Legion set an incredibly high bar.
Not only was there an artifact fishing pole, but there were 2 different streams of reputation gains within Legion – Margoss and the Champions. The pole itself provides a huge benefit to fishing, with built-in waterwalking, reduced detection range, and super speed while underwater. That last one makes it on-par or better than a Water Strider – and certainly a whole lot less effort to acquire.
The reputation gains were mostly for toys, which makes sense since fishing isn’t exactly about the prestige. Even the 6 fishing champions didn’t provide much more than cosmetics/pets. It was a fun distraction.
Fishing is sort of the lead eating cousin in WoW, often neglected. Archeology and First Aid are close, and one of those was taken behind the back.
It’s often been about just getting fish for cooking, and focusing on pools to get more fish. The fishing tourney was a vanilla item, some dailies in TBC for pets, another tourney in WotLK, and nothing I can recall for Cataclysm. Factions and daily fishing quests only truly came into the game when MoP came out – and the Anglers were a lot of fun. WoD put Nat Pagle in your garrison, with a pretty incredible grind to get everything you wanted. That was a beast.
Legion took all of that, refined it, and made it significantly more fun.
Battle for Azeroth
The good news to start. The artifact pole still works, and 3 of those skills transfer over. The skill to portal to the next fishing pool is gone, but that was rarely used except to climb to areas in Stormheim. There’s a new mount from open water. Fish can be converted to oil for cooking, or used au-naturel in some recipes. It takes a lot of fish to make something. 2 fish for basic recipes, 10 fish for mid-rank, and somewhere close to 100 per feast (include 3 rare ones). That last one costs ~2000g on my server.
The neutral changes are that fish are no longer zone specific but island specific. Horde fish and Alliance fish, with 2 types per island. Those types are inland (rivers) and coastal (sea). And one fish shared between everything (Midnight Salmon) with a low catch rate. Just to accentuate poor design planning in BfA, this fish is used for feasts AND has a per-click option to teleport you to the next pool. That’s right, a fish with a 200g value has a 5 minute portal cooldown.
The bad changes are that pools no longer reward more fish, just guarantee a specific type. Fishing skill also doesn’t reduce junk chance, or increase the amount of fish you get. There are no daily quests. There are no fishing factions. There are no fishing toys.
I’m hoping that 8.1 actually includes something for fishing, as right now there isn’t much point and it feels like a large regression to pre-MoP days. There’s more fun to be had in Legion right now, than BfA.
Could be worse. I could be an archaeologist.