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By Louie Stout

Louie StoutLouie StoutIf you see fishing tackle or boating equipment you think you might want this year, buy it now.

It may not be available this summer.

Retailers in Michiana and around the country - both boat and tackle – are finding the supply pipeline extremely tight and expect it to remain that way throughout most of the summer.

“If you thought last year was bad, this year could even be worse,” said Steven Szymczak of Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg, Mich.

Call it the perfect storm. The pandemic caused factories to shut down last spring and by the time they opened, they were far behind. Couple that with a soaring interest in fishing and boating, and the demand went through the roof.

To make matters worse, several components or products made overseas have been hung up in shipping issues due to the pandemic.

Area retailers ordered heavily last winter and those goods are trickling in. The shelves are filling up – kinda - for now.

“We’re told it’s going to be as bad if not worse than last year,” said Jim Housman of the Tackle Box in North Webster, Ind. “Whatever we can get our hands on, we’re buying it. Even panfish tackle is tough for us to get.”

Boat companies scrambling to meet the increased interest were hit with a double whammy when last winter’s freeze in Texas shut down major plants that supply foam for seats and glue. That’s caused additional delays in boat shipments.

Like Housman and Szymczak, Ken Vandervest of D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo said his store is in pretty good shape at the moment because he geared up in advance.

“But,” he added, “we’re still running out and the supplies available are dwindling. We had a good stock of electronics but they are selling so fast it’s hard to keep them in stock.”

Rods, reels hooks and sinkers have been the most difficult for retailers to obtain.

How long will the inventory crunch last?

“We expect to have these issues throughout the year and maybe into next year,” said Szymczak, who says he’s scouring on-line supplier sites everyday buying up whatever he can find. “We’re telling our customers, if you see something you want, buy it now. It may not be there tomorrow.”
Boats and equipment

And if you’re thinking about ordering a new boat, don’t expect it to arrive very quickly. Some dealers report orders are 2 to 3 months out.

“I’ve been in business for 30 years and have never seen anything like it,” said Todd Moore of Moore Boats in Ligonier, Ind. “Inventories are way down on both used and new boats; I ordered new boats in August and still don’t have them.”

Jeff Uetrecht of Lake Drive Marine says he’s been doing this for 35 years and never seen such a mess.

“It’s mind-boggling that with the size of some of these companies they let their businesses be caught up in this,” he said. “We had a great year last year and thought we would really rock this year, only to find out there’s very little inventory.”

All of the boat dealers interviewed said they have a few boats but not the numbers they’re accustomed of having this time of year.

“Fiberglass (boat supply) is decent but slow in coming in,” he said. “However, Lund was sold out in December and we can’t even get jon boats. Mercury motors are out 16 to 24 weeks and Yamaha is further behind, but we have some scratch and dent Yamaha motors in stock.”

Vandervest said that Tracker Marine has told his store – one of the largest Tracker dealers in the country – that it would take no more orders for pontoons and some aluminum boats.

“They are sold out of some models for the year,” he said. “You can still get some, but many are sold out.”
Forget about prices falling

Don’t look for retailers to offer any special deals or sales. With a bleak supply forecast for this summer, they’re reluctant to put anything on sale.

And the prices might not ever get better. Several manufacturers are reporting price increases in everything from tackle to boats and motors and all the accessories that go with them.