A S VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING becomes “new and improved” on a regular basis, there are two lessons you must learn about changing technology: Price and quality don’t always walk hand in hand, and you shouldn’t spring for high-end gear until you can articulate confidently what it will do for you.
Technology is a marvelous thing. Since the advent of electronic computation decades ago, our capacity to make good things better has increased exponentially. Products can be tested and retested, tweaked and tinkered and dialed down against nearly infinite—all before creation of the first prototype. Engineers stare for endless hours at screens on which their designs are challenged to withstand onslaughts of virtual realities.
Can this crankbait be made to wobble the same when tied with a loop knot to 20-pound braid as when tied with an improved clinch knot to 12-pound mono? Can this trail cam transmit its images via Bluetooth to a truck 100 yards away? …a ranch house two miles away? Can that boat do 60 mph with three people on board? …70 mph with four?
The engineer’s answer to every question about a product’s design and function, of course, is a resounding “Yes! It can…” With this caveat: “…if we throw a little more time and money at it.”
Since merely keeping up is seldom enough to keep businesses afloat today, the time and money spent on bigger, better, faster, smaller, looser, tighter—whatever the objective—is justifiable. Ultimately, after a year or three of transition from computer to prototype to field-testing to retail, we the people get our hands on some really cool stuff.
All at a price, of course, and some prices are (way) higher than others. Some reels or rods or shotguns or binoculars do things others can’t do, and we don’t mind paying a performance premium for those products. But price doesn’t tell the whole story about anything.
Availability, at any price, doesn’t equate to necessity or a better outcome outdoors. Conversely, having a more affordable piece of gear doesn’t mean you can’t fish as well or shoot as straight as the other guy. It means simply that he or she hunts or fishes differently, not necessarily better.
I am a fan of good quality gear and don’t mind investing in it where doing so makes sense. There lies the key to squeezing the most from whatever gear you choose.
When people call my radio show or email to ask about a particular reel or rod or set of golf clubs or anything that’s on the high end of the cost spectrum, my first question is “Why do you want that?”
Often as not, the answer is, “One of my friends has it, and he loves it.”
If your competitive-shooter friend lets you handle his sleek, $12,000 custom, tack-driving rifle, and you’re a guy who shoots the first deer that steps up to the feeder at 100 yards, you’re not going to benefit from owning that rifle so much as you would from a dump-truck load of corn.
Same with fishing tackle. Coastal fishing guides use professional-grade gear because their livelihoods depend upon an elevated level of daily performance. If you sling live shrimp under popping corks on summer weekends, you can get that done for considerably less. Invest the balance in aerator batteries and a few guided trips to learn some new spots.
In any product line, there are legitimate, quality offerings between the ones that cost the least and the most. I do talk radio, for example, and used to drop real money into headphones.
If I were a music producer, that would have made sense. It dawned on me, however, that there’s not a lot of subtle nuance in the human voice. Not in mine, anyway. So now, I do my shows in headphones from Five Below. When they break, about once a year, I chunk them in the trash and shell out another five bucks for a fresh start.
When you want something from the upper shelf, ask yourself what genuine benefits it will deliver and why they’re so important to your game. Then ask a few trusted friends their opinions.
And always, always ask this advice from someone who’s better at fishing or hunting than you. Never take fishing advice from a guy holding an empty stringer.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new outdoor toys, and nobody dreams more than I about having the latest and greatest. I’ve learned, though, to spend what’s necessary to meet my own expectations for performance, not someone else’s.
Look in your wallet. Whatever you’ve got is enough to get you started in whatever you want to do outdoors. It’s not the products you own that define you as an outdoorsman. The most valuable thing you can invest in enjoyment of the outdoors is your time.
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]