OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham

July 25, 2017
July 25, 2017

Targeting Sportsmen

S portsmen are being targeted. It’s probably fitting, somehow, that those who spend valuable time squinting through scopes are in turn, in the crosshairs ourselves.

Like the game fish that cruise slowly along structure in creeks and rivers, anglers slowly move along aisles carefully and artfully stocked with just the right lures to catch us. It’s creepy, really, to realize that we’re attracted to the lures that will ultimately attract fish.

Lordy, that means Marketing Experts are doing their best to catch fishermen.

In an unfamiliar town not too long ago, I dropped by the sports section to pick up a few lures, since most of the offerings in my tackle box have an annoying habit of hanging on everything within a thirty yard radius of the boat except for fish.

My mental list was extensive: rubber worms.

When I passed the automotive section, the scent of new tires and antifreeze in my nostrils, I found myself on an aisle that looked to be a hundred feet long. As I trolled down the right side, I found the selection almost staggering.

All I wanted was a red worm with a white tail.

I found the grape worms first, and they smelled like grapes. It made me hungry for a sno-cone, or a grape soda.

The worm bar stretching into the distance was almost daunting. Open bins full of tangled rubber were almost an invitation for the kids gathered around to bury their hands into the mass with squeals of delight.

I was afraid one little kid was going to climb on top and jump in like those ball pits they have at Chuck E. Cheese.

As I stood there, pondering the selection, I realized the Marketing Experts had done their homework. The grape smell held me in a trance; and like a bass, I followed the scent, and the colors, slowly cruising the structure.

I quickly realized the store was stocked in just the same way they stock grocery stores. The higher priced, glitzy lures were at eye level. The cheaper workhorse gear was either high or low on the shelves.

Consider the lowly sinker, or lead weight. When I was a kid the Old Man bought them by the handful, or maybe in a clear plastic box with a dozen or so weights of the same size and shape.

Today, a full five feet of low counter space was devoted to extravagantly priced tiny plastic baggies. Six for a dollar $2.89. I usually drop at least one or two bullet sinkers before finally threading one onto my line. So truthfully, for me, the cost was three for $2.89.

Then I was sure to break off at least one before the end of the day. Now we’re at three for the same price. I’ll loan one to someone in the boat, and the other two will disappear into my tackle box until the following spring.

So there you have it, one bullet sinker for nearly $3. No wonder they can afford to hire expensive Market Experts to design the displays.

Remember when you could simply buy a box of fish hooks? I was twenty before I knew hooks came in different sizes for a selection of applications. I just thought all hooks came in a box of 500, and they were all the same size. That’s probably why we caught such big bream when they finally gave up and decided to be hooked by something as large, to them, as an anchor.

It’s all about the packaging anyway. The packaging hooks the shopper. Face it, the first thing you see is the color and design of the advertisement on that little piece of cardboard fused for all eternity to a bubble of concrete-hard clear plastic.

It’s just like a fishing trip. Presentation of the lure; the most colorful items are at eye level. You can always tell the outdoorsman who is shopping on the lower shelves, because their eyes are turned downward, like sand bass.

The Prey, that’s us, walks slowly, foraging. The Prey occasionally picks up a package (nibbles) and puts it back. Another package, another potential bite, but then the Prey moves on.

Hiding nearby, dressed in camouflage appropriate to the environment, lurks the Marketing Expert. Breathlessly, clipboard in hand, he waits and watches.

The Prey stands before a counter.

Eyes roam.

Palms itch.


A blue package. Pick it up (another nibble).

Ah, this one might actually catch a fish.




The Marketing Expert checks off the appropriate box on the paper affixed to the clipboard.

He sends a text.

Note: Today customers are hitting aqua blue advertisements containing a number ten crawfish design presented at eye level on a wire display hanger, approximately five feet from the bottom. Interior air temp is 70º at four in the afternoon, exterior temp is 101º.

It’s a vicious cycle, with the prey becoming the Prey.



Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]


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