!
Sound familiar? I'll just bet it does, particularly during a good tuna season. Even when the passengers know that the fish are only averaging 15 to 40 lbs., I've seen big gold two speed reels and rods you could lift a truck with come out on overnight trips. When asked about why they brought along the heavy artillery, the true tackle ho's all know the mantra "You can't use it if you don't bring it"! Somehow they never seemed to get the part in the fine print where it also says "If you most likely won't need it then don't bring it". The thought that all the extra stuff does is take up space that others could use just as well never seems to enter their mind.
This sort of thing actually happens on trips of all lengths from half day boats to 18 day long range trips. Now to be fair, at one time or another we've all been guilty of this sort of thing. C'mon now, admit it! When you started fishing and gradually got better at it, your personal collection of all types of tackle grew. At some point in time you were finally past asking yourself what to bring along, so you just brought it all, and for a while this worked OK. Back when it was only 4 or 5 outfits no one really gave you a second look when you boarded. There was variety in what you brought, and it all applied to where you were going and what you expected to fish for. You had a couple of bait sticks with different size line, a jig stick for yo yo and one for surface iron, and maybe one to throw plastic with. You got to where you could see the changing conditions and quickly adjust your game to them. Then the occasional jackpot came your way because you were getting to where you were the hot stick on many trips. Suddenly your old reliable rods and reels that had worked well for you began to show their age. But now you were older and had a good job which provided you with extra cash, and those shiny new reels and graphite rods in the tackle shops, (And later online.), looked so good that you almost got the shakes thinking about them.
Like everyone else you thought "It's just one. What could it hurt"? But now you were on that slippery slope, setting aside money every payday for more gear. You'd been bitten by the bug and now you were a goner! Oh you didn't know it yet, but every time you looked at a manufacturer's website or catalog your eyes would glaze over and you'd unconsciously mumble things like "Faster retrieve" and "Casts farther". Even on something as simple as line you could be seen thinking "Stronger with less stretch". Soon your garage began to look like a small forest, and there was enough aluminum in your reels to build a small aircraft! Sure, you could justify every purchase by quoting chapter and verse on the virtues of every new addition. When that didn't deter your friends from questioning your reasons, if not you sanity! You'd simply turn away muttering about "My precious!" in an almost unintelligible tongue. I had a buddy who bragged that he had so many rods that the little woman never noticed when he purchased another or had one built!
In the nick of time your salvation came. You may have boarded a boat for a trip, say a 3 day summer trip, dragging along so much stuff that when you loaded it in your truck the weight made it bottom out like a low rider going over a parking lot speed bump. People silently stared at you and shook their heads knowing of your affliction. They knew you'd get hardly any sleep because you'd be up most of the night putting rods on reels, stringing them up, and getting them all rigged after agonizing over what size of this and what color of that. In the morning when the fishing started, you noticed first the youngster who had maybe 4 good outfits to his name. You noticed him because he was the first one hooked up in the gray light. He made quick work of that fish and hooked another while you were still contemplating what outfit to use and why. Obviously he was the "hot stick" on this trip, and from misty memories you recalled there had been a time when you had been too. But there was another who also caught your eye, not so much by catching fish, but by what he was catching them with.
It was the "old pro" in the corner. His tackle wasn't new or even close to it. His few rods were battle scared classics that had seen better days and at least one was on it's third set of guides. The reels he used had been taken loving care of as well, and most had seen more new sets of drag washers than you'd had birthdays. The surface iron he was tossing at the yellowtail busting bait on top didn't even have any paint on it anymore. (Conversely most of yours didn't have a scratch.) He wasn't as fast as the hot stick kid who was quickly racking up a count, but he had all the skill just the same. The old gent was more interested in having fun than anything else.
After you finally wet a line and boated a fish, you asked him why he was using his "antique" tackle. He smiled and said "I used to be like you and had most all the latest gear. I think I actually got stronger from just lugging it around. But then I realized I was getting more concerned about collecting all the gear than actually using it"! He said he still had a lot of it and still used it on various trips, even still bought the occasional new outfit, but he only brought along what he really needed for a given trip now. Partly this was out of consideration to others who also needed space for their gear, and partly it was because he got really tired of carrying it all with him when he went fishing. His thinking was that if he wasn't on a long range trip, why should he bring long range gear? He said he applied that thinking to all his trips now. I slowly nodded, a small light of understanding forming in the back of my mind.
Then he said he gave a few older outfits away to neighborhood kids who didn't have any, and some to family as well. This gave him a feeling of giving back to something that had given him so much pleasure and good eats over the years. I asked him if it was still fun doing it "old school" as he did. "Oh sure it is" he replied, "I still catch my share, but I don't need to fish as hard as I used to". I asked him why not and he smiled and said "It's because of one of the kids I gave some of my tackle away to. You see that kid over there with the hot hand"?
I looked and said "Yes, I see him".
The old man looked at me and with a wink said "He's my grandson"!
Lesson learned. It isn't about how much stuff you have. It's about what it's all for. It's about having fun. After all, it's fishing.
The only one who really cares if you have all the latest and greatest stuff is you. To the rest of those on the boat who bring a more reasonable amount of gear, all your ginormous collection does for them is take up space that they could use just as well. Please be considerate of those who don't have or need as much gear as you seem to for a given trip. For those of you who want to but can't, I hear the Betty Ford Clinic is working on a 12 step program for tackle ho'ism. ;-)
Good fishing to you all,
The Anonymous Deckhand