by Stan Fagerstrom
Get to be a part of this business of fishing and writing about it as long as I have and you're certain to have witnessed a boat load of changes. You might, as I have, even had a hand on occasion in helping bring those changes about.
I started doing fishing columns for a daily newspaper away back in 1946. It wasn't long thereafter when I sold my first magazine piece. I've been at it ever since. Check the numbers and you'll find that's almost three quarters of a century!
When I spend time turning the pages of my memory some things immediately surface faster than others. I've already touched on one of them. It seems to surface whenever I've found makers certain tackle makers interested in listening to what you or I might have to say about the products they produce.
In my next two columns I'd like to share a couple such experiences I've shared with one particular tackle maker. You'll recognize some of the names associated with these memories. And chances are you'll wind up feeling as I do that the tackle makers who are eager to find out how anglers feel about their products are right at the top of the list of those who are most likely to succeed.
As I share these memories, be assured I know what I'm talking about. How can I be so certain about that? Because, as I've mentioned, I'm one of the guys they've listened to. There will be others who read this who've undoubtedly shared similar experiences.
My convictions about one of these special lure makers who are willing to listen to what you have to say about their products didn't develop overnight. It had its beginnings decades ago. I remember the first time it came to my attention.
It took place when I was doing lots of freelance writing for the nation's outdoor magazines. At the time I was also serving as outdoor columnist for The Daily News in Longview, Washington as well as the Vancouver Columbian in Vancouver, Washington. I did the Vancouver newspaper's outdoor column under the pen name "Stanley Scott." I was also doing casting exhibitions at many of the nation's top outdoor shows.
One day a fellow I'd become acquainted with at the shows in which I participated came to visit with me at. As soon as we exchanged greetings he handed me a package containing some new treble hooks.
"Stan," he said, "Here are some new hooks that are being made in Japan. I know you do lots of fishing. I'm wondering if I could get you to try these hooks. All I ask is that you let me know what you think about them."
"Sure," I said, "I'll be pleased to do that. I've got a couple of trips coming up where I can put them to good use."
The man who gave me those hooks that day was the late Walt Hummel. At the time he lived in Woodland, Washington. Hummel was a manufacturer's representative and he was considering bringing those new hooks he showed me into the United States.
Remember what I said about name recognition? The hooks Walt gave me that day were among the early products of a brand new Japanese hook manufacturer called "Gamakatsu."I was one of the anglers who had a chance to try Gamakatsu's new hooks before they were ever introduced in this country. These leading hook makers were listening to anglers then and they still are today.
I did try those new hooks. They were the sharpest I'd ever tied on a leader. They were so dang sharp they were almost sticky. But---and this "but" is important to my story---they weren't very strong. They bent far too easily.
I got in touch with my friend Walt as soon as I could. I knew what I had to say wasn't going to be what he wanted to hear. I knew equally well he wanted my honest opinion or he wouldn't have asked for it in the first place.
I had a high regard for Mister Hummel. As I expected, he was disappointed in what I had to share, but as I mentioned in the very beginning, he was one of those guys who was willing to listen even if he's not in total agreement with what's being said.
I don't have to go into detail on what happened after Walt gave me those new hooks to try. I expect some of the others who also tried those new hooks told him the same thing I did. I do know Walt listened to me and the Japanese producing those new Gamakatsu hooks obviously listened to Walt. They made some product changes and the rest as they say is "history." I've written about it before.
Walt Hummel eventually did introduce these new hooks to anglers here in the United States. They caught on like a flame in a firecracker factory. It's a flame that's still burning. Anybody who knows a hook from a hatpin also knows Gamakatsu launched a hook making revolution. They not only started it; they've also managed to lead the pack at the cutting edge of hook manufacturing ever since. As far as I'm concerned they just don't make them any better.It doesn't matter whether you're catching beautiful trout like this one I took from a lake in the mountains of Argentina......Or if you're setting the hook on a beautiful bass like the one I have here. You still have to have hooks you can count on. Good listeners like the folks at Gamakatsu provide them for us.
But that's not the end of the story. That same willingness to listen is just as much a part of things today where Gamakatsu is concerned as it was when hooks by that name first came on the scene. Today their national sales people here in the USA, will tell you the same thing: "Listening is how we get a good many product ideas," they say. "Anglers who are on the water a lot know what works and what doesn't. It's easy to put an idea on paper. We want to put an "idea" in the water and see how it works down there."If you don't already have a 2014 Gamakatsu product catalog like this, be sure to get one. The variety of hooks it contains may surprise you.
I'm going to tell you another reason why I know that's true in my next column. Watch for it because what I have to share can be important to your own angling endeavors.
-To Be Continued-