Made In The U.S.A.

Catching American-Made Fish with American-Made Fishing Tackle

In Adventures on March 14, 2009 at 12:58 am

My fishing buddy, Henry, was in town this afternoon to make a stop at Bass Pro. I went to visit him and scope out a bit of pre-season fishing info. Not so much about the fishing, but more about what my options will be when it comes time to buy American-made fishing gear.

Part of the fun of fishing, presumably like part of the fun of golf or photography or woodworking or whatever, is buying the stuff that facilitates your hobby. New rods and reels and baits are “necessary” to catch fish year after year. One thing’s for sure about a good bait: it may not catch fish, but it will definitely catch fishermen.

Here’s what I now know about American-made fishing tackle:

1. Reels. Based on previous encounters, I happen to know that the only American-made option I have for fishing reels (at least, for the general type of baitcast reels us bass fishermen use) is the Ardent brand. Made in Missouri, in fact, so for me it’s pretty darn local. (I first learned about Ardent last year when I discussed a potential editorial portrait of the president of the company, a chap who apparently knew little about fishing but a lot about marketing–and he saw a giant void in the market that he could fill. That void? American-made fishing reels. A niche product for a target demographic to whom that sort of thing is particularly important.) I assume I will buy an Ardent reel this year. Though I could buy a decent reel at BPS any day for $50 or $80, with Ardent the options are limited. Hopefully the products are in fact superior, because that will make it easier to buy the $249 Ardent XS1000.

2. Rods. There are some options for American-made fishing rods. The ones I’m most familiar with are St. Croix (though not all of their rods are MITUSA) and the aptly named American Rodsmiths which, apparently, makes about 80% of their product in the US. (I might suggest a name change to “Eighty Percent American Rodsmiths.”) There’s also Falcon, which I know makes American rods. All of theirs might be MITUSA, in fact. Razr and presumably many other boutique makers of which I’m as yet unaware offer nice handmade and usually expensive rods too. I suppose if I buy a reel I’d better buy a rod. This daydreaming is already costing me about $300. Yikes.

3. Boats. I don’t need a boat. I don’t particularly want a boat. That’s good because I don’t see too many MITUSA fishing boat options. I’ve searched a few directories and more than one vendor web site, and the only one I can verify to be MITUSA is Ranger. Come to think of it, I can’t officially verify it because I haven’t seen the huge MADE IN THE USA stamp on the company’s marketing materials that most manufacturers of American-made stuff stick all over their marketing stuff. But I know they’re based in, and build custom boats from, the wonderfully named town of Flippin, Arkansas. Maybe they also import from the third world?

4. Baits. You’ve got crankbaits and spinnerbaits and soft plastic baits and live baits. Just about anything you can put a hook in or on can be used as a bass bait. I spent a good bit of time today checking out crankbaits for MITUSA status. It took a half-dozen brand checks before I found one with a single MITUSA bait. Rebel makes some of their baits on American soil, but many were also imported–and I couldn’t really determine a line of distinction for what or why. My interest was piqued by the Arbogast lure company who proudly proclaimed that their baits were “Designed and tested in the USA.” But there was a Made In China sticker not far from that on the packaging. Several other searches revealed Mexico, El Salvador, China and Japan as popular destinations for crankbait assembly. I bought two Mann’s crankbaits because they’re baits I’ve always liked and because they’re MITUSA. Generally, though, I think it might be a thin year for the buying part of my fishing hobby. (The soft plastic baits I glanced at were generally Made In The USA, so I’m less concerned about finding options there. I wonder what’s the distinction between hard plastic baits being built overseas, but soft plastic baits being built here?)

5. Fishing Line. I’ve never heard of it, but McCoy’s fishing line is apparently “the best Made in America.” That’s a good start. But what about Trilene and Spiderwire and the other names I’m more familiar with? Shakespeare makes at least some American lines. Looks like Berkeley (Trilene) does too. It’s so hard to tell because I gather that many of these–and general tackle makers–source different items from different locales. Almost no one, it would appear, makes a complete product line in the US of A. Or if they do, they sure don’t market it very well. The easiest approach, I think, is going to be to check the boxes when I’m in a store and ready to buy. It looks like I’ll have at least a few options available.

No matter how much I spend, though, or where the stuff’s from, I still probably won’t catch any fish.

But I will love every single minute of it.


mann's crankbait

  1. i like yor article and american made fishing gear is inportant to me also. if you are looking for great fishing line look at Viscous fishing line made in usa. also i only fish grandt fishing rods found at they are great, reliable rods made by about 15 guys in illinois. i have met the owner and his wife and they are very nice people. i have fished one of ardents reels and the anti reverse didnt even last me one season so i will need to find another company now that penn has sold out.

  2. Check out, also made in the U.S.A and offer a lifetime warranty.

  3. 100% of Falls Bait Company’s product line is manufactured and packaged right in Wisconsin.

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