The Average Rod

If every rod caught one fish would any fish be left? Photo by author

I went into WalMart one day and counted 89 fishing rods on display in the sporting goods section. I’ve been to other WalMarts in areas better known as fishing destinations with twice that many on display.

I would never try to count the number of fishing rods in a Bass Pro, Cabela’s or Dick’s Sporting Goods – and those are just one store counts. There are thousands of WalMarts and other big box stores across the country. There are dozens and dozens of semi-big box outlets such as Bass Pro or Sportsman’s Warehouse and there are still places with local tackle shops. Even those will have enough fishing rods for sale and on display to stretch across the lake and back.

Now think of the millions of fishing rods already owned by America’s fishermen, women and children. I personally own enough to stretch across the lake and back, you probably own a few and so does your neighbor and some guy down the block.

It’s a good thing fish are a renewable resource! Holy halibut, if every fishing rod currently in existence were miraculously hauled down to the nearest lake, river or pond and one fish were caught on each rod, the fish population would be exterminated. Or so I’d think.

I’m sure I have fishing rods that have caught a thousand fish, others with well over a hundred notches on the handle – and a few still waiting to make their first catch. I wonder how many fish the “average” American fishing rod catches from the time it’s picked off the display shelf at WalMart until it meets it’s final demise and goes to where ever dead fishing rods finish their existence. My guess is the “average” rods score is much closer to zero than to the number some of my ol’ fish-sticks have accumulated.

Which brings me the fishing story I want to tell. Though I don’t use this column for self-promotion, most who read my columns regularly know I run a charter fishing business on Lake Michigan. Some of my fish tales, naturally, occur on board my boat.

I furnish all the gear and tackle when we head out on the lake. Most people don’t have the sort of gear required and even if they do, it’s easier to use mine.

Still, once in a while someone shows up with a favorite rod and reel, lure or other item and, if possible, I try to incorporate it during the day. A repeat customer from Minnesota walked to the dock one day carrying a rod and reel along with his other duffle.

“I just bought this outfit to use at home,” he offered, “but I think it will work okay as a coho rod.”

I looked it over, asked the strength of the line and told him it would work just fine with one of the downriggers. “Once we get to the fishing area, I’ll show you how to operate the downrigger and set the line and lure. The next time, I’ll coach you through the process and after that, you’ll be on your own with it.” Little did I know how soon all this would transpire.
I selected a lure, showed him stepwise how to set it out, hook the line to the ‘rigger and do all the rest to make it ready to catch a salmon. No sooner done, the rod sprang to life with a salmon on the end of the line. Instant success!

Once the fish was unhooked, I handed Jake his rod and then coached him through the process. “Do this, do that, a little tighter, there you go,” I instructed. Again, no sooner done, another coho latched onto the lure and the second fish of the day was worked to the boat.
This time I told him, “You are on your own. Think what you are doing and set the rod just like before. I’m going to get these other lures in the water.

Jake went to work and before he muddled through the process, I had a rod set just next to him. Bingo!

As quickly as the first lure was hit, the one I just deployed was nailed and right next to where Jake was working. I didn’t really need to yell, “fish-on,” but habits die hard. Jake did see the second rod whip down with the strike of the fish. Perhaps my verbal alert added an extra measure of excitement.

Instead of putting his new rod in a holder, leaning it in the corner, handing it off to me or any of several other things he could have done, Jake simply dropped his rod and reached for the one with the fish on it. He dropped it right in the lake and nearly as fast as the new rod sank into the depths, realized what he’d done.

“Oh well,” I told him. “I know it’s little comfort now, but realize this. You did catch two fish on that rod. That’s two more than maybe half the fishing rods ever built and sold ever get to catch.”


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