By Louie Stout
If you’ve been to a tackle retailer and found it difficult to find what you need, you’re not alone.
Fishing tackle shortages are commonplace, whether it’s at your national discount store or the smaller local retailer.
It’s another aftereffect of the coronavirus. While tackle factory employees were quarantined at home, the public – furloughed from their jobs – took to fishing.
“When the quarantine went into place and you could go fishing, there were hundreds of people in our community – people who hadn’t fished before – took up fishing and liked it,” said Brendon Sutter of the Tackle Shack in Middlebury. “Meanwhile, the factories and supply chains were shut down.”
Many tackle manufacturers are back in business but they haven’t been able to keep up with the backlog of orders.
“We’ve had 165 rods from Lew’s backordered since March,” said Jim Housman of the Tackle Box in North Webster, Ind. “We’re told we might see them in September, which is really too late in the season.”
Steven Szymczak of Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg says everything – from small terminal tackle to lures and fishing line - is in short supply.
“It’s trickling in but in limited quantities,” he said. “We tell our customers they better jump on it when it arrives.”
It’s been a double edge sword for retailers. Despite the tackle shortages, they’re having one of their best-selling years in a long time.
All of those interviewed say they’re getting customers coming to them because Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods were sold out of essentials. That’s created business that they normally wouldn’t have gotten.
“I think most independent tackle dealers are having great years but we’re all wondering how much greater it could have been if we could have gotten more of the product customers want and need,” said Sutter. “Sadly, we are turning customers away daily who want products that we are out of.”
The pipeline is in short supply of hooks, and sinkers and entry level rod and reel combos. While dealers still maintain some lures, the more popular colors and sizes have been hard to get.
“We still have tackle to sell and we’re online buying up whatever we can from a variety of wholesalers every day,” said Szymczak. “It seems to be the major brands that are hardest to get.”
A lot of the tackle, especially fishing rods, are made in China where the virus impacted manufacturing before it caused U.S. shutdowns.
“Rods are the No. 1 problem because those were premade and shipped from China in containers,” said Szymczak. “Those sold quickly and it’s hard to get more.”
Livebait sales have been brisk but the suppliers seem to be keeping up with it. However, there are rumors of a pending nightcrawler shortage because they come from Canada.
Bonnie Kelley of Kelley’s Bait in Lakeville might be the exception to the limited inventory.
When she placed her order at a wholesale show last year, she bought more inventory for this season than she had ever purchased.
“When I came home I was kicking myself for buying so much but now I’m glad I did,” she said. “I guess the Lord was looking after me back then, and because of it, I’m sitting pretty.”
Most experts speculate the supply chain will fill up this fall, but that may be too late for the summer selling season.
Ken Duke, editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer, a trade publication, says when manufacturers catch up with one seasonal order, they fall behind with other timely seasonal orders.
“I imagine the supply line won’t be caught up until the fishing season is over throughout most of the country,” he noted.
In other words, if you see something you like, buy it. It’s probably not going on sale and it may not be there the next time you’re in that store.