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Fred Hall Show from a Retailer and Consumer's point of view

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#1 fishordie

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 06:08 PM

Good afternoon all,

For this guy another great show is in the books as I will not be active at the Del Mar Show. Now that I have a chance to unwind I started thinking about how the fishing world has changed, in most cases for the better. As always, my story will not be short and will have some history as a lead in, so read it in one sitting, read it in doses or get out now.

When I first began my West Coast fishing career in 1961 I only had one option for fishing gear. That gear was whatever my father was willing to let me use. That meant an old reel with a leather thumb drag, a home made bamboo rod and some silk line soon to be followed by that cool new stuff called mono-filament. Fairly soon my birthday presents consisted of some of Dad's hand me down Penn conventional and some Mitchell spinning reels which were really cool but I dreamed of the Rolex of reels back then which was a Fin Nor... To this day never got one. However, one does not get pregnant from dreaming so our only true options were Penn Jig Master's, Squiders, Senators and of course our go to Mitchell spinners. After all, none of us fishermen could afford the Gold Internationals with the cool chrome or stainless spacers which came out in the mid to late 60's let alone those Zane Greyesq Fin Nors. However, as both commercial and sport-fishing anglers Dad and I were were more than happy with our limited choices of manufacturers. You could easily say that the industry dictated what rods and reels we used as there were only a few good rod manufacturers who started using that new-fangled fiberglass material while Penn models were the reels of choice. Clearly the new era of fishing had begun.

I constantly am asked questions such as what is the best 15 - 30, 30-40, 40-50, or 5- - 60 pound test reels? How about the best combination and how many rigs do I need for fishing Rockfish, Yellowtail, Calico Bass or other locally found species? What reels and rods do I need for long or short range, West Coast, salt water fishing? I also get asked what is the best gear for fresh water and what is best for Saltwater? With today's selections of gear these line capacities can be spanned with only one or two rigs for most any applications.

Up until the last few years my answers were more tailored to the bait size or weight, technique specific such as jigs vs. bait, surface vs sub-surface, and most often times size/species specific rigs. However, the West Coast was limited to a few rod and reel manufacturers with a few aftermarket reel turbo charge companies who tailored their products to a very limited amount of anglers looking for the best free spool to go with higher and higher after market drag capabilities. In short, we had a few great pioneers who found ways to improve on the old mousetraps.

At some point, along comes Braided lines which are stronger with smaller diameters allowing us to hold more and more line with smaller and smaller reels. Without getting long winded.... Yeah right.. I can tell you my Dad and I were the first to use this material as we had obtained it from a government job we did back in the late 60's or early 70's (Long before the brand name Dyneema came around). Dad and I just tied Bimini's to an Albright, and off we went..... For about 2 minutes.... which was the time it took for Bill Poole to take one look at our white lines and tell us to Get that S...T off his boat. This is the same Bill Poole who taught me dead reckoning, how to dry silk lines, take needed salt water showers on longer trips and along with dad how to fish.... With Bill, you also learned immediately how NOT TO FISH as there was the Bill Poole way ONLY... others need not apply. Anyone who had other ideas only fished the boat one time or changed their habits immediately. For so many years I was the youngest angler on the boat so I quickly learned it was Bill's way or the highway and typically there are no highways on the ocean to thumb a ride home so I just figured if I ever argued or talked back I was just going to die. By the way, the fear of death is a great motivator for the young and know-it-all types alike to keep their yaps shut.

