smallmouth bass

The author’s son, Luke, displays his personal-best 4-pound smallmouth bass.

THERE IS a tendency among young people to take significant shortcuts as they relate to communication.

Ignoring the time-honored rules of grammar, abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud), LMK (let me know) are commonly used in place of words.

I understand that my generation is supposed to be condescending and somewhat grouchy when observing the trends of all age classes below us, but I’m struggling with this one. Typing UR instead of typing You Are seems like a lazy disregard for those rules that separate humans from other animals.

When, in last week’s reader correspondence, a young angler sent a picture of her PB smallmouth bass, I was confused and slightly insulted. Am I not, as an outdoor writer, worthy of complete spelling and the descriptive narrative of a great fish? I was forced to look up PB and investigate both its meaning and the connection it might have to describing a fishing experience.

Personal best is often abbreviated as PB and it’s use among the angling community is so vast that I’m surprised I haven’t encountered it before now.

Most anglers have a PB for every species, which sets the bar and represents a current although temporary mark of excellence. Once I understood the abbreviation and learned to use it in conversation (never in writing), I felt a little more comfortable with the idea.

I decided to use the new lingo in conversation with my teenage son and strived for a connection that might make him think that his father is cooler than those of his friends.

“What’s your PB bass?” I asked him one morning. His look was one of mild confusion but still answered respectfully that it was a 4-pound smallmouth. We went on to discuss the nature of fishing and agreed that enumerating an angling experience in any way often encourages a competitive nature.

Knowing that neither of us was right or wrong, our discussion was healthy and demonstrated a difference in age and attitude. While I do not keep track of the number of fish caught in one day, my son finds it acceptable and only mildly boastful. Where I caught a few, he caught three. I never put a fish on a scale or lay it next to a tape measure before its release but he will often hang a large fish until a digital display confirms its weight.

I suppose that we might describe the same fish in different terms. A fish that I would describe as “big” might be labeled by him as; “three and a half pounds and 21 inches.”

I was quick to point out the double standard of abbreviating some terms while exaggerating others and my son offered a thoughtful retort.

Like many sports figures, good anglers strive for success and are constantly looking for improvements in their approach. Assigning specific numbers to a fish, he explained, allows for very specific measures of success and failure. With the millions of combinations of lures, colors, depths, speeds, and habitats, it seems that a final score is a necessity. He made some very good points.

While my son and I discussed his personal best smallmouth bass, it occurred to me that he is a very smart young man. His generation might use letters and numbers differently from mine, but we still have a strong enough connection to be BFFs.


Adventures Afield appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Andy Schafermeyer at