The Last Windrow: Fishing technology isn't always all it's cracked up to be

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Fishing technology failed me that day. It was the biggest carp ever hooked by anyone in my family.

Minnesota and surrounding states sold a record or near record number of fishing licenses this year. It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven us to the water. People who have never picked up a rod and reel or cane pole have headed for the docks and boats on lakes, rivers and streams that flow throughout the countryside.

Kids are watching red and white bobbers with the hope that the float will slowly sink below the surface with something fishy on the other end of the line. It is a sport that is about as old as humans.

Technology entered the fishing scene many years ago. Starting with a bone hook and piece of mastodon sinew for line, the sport has progressed into the space age with uncountable "improvements" added to the tackle box. Sporting goods stores are full of the stuff.

One would think that trying to land a fish with a brain the size of a small pea would not require such advanced technology, but that evidently is not the case. No amount of money is spared to bring a bass to the net or a walleye to the table.


I've fished a number of fishing contests over the years. These were low profile contests where the first prize was a rod and reel or maybe a tackle box. Not to be compared to today's mega-fishing contests that feature boats that cost as much as a house and electronics that resemble the innards of the space station. Gadgets that all proclaim that by using them you can't help but catch a trophy.

And the professional anglers that inhabit those boat shrines are seen wearing garb that resembles a garish billboard. Every inch of their boat and their clothing is covered by some company's logo. I guess that's what it takes to make a living by fishing.

One of my ideas for one of these contests would be to hold a tech-free fishing contest. It would be interesting to see any of the contestants try to find fish without having eyes under their boats.

I remember the days when we would drag an anchor or weight to find a fish-able sandbar or rock reef. We would look for the change in color of the water as we tried to troll along a sandbar at the correct depth. Before depth finders became popular, it wasn't unusual to use a long cane pole to prod below the boat until the reef was detected.

No wonder there were more fish in the lake as a result of using those primordial angling methods.

Technology has changed all of that. I have become a user of technology in my fishing boat, although I don't have all the bells and whistles that are used by many anglers today. A simple depth finder is enough for me to figure out where a fish might be lounging. But, without it I feel blind, much like I did many years ago when I first cast a line into a Minnesota lake.

Technology doesn't always work though. The day I referred to at the beginning of this column was one in which my dad and I were fishing on the banks of the Big Sioux River in Iowa. I was given my usual cane pole and told to go fish near a sunken log along the bank. Dad's rig was a steel fishing rod with a gleaming Stanley baitcast reel attached.

I had admired his rig and I begged him to let me use it on that day.


He gave in to my pleading and took my cane pole and sat down in the shade of a giant cottonwood tree and I crawled out on the sunken log with his reel. My first cast resulted in a giant bird's nest backlash. While I was untangling the mess I heard splashing coming from my dad's direction. I then heard some yelling and I ran to see what was happening.

When I arrived at his spot I saw the largest carp I'd ever seen flopping on the grass. The cane pole technique had worked. I stood there with his rod and reel and bird's nest backlash and wondered how this could have happened. I had the better rig, didn't I?

Fishing has been rediscovered this summer. One good thing we can say actually happened as a result of the virus. Watch that bobber.

See you next time. Okay? Be safe!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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