I’m a sucker for lists, so I was drawn to the news release from the American Sportfishing Association, claiming to have the top 10 most influential fishing products of the past 75 years.
To be honest, I was expecting downriggers, double-taper floating fly lines and Orvis rods. Instead, the list contains many simple, inexpensive, down-to-earth products.
The ASA, a trade organization, partnered with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to survey thousands of anglers enrolled in the Foundation’s Anglers’ Legacy Ambassadors program to make their list. The anglers voted for the products that they feel have been most instrumental in shaping the sport over the past seven-and-a-half decades.
The list, dubbed the Anglers’ Legacy Innovations Awards, was unveiled at the International Convention of Allied Sportsfishing Trades trade show, which was held in Las Vegas earlier this summer. The top 10 list’s release was part of a celebration commemorating the ASA’s 75th birthday.
The ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure that the sportfishing industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as promoting the enduring economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. According to the ASA, they also represent the interests of America’s 40 million anglers, who generate over $45 billion in retail sales. Their $125-billion impact on the nation’s economy provides employment for over one million people.
“We’re thrilled to be commemorating the way that fishing has endured as one of America’s favorite pastimes,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “The sport has touched the lives of so many people, thanks to the number of great inventions that have revolutionized angling over the past seven-and-a-half decades.”
No attempt was made by ASA to rank the items, but instead they were listed in chronological order — spanning from the introduction of the Rapala floating minnow in 1936, to the first manufacture of the Shakespeare Ugly Stick in 1976. The final top ten list hits six categories, including accessories, electronics, lines, lures, reels and rods:
u Original Floater Minnow (1936) — Even at age 72, it remains one of the most successful and widely copied hard lures in sportfishing’s history. The Rapala minnow, in its many sizes, colors and styles, is still a top lure for bass, pickerel, trout, muskellunge and northern pike.
Original and current manufacturer: Rapala.
u Spring-loaded Bobber (1947) — Made suspending a baited hook at a desired depth simpler and easier. Even today, this inexpensive item is virtually in every angler’s tackle box.
Original manufacturer: Nibble Nabber.
Current: Various companies.
u Mitchell 300 Reel (1949) — Was the first commercially successful spinning reel and is still one of the most common reels used today. The Mitchell 300 and its descendants, the smaller 308 and 408, were the reels of choice for many years.
Original manufacturer: Mitchell.
Current manufacturer: Pure Fishing.
u Creme Plastic Worm (1949) — Changed the sport forever as the first — and still famous — long-lasting artificial worm that both looked and felt real.
Original and current manufacturer: Creme Lure Company.
u Closed-Face Spincast Reel (1949) — Made fishing easy and affordable to everyone regardless of age, size, gender or expertise.
Original manufacturer: Zero Hour Bomb Company.
Current Manufacturer: ZEBCO Brands.
u Lowrance Fish Lo-K-Tor (1957) — The “Little Green Box” introduced anglers to the use of sonar in locating individual fish and gave birth to the “electronic age” of fishing.
Original Manufacturer: Lowrance Electronics.
u Monofilament Line (1958) — Improved the durability, affordability and casting ability of fishing line, while reducing its visibility to fish. Where would most fishing be today without monofilament line?
Original manufacturer: DuPont Stren.
Current manufacturer: Pure Fishing.
u Minn Kota Trolling Motor (1958) — Was the first electric gear-driven trolling motor to give anglers the ability to quietly maneuver and position their boats.
Original manufacturer: Minn Kota.
Current manufacturer: Johnson Outdoors.
u Fenwick High Modulus Graphite Rod (1972) — with its super-sensitive carbon (graphite) fibers, revolutionized the method of making fishing rods and how anglers fished. There is talk of a resurgence of fiberglass rods, but graphite has a combination of strength and sensitivity that is hard to beat.
Original Manufacturer: Fenwick.
Current Manufacturer: Pure Fishing.
u Shakespeare Ugly Stick (1976) — With its special Howald process construction, created an affordable, unbreakable and dynamic fishing rod still in use today. It was the first rod to feature a clear tip and ferruless construction. Wow, has the Ugly Stick been around for over 30 years?
Original and current manufacturer: Shakespeare.
The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation in fishing, boating and aquatic stewardship. Through the efforts of the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, the RBFF was created to implement a national outreach and communication plan to address participation issues associated with recreational fishing and boating. Funding for RBFF is provided through the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.
According to RBFF communications director Heather Sieber, the Anglers’ Legacy Ambassadors program was started just over two years ago to promote first-time fishing experiences by asking avid anglers to take someone new fishing. Anglers can join by taking a pledge to introduce at least one new person to fishing each year.
“By surveying our members, we know that one Ambassador generates an initial $120 in fishing tackle and equipment sales and an initial $166 in boating supplies,” Sieber explained. “Ambassadors purchase an average of 3.2 fishing licenses and they take an active role in the program. They’ve taken someone fishing, often purchasing tackle for the trip, and 75.6 percent said they will do it again within the next year.
“We know that this program works, it helps our mission and we’ve made it a focus,” she said. “The program is really picking up momentum. “In the spring of 2007, we had only 1,000 members and, just this week, we passed the 66,000 mark.”
According to the RBFF, 99 percent of the United States’ 50 million anglers say they fish because someone once took the time to introduce them to the sport. The Ambassadors program is an offshoot of that statistic.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a milestone anniversary than to pay tribute to the landmark innovations that have helped shape fishing,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “What makes this list so great is the fact that it was determined by anglers themselves.”
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the PA Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.