Though I have always been a rebel and non-conformist Bill and other great fishermen taught me there are times to hold my ground and times to give up ground which was never yours to begin with. I am a better man, better fisherman and more open minded in life, for learning this lesson at 6 years of age from Bill, Dad and a few others. I am sure "Open Minded" was not what Bill had in mind but it is how I modified his lessons over the years. Sometimes you learn as much from what a mentor does NOT DO as it relates to what he or she teaches you directly. Yes, I learned many years later Bill had a few things to learn regarding a new concept called customer service and interacting with paying passengers but I have already noted a bit about my view of Bill in the Chuck Garrison's book about Bill's life titled "Fish or Cut Bait". (Great reading about a great man by the way)

I continually discuss today's real world. Many of us old timers remember when you would get on a fishing boat, keep your mouth shut, obtain the gold nuggets of information on the rare occasions you earned a bit of insider information and maybe in 5 - 10 years you could step up and begin to be considered as being allowed to sit at the insider table for an hour or so. We worked hard and appreciated greatly any time a deck hand, skipper or knowledge-able fisherman took a moment to give us some valuable tips and brother I earned my way. The rest of the time we practiced using whatever techniques we had learned or had seen our fishing roll models use. A 200 pound Tuna was for those who climbed Mount Everest and was only achieved after possibly decades of trying.

In some ways those WERE the good old days but in other ways today is so much better. I no longer have to sleep in a bunk room where the guy next to me has his feet or his snoring face next to mine. I no longer have to go outside to use the head (restroom) or take salt water showers on deck. Fresh water and ice is available most all of the time except when certain folks decide their beer buckets are more important than my cocktail glass. Though I love a burger and a ton of quickly ate carbohydrates from a tiny galley I LOVE the meals being served on today's long range boats. Many of the boats have sinks in the rooms with fresh water. Oh, and by the way, who ever heard of sheets or bedding on a long range boat? The vinyl covering of the pads was all we had (Until I figured out sheets were cool and then I caught hell for bringing some on board). Anyway, I will take today's fishing boats, even with a few big mouthed, spoiled brats, who come aboard on rare occasions (Who we straighten out fairly quickly) to yesterday's boats where we shoveled ice to keep our fish somewhat fresh. Yes, catching a 200 pound tuna is no longer the nearly impossible dream and Yes we are living with terms like immediate gratification while watching or listening to electronic devices. But, for this angler, I have decided I can only tilt at so many windmills so I accept the "What is" of today and use the "What was" of yesterday to hopefully make a better tomorrow.

Fast forward to today's Fred Hall show as it applies to Retail Sportfishing gear sales and purchasing options available to the consumer. Maaan this may have been one of the greatest shows I can remember. Since I worked both the Bob Sands Tackle and the Black Hole fishing rod booths I had a real variety of experiences as Bob Sands is more West Coast while Black Hole has and is introducing a more East Coast/Asia experience. The cross over of the two coast's techniques is here to stay and could not have come at a better time.

IN SHORT: The angler today has demanded and has been rewarded with so many more options of gear than ever before. With these options comes the wonderful ability to use fewer and fewer rigs to cover more and more fishing species, techniques and applications. Contrary to some folks belief, the amount of money it takes to purchase high quality gear and create a full arsenal of wide ranging rigs has come way down. Yeah, I know, I am out of my mind but think about the following:

A customer comes to the shop and says I want a rig to throw some artificial lures to Large Mouth Bass. I need another rig for saltwater bass. I need another rig for local Yellowtail and White Seabass or Halibut.
In the old days I would offer 3 or even 4 different rigs. Today, I can sell that angler any one of a few 300 sized Bait caster (Level wind low profile) reels or multiple manufacturer's small conventional reels and mount it too about a dozen rods which, with one rig, will cover all the above tasks. The reel manufacturers have recognized stealth rigs which can still do work horse tasks using Spectra to increase line capacity are the way to go. Where I once only recommended single speed reels for certain applications, cost, value, weight ratios and balance may now tip the scales in favor of the two speed reel.

Value is now the watchword as forward thinking manufacturers are finding ways to decrease the price of top of the line reels. Avet has made a living from finding a great price point and giving the angler Aerospace quality product. Accurate has followed suit with their highest end, Aerospace inspired product, as their Ferrari meets Mac Truck philosophy is now made more affordable in their Fury Series. Look at the offshore manufacturers such as Okuma who made historic leaps in long range reels with the Makaira SEA II series and continues to push price points with a wide array of new product.

