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American Made, the American Way??? Not Really

Life is good in America despite the fact a lot of manufactures have turned
their back on American labor in favor of producing goods that yield more
corporate profits. When consumes buy products based solely on price,
American made goods typically take it on the chin.
By Mark Romanack

As Americans we can be a fickle lot. Look at our track record when it comes to politics if you need evidence of our fence setting tendencies! We the blue bloods of the heartland are prone to promoting slogans like “Buy American”, but when we get to the cash register a whole new idealism is spawned. Excuse the continued pun, but as fishermen we often talk out one gill cover and then react differently out the other.

The “Buy American” axiom is just one good example of that truism. A lot of fishing tackle and marine accessories are made over seas, but if you look close there are a significant amount of companies based right here in the USA that pride themselves on designing, manufacturing and selling their products in the US of A.

The one thing that most of these companies who produce their goods domestically have in common is the hurdle of pricing. American made goods tend to cost more because American labor and the other costs associated with manufacturing cost more. This is the primary reason so many brands produce their products overseas.

As consumers we Americans are surprisingly motivated by price. When two seemingly similar products are compared on the store shelf, the one that costs the least is typically the one that gets purchased. Because working in the fishing tackle industry requires me to be actively involved in the retailing portion of the business, I see this happening almost on a daily basis.

It’s very frustrating to see “American Made” products passed over in favor of other less expensive products. Often the amount of money we’re talking about here is insignificant, but still given the opportunity to buy American or to buy the cheapest priced item, the end result is painfully obvious.

Yakima Spin-n-Glo
I think that anglers would look differently at the cost of a product if they knew how much goes into producing these items. Case in point, I was recently at the Yakima Bait factory in Granger, Washington. I had the opportunity to see their staff manufacturing a common fishing lure known as the Spin n Glo. 

These winged foam floats cost about .99 cents each. What opened my eyes is the process of building one Spin n Glo is amazingly labor intensive. These foam float start out as powder that must be molded into the correct shape. Next these floats are painted by hand, details like dots, eyes and blazes are hand painted into place and a clear sealing coat is sprayed on.

The Spin n Glo at this point is starting to take shape, but it’s no where near finished yet. After painting the body is cut and the wings installed and trimmed to precision. A cap is glued in place and also painted and clear coated. 

Finally the water ready Spin n Glo goes to packaging and then on to a warehouse where they remain until a retail store places an order. Start to finish more than a dozen people handle every Spin n Glo before it gets tied onto your fishing line. All that for .99 each, makes the Spin n Glo a bargain considering every step of that process is conducted on American soil by American workers!

The Spin n Glo is just one example of fishing tackle and marine products that are made here at home by hard working folks. High end items like rod holders are no less labor intensive.

Cisco Fishing Systems
Cradle Rod Holder
The Cisco Fishing Systems plant in Cleveland, Ohio produces every one of their rod holders, track and fishing accessories on site. Not only are these products made in America, even the aluminum used in the manufacturing process is made in America! 

Obviously, machined aluminum rod holders produced by Cisco Fishing Systems cost a lot more than the plastic molded products coming out of China and the like. There is little question that the Cisco product is better, but still there are fishermen out there who won’t part with their hard earned money even though other hard working Americans made that product from start to finish!

Our oldest sponsor is Off Shore Tackle and I’ve represented their products for over 30 years. Their company slogan “The Leaders in Trolling Technology” says it all as these guys have been making trolling products longer than anyone else. Period.

Because Off Shore Tackle is aggressive in their advertising and marketing efforts, it’s widely believed that the trolling market is bigger than it really is. This belief has lead to numerous “copy cat”  products aimed at taking a piece of the market. 

Off Shore Tackle
OR12 Planer Board
Some of the competition Off Shore faces comes from the USA and that competition is regarded with respect. “Competition forces our company to produce new and better products,” says company spokes person Nick DeShano. “Off Shore Tackle has always viewed competition as a positive part of doing business.”

When competition comes from other companies with similar labor and manufacturing expenses, the sting is justified as being part of doing business. Unfortunately, a lot of companies these days aren’t manufacturing anything. Instead they “private label” products built by Chinese firms that specialize in creating “knock offs” aimed at targeting specific markets instead of developing new markets. 

The kind of competition that comes from private labeling efforts is especially hard to accept when it comes to turning the other cheek. Private labeling is driven mostly by mass merchants, but there are also well established brands that look at private labeling as an inexpensive way to get into markets they know little about.

Maxima Fishing Line
The next best thing to buying products made in America are buying products that are marketed in America, by American business interests. The Maxima Line Company is a good example of this. Maxima Line is made in Germany, but Maxima USA is a Portland, Oregon based firm that markets this line exclusively in the United States. Made up of a group of American sales representatives, similar arrangements occur at Salmo, Rapala and other big fishing tackle brands. 

All of this would be overwhelmingly frustrating if it weren’t for one simple point. As Americans we have the right to choose. Those choices can be in the places we live, the way we raise our families, the church we attend and who we vote for. Thankfully, that choice can also be extended to include the products we buy, use and recommend to others.

Instead of buying the product that’s less expensive, maybe as Americans we need to become better educated as to who is making what and start buying American products or American marketed products whenever practical? We all know that it’s impossible to survive these days without buying some imported goods, but taking an active approach to actually seeking out American goods would be refreshing. The job you save by buying American may not be yours, but it may well be someone you know  or maybe even fish with.