After 75 years worth of Sports Shows, the way people fish in Wisconsin has changed. The gear has gotten fancier, the fish have gotten smarter, and people and places have come and gone. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that people in this state love the outdoors. While the fishing gear of today has a leg up in the technology department compared to those of the past, the same fervor and passion for the outdoors that was held by the previous generations is still present in the minds and hearts of many Wisconsin residents. In the midst of a world that is growing more computerized every day, many people still return to the grunt work that is getting up in the wee hours of the morning to get on the lake before the fish start biting, and spending time with a young, unskilled angler to show them the ropes and to share a passion that they will inherit and teach to their children. All of this is coupled with the hard work done by the men and women of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as the sportsmen and women who take care of the lands and waters in which they fish. That is why Wisconsin is home to so many great fisheries, because people care. While it is true that a lot of hard work is put in to make Wisconsin an outdoorsmen’s paradise, the beautiful thing about fishing is that after the work is done, the fishing can be made as easy or hard as one wants to make it. Sometimes, making things as simple as possible can be the recipe for success. Returning to the roots of outdoorsman’s past can be the trick to finding such simplicity.

Just because so much time has passed doesn’t mean that the tricks of the past aren’t still effective today. Many anglers looking for trophy musky and pike won’t hesitate to toss a Johnson Silver Minnow, created and patented in the 1920s, with a curly-tailed grub trailer in order to stay out of the weeds and to get into some good fish. The effectiveness of spoons isn’t taken that seriously anymore due to the fact that there is so much more of a variety in the tackle market as opposed to back in the day, but spoons are one of, if not the most effective methods for catching large, aggressive fish not only here in Wisconsin, but in the rest of America and beyond. Another notable resident of tackle boxes old and young is the famed Mepps inline spinner. Whether it be in the small skirtless varieties for hungry panfish to the medium-sized Black Fury for anything from trout to Northern to the large-scale Musky Killers, the Mepps line of products is a jack-of all trades bait that has been putting trophies in the boat for quite some time. The last bait to discuss that has been a staple for fisherman for years is the simple jig head with twister tail combination. A lot of tournament fisherman have said that when bites go cold, go finesse. The jig and grub combination has been finesse since before anglers started to use that term to describe the style of fishing. A lot of species will feast off the little old-timer, including spring walleye and river smallmouths. The three baits listed above have all been around for a very long time and continue to produce. One of the beautiful things about fishing is that while fish will definitely go after a bait that is newer, they still can’t help but to be fooled from some old staple lures that catch at the same pace they did over 50 years ago. Don’t be so quick to throw out the tackle box you found in your grandparent’s attic, there’s likely to be one or two hidden gems in there that will make a difference.

For 75 years, outdoorsmen and women have gathered at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Sports Show, signifying that winter’s reign is almost over and the return to the old fishing hole isn’t too far off anymore. As time goes on, fishing will change, people will to. What won’t change and so far hasn’t changed is the joy that a fisherman gets when they wake up at 5 am to go fishing. What won’t change is the relaxation one gets being on their favorite body of water. What won’t change is the care people have for a body of water that their grandparents fished on, they fish on, and hopefully their grandchildren will fish on. And of course, nothing will ever change the feeling that an angler feels when they are locked in a battle with a fish, which is a feeling that is up there with the best of them. Make no mistake, while fishing looks different than it used to, it is still as vital and important to many people as it was 75 years ago. Let’s all appreciate that this tradition is still present in Wisconsin, and let’s continue it by protecting our watersheds, teaching the newer generations about the sport, and enjoying it for ourselves as our ancestors did before us.


Evan Gregor

UW Whitewater Club Fishing Team