The last couple of months, as I think to have noted elsewhere, I have rediscovered an old favorite past-time – notably fishing! It has come about largely because a good friend of mine (Johnny) has asked a few times that I join him and additionally having a lake almost in the backyard makes it easy to kick back for an hour or two here and there without much effort involved. Thankfully, I had kept the gear from what seems like a different lifetime now and after a few times out and some work in the garage it is now in fair working order. I did however, purchase one new Zebco 33 to replace an aging one that I could not get to work immediately for the first trip I made out.
That purchase began my disappointment with the current state of affairs in the supply of fishing tackle and equipment. I am sure that before I had confined fishing to the occasional two or four times a year pastime in the years past, Zebco had as a company exchanged hands a couple of times and probably was even at that time in the mid 1990’s was being made overseas. However, the quality of the items was still pretty good. The new purchase however, even with paying a slight premium to get the middle of the road 33 model has left a sour taste in my mouth. One example was what appeared to be anodized metal (I believe it to be aluminum) casing for the reel starting flaking off as some sort of cheaply applied lacquer based paint after only one out and become very noticeable the third outing. Looking inside, it is mostly plastic gearing and what is not just seems to scream cheap.
In comparison to several older Zebco reels that I have (which have now been cleaned up and serviced and back in fine working order) the cheapness seems even more clear. Granted some of these reels are probably older than me and some probably date to my youth (one of the few things my Dad gave me that I do honestly treasure), but they are all stamped made in the USA proudly on the bottom of the rod attachments. Once cleaned they work better, in my opinion, then the new one that has been acquired. Even a cheap plastic 202 that I received for a birthday at age six or seven seems to work better than the current model 33’s.
Keeping in mind that Johnny has been on my case for using spin cast based equipment and recalling the extra distance and accuracy, not mention over all ease with casting of a bait casting rig I had a few years ago I decided to pursue something along that line. At the same time, I was convinced after doing a little bit of crappie fishing with Johnny as we were finishing up an overnight fishing trip a the river a few weeks ago that I needed a couple of new rods in the seven-foot length range or at least a good deal better than the average five foot length I have now. I had very simple requirements, bait cast reel, with anti-backlash system of some sort (maybe magnetic), seven-foot (or in the range) rod with light to medium action, cork handle grips (versus foam or similar as I require more ruggedness), and preference for one piece. Oh, and let me not forget a major preference for American made (a lot of reasons, but fundamentally it is our lack of making things today that I think has hit our economy the hardest but that is a whole different blog posting). Of course, I am only window shopping a the time, more as a Christmas plan or something like that.
After looking at major brands available on the rod front I was about to give up and settle for my old favorite, a Shakespeare made Ugly Stik rod. I have some from before and like them in general. Of course they are not made in America, but neither is anything else, at least almost. I have found a company by the name of St Croix that makes an extensive line of rods right here in America. Every combination of action, handle configuration, length and other specifications that I do not even completely understand. The base prices are a bit higher than the base prices of Ugly Stiks, but it is not much gap on some variations within the product lines. I was so ecstatic that I was nearly ready to go with a purchase despite lack of funds anyway, but I did manage to resist – after all I still had not found a reel.
Several companies used to make reels here in the US or even in countries not in the Pacific Asian Rim. However, that is no longer the case. I could list at least eight that now have only sales force teams here in the US and all the manufacturing and it would seem even development is done in the East. I was about to give up and settle for populating my Christmas wish list with some of the former American made brands bait casting reels when I noticed an advertising for a reel claiming it was designed and made American. The company’s name is Ardent, located right in the heartland at St. Louis, Missouri. They make a few spinning reels but mostly seem to be focused on bait casting types. They are also strongly recommended by several anglers who are current and past top tournament winners.
Happy as I can be now and will soon be adding these to my Christmas wish list and passing that around to family and friends who are always asking. For a change it is not armour and probably something they can actually get on a somewhat ready basis.
** – image from some fishing promotion on Facebook, but I am just wishing for a fishing partner that looks like that… 🙂