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Below the Waterline: Distribution of tackle big business worldwide, but shop local when you can

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Fish habitats made by Eagle Scout Eli Crockett are placed on Wednesday, July 15, in Lake Decatur.

Our game is changing daily. Small companies are being gobbled up at a staggering rate and we have kidded each other that before long there will only be four or five companies building and manufacturing fishing gear sometime soon.

If there was anything good regarding COVID, it was clear the fishing industry flourished. Demand outdistanced supply and most companies are still trying to catch up.

Domestically produced products have a leg up on companies who have their products produced elsewhere, and although foreign companies, too, have kept up with demand, the bottleneck is shipping and unloading at ports of call. Medical supplies took precedent and PPE and other supplies needed by pharmacies and doctors were pushed ahead of other goods.

It is starting to break loose and no doubt where you live determines if new and shiny products for 2021 and 2022 will be arriving on your shelves. Typically those products from China, Thailand, Vietnam and other locations abroad enter the U.S. through the West Coast. Most containers have to pass a rigorous customs inspection and ships have to schedule unloading with weeks in advance.

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It seems it is a first-in, first-out proposition, but the last few months a lot of cargo has been held offshore for unloading due to lack of dock personnel, too. West Coast anglers usually lead the way with new techniques and products arriving from Japan and other countries as a result, and distribution then spreads out across the country via truck and air. Ships carry the largest amount of product and some companies do use air, but it is much more expensive.

COVID concerns entered the fray as well. Products and ship personnel had to be meticulously screened before allowing to dock not to spread the virus.

Shipping containers, known as TEU and FEU’s, come in two sizes — 20 foot and 40 foot. The largest cargo ships can transport over 21,000 TEU’s. That is a lot of spinnerbaits.

As the demand for more products increase, larger cargo ships will be built. Today, the Orient Overseas Container Line of Hong Kong has the largest cargo ship with a capacity of 29,121,680 feet. Stacked five or six high, that is a lot of product that has to be unloaded and distributed.

Logistically these containers are then trucked via bills of lading to distributors for subsequent shipping to stores for you to purchase. We believe keeping our own tackle boxes organized is a big job, but that crankbait from Japan has seen a lot of handling just to make it in it.

Large box retailers have their own distribution centers that disseminate those products to stores based on geographical trends. Florida, Texas and other states with larger numbers of anglers get a large share of the new products first. Manufacturers/tackle companies also serve as a distribution center and prioritize their shipments based on their sales numbers, so the “mom and pop” stores can be the last to get the new products as a result.

The Midwest is somewhere in that pecking order, but not necessarily on the top of the food chain. Large online retailers like Tackle Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops, Academy Sports, Sportsman’s Outfitters, FishUSA, LandBigFish, Walmart and Amazon, which is getting more and more into fishing, get a majority of the new product, so buying online has become en vogue as a result.

Local tackle stores are going away, but compete well with domestic companies leading the charge. Those that compete well and stay vital shop for products that are not necessarily found at the big box stores. Smart buyers can seek products that fill a niche that may just be more specialized. Cottage builders should look to retailers like them and do well with their products.

The next time you tie on a new bait, look where it came from. I bet you will find that a large portion of your tackle is made somewhere else. I have gotten more particular of where the product is built in recent years and buy from companies that produce their products here whenever I can.

Buying U.S. products whenever possible is important, and supporting local dealers is, too. It is very important to the fishing industry to have all types of stores selling fishing gear. The law of large numbers says all are important. Although many products are made elsewhere, where the money ends up is important as well.

Fishing is much more than a glob of worms and sitting on a bucket. It is an international business that means big bucks. Anglers should look at where they come from, and who is keeping Americans gainfully employed first if possible, and then worry about if it puts a green fish on the end of the line.

Wishful thinking maybe, but buying local is very important and can make a huge difference to our friends who own small business.

Terry Brown is President of, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to


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