Quality remains after price forgotten


Certain fishing scenes stick in my brain years after the occurrence. I have many good memories of my dad taking me to Kentucky Lake after school was out in May. Once on the way down to the resort camp near Big Sandy, Tenn., we stopped at Lee’s, a giant tackle store, and Dad eagerly inquired about what the fish were biting. The fellow responded that a particular spinnerbait was indeed the ticket for the big lake’s bass. My dad examined the lure, thought it looked good, then turned it over to check the price.

“Good gosh. I’m not paying almost four dollars for a lure, regardless of how great it is!”

He didn’t buy it. Would we have caught more with the hot bait? Maybe. I know many times in fishing the exact right lure is the ticket to the most success, though a similar bait might fool a few fish. It’s important to buy the best equipment, but I’m cheap. When we visit my wife’s relatives in Springfield, Mo., I’m always taken aback by what seems to be high sticker prices at Johnny Morris’ flagship Bass Pro store. Then I pass by a bin containing a hundred or so off-brand baits that look pretty much like the pricey stuff but cost way less. I usually buy two or three or these, stick them in my tackle box, use them once, don’t like the way they run or look, and toss them into my unused lure box. I’ve really saved money, right?

Sometimes cheaper can be just as good. I was at the Bass Pro in Clarksville and asked the guy behind the counter for a seven-foot bass rod exactly like the one I already had and liked. We both checked out the display, and I found one that was close. My original rod cost $100. This one was $80. I flicked it around, checked its heft and lure weight criteria, and liked it.

“What do you suppose is the difference between this rod and the one I really want?” I asked. Naturally, his response was, 
“$20!” The good news is that I use this rod more than my other one. It’s slightly lighter, and the tip action makes catching even the little guys fun. So, sometimes saving money works out. But often it doesn’t.

I’ve had issues with trolling motor cords breaking. Maybe six years ago, my first standard string cord popped at Boggs Lake on the first day of a three-day outing. I wasn’t going to delay things by coming back to Jasper to get a new cord, so I just ran the boat with the troller in the down position. This is ok until you hit a stump, then the whole unit may go kaput. My error was that I replaced that cord with a similar quality cord later, and before long it broke just like the other one. Glen at Port of Jasper told me that he could put a similar third cord on for about $20, or he could install a cable cord for $50 that would most likely never snap. Wait. I thought, “That’s a $30 difference.” I opted for the more costly option. Now when I yank the troller out of the water, I’m reasonably confident I won’t break the cord.

Another memory of lure choice was at Barkley Lake in Kentucky maybe 60 years ago. For some reason, Dad and I were fishing there instead of at Kentucky Lake. Maybe the water was too high or too muddy, or it was too windy. Barkley was brand new and hot fishing, so we decided to check it out.

The guy at the marina pointed out a deep diving lure that had been proving very productive. But, same problem — sticker shock. I believe he wanted six dollars for that one. As before, my dad balked and told me that we had to have something in our tackle boxes that was similar to the hot bait. We put out onto the unfamiliar lake and started tossing lures around at the bank, to no avail. We noticed a single guy up ahead in a boat parked offshore about 40 yards, throwing at some unseen structure out in the lake. He caught a nice bass. Then he caught another. We watched him for a few more minutes, the action slowed, and he packed up and left. Taking a clue, we motored over to where we thought he had been. We both dug out a deep diver called a Bomber, which we only used when we were completely desperate and nothing else would work. It had worked a time or two on Kentucky when the shallow bite had failed, but since we had no depth finding electronics in those days, we were blind casting and hoping we could find some stumps, grass, rocks, brush piles, a drop off, or anything that would attract fish.

We started casting our lures as far out into the middle as we could manage. We cranked the plug down to the bottom, and started reeling. About halfway back, we could sense that the lure was coming up on a higher spot. When our Bombers would hit that ridge, it was pretty much automatic that a bass would smack that bait. I believe we caught a double limit of 20 bass in about two hours, all were right at keeper size, and back in those days we kept them. We felt vindicated that we had saved moola and actually caught fish with a “free” lure. Sometimes things work out.

Let’s see. I need a strap that will hold my rods on the boat deck safely as I zip across the lake. The cheapie unit, looking flimsy, costs $6.99. The higher end, much better-quality model, the one that the reviews said won’t break, runs $32. Let me think about that.

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