Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Review: ABU & Garcia--What Happened? By Len Borgstrom

Thursday Review: Abu and Garcia: What Happened? By Len Borgstrom

As the newest inductees to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame have recently been announced, and include one Lennart Borgstrom, long-time president of ABU-Garcia, I was reminded I was remiss in my duties to review his fine book, which was put into English translation about two years ago.

ABU and Garcia: What Happened? is not your typical fishing tackle book. No, this is not the book to buy if you want to ID various models of ABU reels or lures. In fact, Len tries very hard NOT to spend too much time discussing the technical developments of tackle.

What the book is about, however, is how the fishing tackle trade works, both in America and internationally. From this perspective, Borgstrom is perhaps the most qualified individual around to discuss the subject at hand. He tells a very personal story about the origins, development, growth and set-backs of the famed ABU company of Svängsta, Sweden, which went from making pocket watches and taximeters to dominating the casting reel market.

This book has much to offer anyone interested in fishing history. As it by definition spends much time discussing the many partners ABU had in its past, the book is as much about Mitchell, Zebco, Garcia and other firms as it is about ABU. While it does discuss the high points of ABU history--such as the development of the Ambassadeur reel--it always puts them into perspective in the overall fishing tackle scene.

There are many revelations in this book, such as how the price of the Ambassadeur--which should have sold at $44.95 retail--was kept at $19.95 because so many big companies used it as a loss leader to attract customers that no one could thus afford to sell it at actual retail price. Few American retailers ever made any money selling Ambassadeur reels in the 1950s and 1960s.

Much of the book is couched in terms of the Swedish government's oppressive tax schedule, which makes entrepreneurship very difficult. Borgstrom has some definite ideas on the effectiveness of this program, and is not shy in giving his opinion on how it effected the overall development of Swedish business.

This is certainly a must read book. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where (or if) the book is still available. For a time, Bass Pro Shops carried the title but it no longer shows up on their web site. Perhaps it is out of print, which would be a tremendous shame as it deserves a wide readership. If you have to beg, borrow, or steal--get a copy of this book.

-- Dr. Todd

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