Roots of bass-fishing craze began right here in the South

rodcrafter@islc.netJuly 14, 2012 

Fishing as we know it in the 21st century has a long and diverse beginning. There are cave drawings of inhabitants along the shore who manipulated line and limb as well as rough cages to capture fish for survival. Today, fishing is much more of a leisure pursuit, although there are those among us who fish for monetary returns.

Many historians who claim the sport as their forte rely on early scripts or ancient writings as to the origin. England is considered the beginning of a new crop of gentlemen anglers who mastered fly-fishing techniques, while early colonists depended in part on the natives for their initial introduction. There are many claims about who did what, when and where.

One fact that remains is that bass fishing (early on known as barse) began its revolution of popularity in the South. The term "bass" is used for several species, including largemouth, smallmouth, Kentucky or spotted bass and several other less common types, possibly hybrids.

Bass fishing began mainly due to a decline in trout populations with the coming of the industrial age. Pollution of rivers and waterways, and a constant increase in water temperature, led to the search for a replacement for the more delicate trout as a fish of choice. The bass proved to be a much hardier species and thrived in waters long abandoned by trout.

During the early portion of the 20th century, a wide-spread stocking program was developed and continued across the nation. Bass thrived in the warmer Southern climates, and thus the sport of the common man was born.

This association remains to this day despite the abundant well-heeled endorsements of high-scale fishing events and tournaments. This spur to the sport began modest enough; a wage between fishermen soon developed into a professional fishing circuit that attracts a dedicated following. With the onset of instant media and outdoor shows, the fever caught on and spectators were soon caught up in the thrill of competitive bass fishing.

With this new interest came environmental groups of every cause and concern. Realizing interest in the sport could produce negative returns, and fearing government involvement, many groups formulated combat issues. From these came specialized events mandating the use of only artificial lures.

Eventually, "catch and release" began a big push. Many of these early tournaments placed penalties for dead fish. Now most, if not all, fish are carefully handled, tagged and returned to the water. The catch and release mentality has grown in popularity despite tremendous fishing pressure of area waterways and impoundments.

Technology is largely responsible, as new materials became available in the development of newer lines, as well as more aggressive rods and fishing reels. Modern boats began to be developed more specific to the sport -- the flat bottom john boat being the most popular, to which today's high performance hull designs and large motored models owe their beginning.

The roots of bass fishing, as well as its technology and techniques, are all-American. It is one of the few fishing methods that does not owe its origins to those across the pond, i.e., England or Europe.

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