Now we are seeing Penn and Shimano getting into the great price point vs. quality game (Daiwa has been there for years) as they are taking their amazing, top of the line reels and making them more affordable. Anglers have dictated policy as we are demanding lower priced but High Quality reels. Both companies have found their 450 - 600 dollar reels set high standards but the consumer's are now balking at the price. In my opinion, WE THE PEOPLE demanded more for less. Thus, both companies are now offering the same incredible reels, without one piece machined frames, thus saving the angler hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Penn showed the fishing world one of the best conventional reels ever made in the Torque II but now have come out with the Fathom 1 and 2 speed . Shimano showed us the Trinidad A was set to go head to head with Daiwa's venerable Saltiga single speed but now has come out with the new Torium. Again, use the guts of the top of the line reels, reduce the price point by more than half by not having to machine a single billet frame, and come out with reels that can fish across multiple line and technique spectrum's. One rod and one reel to do multiple tasks with each task being performed beautifully.

High quality spinning reels are now more affordable than ever and are amazing tools when used properly.
Hooks, artificial baits and jigs which flutter down without any angler induced action are making themselves heard.

Black Hole, for myself and many others, is showing what Popping and Jigging specific rods can do to enhance the all around fishing experience. Realizing, we on the west coast may be on the cutting edge in some aspects of fishing but are lacking in others goes back to my lessons noted above under the Bill Poole chapter of this book/post. Open minded anglers are better prepared than non open minded folks. Popping and Jigging has so enhanced my and many other's long range fishing worlds as to be what I now do now, much of the time, even on 17 day trips. More and more folks are turning to these exciting, angler pro-active, techniques because they are just a blast as the Angler and his skill induces action into the artificial lure. In time, the tools for these techniques will come down in price but I can tell you, based on experience, these rods are half the price of what they would have been even 3 or 4 years ago. Just wait until you see what the new 1.4 ounce blank from Black Hole can do here on the west coast. Those who came by the booth were stunned at the prototypes of this new little beauty which should be out, in production shortly. I am only sorry we did not have 200 of these blanks and rods ready to sell as we would have sold all of them just at the show. Those who pulled on the Challenger line of West Coast style rods were equally amazed at how light and powerful these beautifully built rods are. Once again, we the anglers will be benefiting from the competition and competitive pricing as more and more manufacturers are discovering there is life on the West Coast.

So what is the bad news? Unfortunately competition is driving out some brick and mortar shops. Contrary to popular belief the guys who still are operating your local fishing tackle stores or cutting edge manufacturers are not shopping at Neiman's unless they made other investments somewhere. The owners and store employees are there because we just love it not for the hourly pay. OOOps, I forgot, I do not get paid one dime.... Hmmmm I have to work on that. Naaawww then I would owe some something and I do not want to be in debt. Anyone thinking of entering this field and opening a new store should seriously consider another line of work. On Line seller's who have little or no overhead are making internet purchasing very, very interesting but at what cost in the long run?? The old adage of; To be worth a million dollars in the Retail fishing tackle business you must start with 2 million has never been more true. Let's hope we all can help our local retailers to stay in business while they provide us a place to talk with like minded individuals while being surrounded with the tools of the trade/hobby we all love so much.

Ending on a good note: This Long Beach Fred Hall was AWESOME for you the customers. Some great deals were found out there. Bob Sands and Black Hole had some amazing deals throughout the show. Though we the retail shops worked harder than ever for our customers we all felt the show was fantastic and really brings out the best in all of us. We all in the industry and those of us who participate on these wonderful forums get to renew old acquaintances and put faces on those whom we have conversed with only in writing.

Thank you for reading my drivel. Admittedly, it was self serving as I was sitting outside in the 85 degree weather, soaking up the sun, here in So. Cal., just waiting to go to the cigar shop for a smoke. (Yes, I know you East Coasters think we are all heathens and perhaps you are right but we are warm heathens) You all helped me pass a few moments of free time. Thank you.


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