The cover of Sports Afield magazine from May 1956 featuring their annual Bass Issue.

The cover of Sports Afield magazine from May 1956 featuring their annual Bass Issue.

Imagine life without bass-centric magazines, bass-centric websites or even your ability to peruse Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for bass fishing information. Imagine the only place to glean information for bass fishing was your local liars club – i.e. the local Ma-and-Pa Tackle Shop – or a monthly periodical, such as Sports Afield, Field and Stream or Outdoor Life (known as the Big Three) which may only have one piece related to bass fishing in an issue. Seems foreign, huh?

Well, that’s the way life was during the pre-Ray Scott age. There was no Bassmaster Magazine, no bass fishing websites and no YouTube to teach you the latest and greatest techniques on how to catch your favorite gamefish. All there was were general sportsman magazines such as Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, along with Fur Fish and Game and Hunting and Fishing.  The problem with these publications was they were dedicated to the outdoorsman in general.  There was The Fisherman, that catered to anglers only in the first few years, but they didn’t concentrate on freshwater bass, opting to tackle fishing as a whole.

Once a year, generally in the spring, the Big Three, would put together an issue dedicated to bass and the bass angler. There would be a section with maybe four or five articles on bass fishing and then the bass enthusiast would have to wait another year before that much information would be placed within the confines of a single issue.

What triggered this thought was my recent uncovering of a 1956 issue of Sports Afield magazine – the special Bass Issue. Sports Afield is the oldest outdoor publication in North America (possibly the world) first going to press in 1887 – that’s right folks, the 19th Century. By 1956 the magazine had endured the Great Depression and three owners to become the number-one outdoor magazine in print with over 800,000 subscribers.

Table of Contents for the May 1956 Bass Issue of Sports Afield magazine.

Table of Contents for the May 1956 Bass Issue of Sports Afield magazine.

For those of you who are true fishing history buffs, you’ll appreciate the laundry list of angler/writers who graced the pages of the early magazine. To name a few they were Zane Grey, Homer Circle, Grits Gresham, Stan Fagerstrom, Gordon MacQuarrie, and the legendary Jason Lucas – who was the fishing editor from 1946 until roughly 1969 and the first writer to embrace bass fishing over the then-popular trout. (To read a great story on Lucas, read Ken Duke’s piece published in 2009 on Bassmaster.com)

In this issue of Sports Afield, bass anglers read articles by Lucas, Wolf, Dalrymple and Hall. Topics covered the spectrum from how to catch bass on a fly rod to the then 200-year bass fishing history. Amazingly, even though the titles seem a bit juvenile, the articles are packed with information the beginning bass angler would need to know, even today – which was the target audience of the time.

For those who wanted to learn more in-depth information about the sport, they could rely on Lucas filling that need with his features that were present in every other issue of Sports Afield or by sending him a letter with any question pertaining to the subject. The only problem with that was you may not like his short, sarcastic answer if he thought your question was stupid – and he thought that of many questions.

Jason Lucas, fishing editor for Sports Afield, fights a bass on a fly rod. May 1956 Sports Afield Bass Issue.

Jason Lucas, fishing editor for Sports Afield, fights a bass on a fly rod. May 1956 Sports Afield Bass Issue.

Aspiring anglers today have no idea how easy they have it with the information highway.  Gone are the days of learning techniques, tactics and procedures on one’s own.  The learning curve of trial and error has essentially been eliminated and nobody needs a mentor, other than the hundreds of YouTubers to show you the hot new technique or bait and how they work.

Although I was a kid of the 70s, I was lucky in that I had at my fingertips publications such as Bassmaster, Western Bass and Bassin’.  But although I read each and every word on every page, a lot was lost in translation or simply not all the information was communicated.  Secrets among the top anglers were the norm.  Today, it’s hard to hide an angler’s technique and/or bait on live coverage and YouTube.  Gone are the days you either learned it on your own or obtained it at a woefully slow pace – one article per issue through the Big Three.

So what’s your take on the learning curve today’s anglers are met with?  Do you like the fast-learning capability or do you feel a lot is lost by being able to find the answers so fast?  Please leave us a note in the comments below with your opinion, and while you do that, let us know your age as well as how long you’ve been bass fishing.