Thursday, July 5, 2007

Origins of South Bend's "Fish and Feel Fit" Campaign

One of the most famous slogans in fishing history was the saying "Fish and Feel Fit," most often associated with the South Bend Bait Co. of South Bend, Indiana. The slogan was used for fifteen years by this firm and was prominently featured on the cover of its catalogs and in its advertisements, so much so that many people assume that it was a slogan coined by the firm.

I thought it might interest a few South Bend fans out there to go over the origins of this saying. The answer can be found in a March 1926 article entitled "Fish and Feelt Fit: New Slogan of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers of America." The slogan was the result of a national contest held by the Fishing Tackle Manufacturers of America (FTMA--later AFTMA). The contest judges met at Elkhart, IN and named the submission of V.A. Williams of Utahville, PA as the winner (although two others sent in the same slogan, only Williams wrote the 25-word essay explaining why it was best). Over 3500 different slogans were submitted, and the winner received a huge selection of fishing tackle from the associated firms. The article concluded:

"The purpose of conducting this contest was to determine the voice of the average angler in his conception of what the fishing sport meant to him. The prize-winning slogan will be used extensively by the members of the organization in their future advertising campaigns and literature mailed throughout the country. The new emblem will be used by each fim's stationery and on containers their product is packed in, the idea being to protect the purchaser of fishing tackle against inferior quality merchandise. Another purpose is to encourage the use of tackle made in America for Americans."

While some of the tackle firms used this slogan, only South Bend took it to heart, making it a centerpiece of its advertising campaign throughout the late 1920s and 1930s. It became so closely associated with South Bend that perhaps other firms did not want to use the slogan (and its famous image of a fisherman holding the slogan like a stringer of fish) for fear of being associated with South Bend and subconsciously promoting their goods.

--Dr. Todd

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