Do you remember when you were younger and the thought of going to the local tackle store was exciting?
I loved those mom and pop joints that smelled of minnows bubbling away in the tanks near the checkout counter.
Like so many anglers across this country, I have fond memories of those places. Many are gone now, replaced by the giant box stores that have swept in and dominated the market.
Now, I am not against any of the box stores in the outdoor category. I love what they provide. It's an almost Disney World-like escape for us outdoor enthusiasts, but they are starting to lack one essential element for me, passion.
The folks who are now involved with these meccas for outdoor enthusiasts are not the same hardcore "fonts-of-knowledge" that the folks who run the mom and pop stores are.
In fact, many of these big box stores are managed by individuals who have more passion and knowledge about selling tires or plumbing supplies. Fishing and hunting sales is a foreign world to them. They don't speak the language.
When did these big mega-corporate box stores make the switch to the drone mentality and away form hiring the local pro? And why? Isn't passion the most important part of the position? Doesn't knowledge matter anymore? After all, it's a whole lot easier to teach an angler how to sell than it is to teach a salesman how to fish.
As I travel around the country and stop into these various locales in search of regional knowledge, I am taken aback as to the absolute lack of passion and in some cases total ignorance about of the local fisheries, etc.
At the local K-Mart or Wal-Mart, you don't expect the employees to have knowledge on the product they sell. You accept the fact that they are simply there cashing a paycheck and that they're not experts in their department.
However, in the outdoor category you expect more, darn it! You want to be able to discuss what tube works for the bass in the area the store is located. You want to know that the sales person attempting to get you to purchase your next fish finder actually uses the product in the field. When is the last time you went into an outdoor big box store and had an actual fishing-related conversation with an employee?
The outdoor big box stores are now no longer different than the mart stores.
I want the smell of those minnows back. You can keep your over-the-top amusement park stores and bring back the mom and pop. We need the passion back.
Dave and Kristin Landahl host The Fishing Fanatics radio show on ESPN radio affiliate AM 1360 WLBK in northern Illinois Thursday evenings from 6-7 p.m. CT. You can also tune in to hear The Fishing Fanatics at www.1360wlbk.com.