Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Voices from the Past: Fred Davis

Here is a neat article from The Syracuse American and its outdoor editor Fred Davis, dated 1981. It details the changing nature of fishing tackle at the beginning of a very tumultuous time in fishing tackle history.

Outdoor Insight

by Fred Davis

Louisville, Ky.--At the recent 54th Annual Conference of the Outdoor Writers of America. four spokesmen for the fishing tackle industry gave their viewpoint on tackle trends. John Marsman of Heddon Fishing Tackle Co.. Dick Kotis of Arbogast Co.. Rex Gerlach of Daiwa and Joe Hughes of Rebel Lures told the gathered writers how they saw changes occurring in the fishing market.

Marsman said firmly. "There is no doubt that graphite as a rod-building material is here and it will continue to grab an increased share of the market."

In the blending of glass and graphite, depending upon the amount of each material used, products can be constructed to accommodate many kinds of fishing. Blending allows you to make a rod stronger with more glass than graphite, and lighter and faster if the materials ratios are reversed.

Heddon says a mix of 65 percent graphite and 35 percent fiber glass is perhaps the best formula for most fishing rods. They are experimenting also with a magnesium fiber glass and that they have high hopes of blending it with the graphite.

One of the major purposes of mixing the two materials is to produce a less expensive rod, since graphite is considerably higher in price.

"Boron," Marsman feels, "is not a real factor in the rod market and probably won't be for years."

He also indicated that fly fishing is on a decided upswing and that as the numbers of participants increase (and this is expected over the next few years) that more rods from various manufacturers probably will be made available to that market.

Dick Kotis is perhaps the main spokesman in the fishing lure industry. Arbogast Lure Co., of which he is president, is the world's largest manufacturer of fishing lures.

Of interest was his opening statement, "The natural finish plugs that have been so popular the past several years have stabilized and there will be a stable demand for them. Chrome finish lures seem to be more popular again."

Kotis also indicated that for perhaps two reasons there seems to be a trend toward smaller rods and line test as improved fishing lines have allowed anglers to use lines considered to weak or light just a few seasons ago.

"More people are fishing and this has put more pressure on the streams, lakes and ponds," he added. "Fish simply are getting harder to catch and it calls for more sophistication. The smaller lures are easier to cast on the lighter tackle and they seem to fool fish better."

So far as the lure business is concerned, manufacturers have become aware of specialized markets and are building lures just for those areas. Lake Erie walleye fishing has been superb, and it has sparked interest in walleyes in other areas as better lures and developed to catch them. The landlocked striped bass industry has spread across the country, and the manufacturers are not making specific lures to be used for them.

Rex Gerlach, who represents Daiwa, world's largest fishing tackle manufacturer, made an interesting point. Gerlach said that most major advances in fishing tackle have resulted from discoveries or breakthroughs in other industries.

The French textile revolution made possible braided lines, while the plastics industries discoveries gave us fly lines, monofilament and fiber glass fishing rods. "Developing technology in other areas has allowed us to produced startling new fishing tackle," he said.

He emphasized a trend that started some years ago and seems to be continuing — the use of lighter and smaller lures. In the 1950s, the standard bass lure weighed 1/2 to 5/8 ounce. By the 1960s, the average weight averaged 3/8 to 1/2 ounce. Today, lures continue to get smaller and many fishermen are casting smallmouth bass lures that weigh only a 1/4 ounce.

Joe Hughes of Rebel Lures who enjoys his trips to Oneida Lake and looking forward to see what his lures will have on the Lake Ontario salmonid fishery, said that an in-depth survey of Anglers showed that many (about 40 percent) of all lures are purchased because of peer influence — a friend suggest the lure. "What surprised them" Hughes said, "was that about 30 percent of all lures are sold because of recommendations of outdoor writers, TV broadcasters and magazine articles."

Hughes also said that he sees about the end of the flippin' era, a method of vertically fishing a lure around obstructions for bass. Striped bass continue to increase in numbers and size as they are stocked in lakes in every part of the United States, and Rebel will be developing lures for these markets.

In a roundtable discussion, it was brought out that the numbers of fishermen had leveled off for several years, but suddenly has began increasing. Kotis felt that a salt water license will have to come to all coastal states if we are to have the money to managed this resource properly. There was general agreement that today's tackle is better built for the same comparable price and that tackle probably will continue to improve even though it seems the end of a new lure configuration is near.

Each agreed when the industry thought they had answered all the tackle buyers wishes and had no more ideas for a new lure, a Texan invents the spinnerbait and that's set the tackle world reeling again with all sorts of variations of the hairpin-style bait from bass to walleye and even trout fishing.

-- Dr. Todd

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