Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading the fishers' minds: brings out its spy glass

Anglers are predictable enough that surveys geared to picking their brains tread on stating the obvious.

Even so, the work done by Fernandina, Florida-based Southwick Associates and its “” does help the sport fishing industry better understand the full nature of sport fishers’ buying habits.

Such a comprehension enables tackle makers gear their product production to what will move the quickest and with the best possible profit margin.

Ditto for the retailer, be it a mom and pop bait shop, a big box corporation, Internet source, or a major catalog company which logs off several forests each year in order to provide the paper for the never-ending supply of seasonal supplements and updates.

And for the consumer it comes down as often as not to price point; the best deal for the money.

Yet Southwick’s does also reveal that anglers tend to be a conservative and frugal lot when it comes to buying equipment.

For instance, the latest edition of shows that of those anglers who bought fishing-related equipment in the July-August survey period, over 2/3s of them bought fishing lures and baits while one-half plucked down their dollars for terminal tackle (sinkers and – chiefly – hooks).

Yet in spite of this supposedly being the era of the Internet where and when simply “everybody” buys on-line, the survey shows that just 25-percent of fishing reels were made via the electronic superhighway.

Not surprising either is that when it comes to hard (plastic) baits/lures, Rapalas were the brand bought “… in every period.” says.

Neither startling is that Zoom was the soft plastic lure of choice.

Meanwhile, when anglers wanted to buy hard plastic baits, soft plastic baits and spinnerbaits they went to an outdoor specialty store while the typically inexpensive jig was purchased at a local tackle/bait store.

As for what fresh-water sport anglers sought, yep, the largemouth bass came out on top; a real no-brainer and hardly a stunning revelation. Nearly 57 percent of fresh-water anglers sought the largemouth bass.

Next came panfish, followed by catfish. Yes, catfish.

As for walleye, that species ranked only seventh in popularity; ahead of muskies but behind trout.

For Ohio’s steelheaders here is couple of sobering statistics. More surveyed anglers said they fished for carp (5.5 percent) than fished for both salmon (5.1 percent) and steelhead (2.3 percent). Indeed more fresh-water anglers sought white bass than salmon and steelhead.

Again, none of this should come as a surprise as previous studies have pretty much demonstrated the same pecking order.

And one of those “huh” moments came with the survey’s note that nearly 63 percent of salt-water anglers used live bait and just under 60 percent either used artificial lures only or in addition to live bait.

Yet these two categories are reversed for fresh-water anglers. Fully 77.4 percent of fresh-water anglers used artificial lures while 46.5 percent of them used live bait either exclusively or in addition to artificial bait.

In each style of fishing, however, angling from shore was important as 59 percent of fresh-water anglers fished from land, shore, beach, pier or dock while 41 percent of salt-water anglers did the same, the survey says.

Of course, fishing from a powerboat – including those owned and operated by charter skippers - was important for both classes of anglers.

Another “huh” is that 9 percent of salt-water anglers said they fished from a kayak; one percent more than the number of fresh-water anglers who said they fished from one of the paddle-sport vessels.

Let’s look at fishing line purchases for a moment and here we see a still-stubborn reliance on the less-expensive and ubiquitous monofilament. While 25.5 percent of anglers said they used the expensive slate of fluorocarbon lines and 32.2 percent used the superlines and braids, 40 percent of anglers still spool up with the ageless mono lines. Of course, as the figures suggest, some anglers seem to tailor their fishing line to the type of water or fish species they are seeking.

One also might think that fly-fishing anglers go gaga over buying one of the ever-expanding types of rods and reels, be it large-arbor, centerpin, spay, high-tech fiberglass, or whatever.

But even here the survey demonstrates a conservative buying trend.

By far the overwhelming amount of fly-fishing-related equipment involves finished flies, fly-tying materials, tippet material, leaders, and hooks.
Rods and reels aren’t even in the same ballpark. Flyrods rank ninth in purchases (squeezed between strike indicators and fly boxes) with fly reels ranking 14th (tucked between flyline backing and fly-fishing nets). Nets – imagine that.

Do take note that fly-fishing anglers remain a studious lot as “books” are heralded as their 18th most common purchase. Shoot, “books” don’t even register with the rest of the fresh-water and salt-water angling clans.

In noting impediments to angling the survey’s respondents said “access to water,” “water quality,” “invasive species,” and “too many disruptive activities on the water such as water-skiers and personal watercraft users” as “the biggest problem facing fishing today.”

It almost seems like the responding anglers were looking for an excuse as to why they weren’t out on the lake, on the stream or the surf. Oh, well, just presents the data and leaves the interpretation up to the end users.

Ending, the results show that the majority of respondents just as soon preferred not to fish in the company of a child. Some 34 percent had not fished with a child within the past year, 19.5 percent took one youngster, and 21.1 percent led two youngsters to the fishes.

Predictable to a fault perhaps, 44.1 percent of the youngsters an angler did mentor were a son or a daughter, 16.8 percent took in tow and grandson or granddaughter, while 16.5 percent shepherded a nephew, niece or “other relative.”

Only 17.4 percent assisted an “unrelated young person” and just 5.2 percent took upon the mantle of angling role model to a Scout, church or other youth group.

So there you have it; the ins and outs of what we anglers buy, fish for, where we fish, and finally how we go about recruiting the next generation of fishers.

It’s all food for thought, as the results always are, of course.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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