Let’s Look Back: I was among the first to get “hooked” – Part 2

I had a chance to test these great hooks before they were ever brought into the USA. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I had a chance to test these great hooks before they were ever brought into the USA. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The guy on the other end of the phone line asked a question I’ve been hearing off and on now for a long time.

“Stan,” the guy asked, “Exactly when did you start writing about fishing?  I know you’ve been doing it for a long time now.  I’ll bet you’ve seen lots of changes in the fishing gear that’s available now compared to what it was when you first started.”

That caller didn’t know how right he was.  As I’ve mentioned before, I started working as a beginning reporter for The Daily News in Southwest Washington almost as soon as I got out of the hospital after returning from World War II.  The city editor of the newspaper knew I had a keen interest in fishing.  He asked me if I was interested in doing a weekly fishing column as well as outdoor features for the paper.

He also suggested that we call that new column “Nibbles & Bites.”  Southwest Washington was right smack in the middle of some of the best steelhead and salmon fishing you could find anywhere in the United States.  Besides that, the lake I eventually built a house on was one of the best bass and panfish lakes in the entire Pacific Northwest.

My fishing column was well received and it wasn’t long before I was asked by the sports department of the Vancouver, Washington Columbian newspaper if I’d consider also doing a column for them too.  I did that for some time under the pen name “Stanley Scott.”

I made it a point to keep my readers in both newspapers aware of the details about new products.  Knowledgeable lure makers were quick to recognize the potential value of any favorable publicity their products might get in either newspapers or magazines.  There was, of course, no Internet then or  Facebook, Twitter and other new media developments were still decades away.

Gamakatsu Hooks have helped me put a lot of beautiful bass in the boat. Here's one of them. Photo Stan Fagertrom.

Gamakatsu Hooks have helped me put a lot of beautiful bass in the boat. Here’s one of them. Photo Stan Fagertrom.

I provide these details because it didn’t take long for my name to get around among both lure makers and those who were selling them.  If you read my previous column you’ll recall it was a man familiar with my writing who was to open the door to a new Japanese hook maker called “Gamakatsu.”

The well-liked and respected man who eventually gave American anglers their first look at Gamakatsu Hooks was the late Walt Hummel of Washington State.  Walt lived in Woodland, Washington.  He was a tackle manufacturer’s representative.  The town of Woodland was then and still is between Longview and Vancouver.   Walt was fully familiar with my outdoor columns.

Walt walked in to see me one day at The Daily News in Longview.  He placed a half a dozen small boxes on my desk.  “Would you consider doing me a favor?” he asked.  “I’d like to have you try these new hooks and let me know what you think about them.  I’m considering importing them for sale here in the United States.  There’s a substantial amount of money involved and I want to be darn sure what I’m considering is a good move.  Your help will be appreciated.”

I told Walt I’d be glad to help.  In those days I was fishing almost every weekend and often I’d sneak in a weekday trip now and then too.  I learned one thing about those new Japanese hooks the first time I tied one on my leader.  You better be very careful how you handled them because they were the sharpest darn things I’d ever seen.

Remember now, these hooks were still in the development stage.  The Gamakatsu folks were still testing their new hooks themselves.  The one single area I found in my testing of them I didn’t especially like was that they could be bent a little if unusual pressure was necessary.

Some of the top bass pros in the land are helping in the current design of Gamakatsu Hooks. One of them, Aaron Martens, is pictured here.

Some of the top bass pros in the land are helping in the current design of Gamakatsu Hooks. One of them, Aaron Martens, is pictured here.

I shared my experience with Walt.  He was a tad unhappy to hear what I said but he obviously passed my single criticism along because when I got the second batch of Gamakatsu hooks to try, that bending business had been totally eliminated.  I wound up convinced these new hooks were a whole lot better than anything I’d ever used – bar none.  They still are.

I wasn’t the only Southwest Washington angler Walt asked to test the new hooks.  Among them were several guides and expert anglers.  Walt wound up hearing the same thing from them that he’d heard from me.  They loved ‘em!

I knew many of these guys and often fished with some of them.  Based on my own experience I would have bet some big bucks on how Walt Hummel’s decision to make those hooks available in the USA would work out.

I’ll always remember what one of the local steelhead guides told me when I asked him about the new hooks.  “In the testing I’ve done,” he said, “I’ve never found a bad Gamakatsu hook. I still haven’t.  That hadn’t always been my experience with some of my other hooks.  I was forever having to sharpen some of them.  I’d also had some that turned out to be brittle and I’d actually had some of them bust on me.

“I just hadn’t experienced the quality and the quality control that came along with these new hooks.  Like I said, in all the fishing I’ve done with them since they came out I’ve never ever found a bad Gamakatsu hook.”

That guide’s sentiments and mine are the same.  And if you keep up with current developments in the field of hook production, you’re undoubtedly aware Gamakatsu is still at it.  Today there is a whole bunch of their new hook styles that weren’t around when these fine hooks first came to market.

 

Like I said in my previous column, I’m one of the luckiest old backlashers you’re gonna find.  I say that in part because I’ve had the good fortune to watch so many changes in the sport of fishing – all of which has provided material for me to use to make a living just writing about it.

You just ain’t gonna get much luckier than that!