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Bassin' bailout?

12/3/2008

I've been following the mega-trillion-dollar bailout mess on Wall Street for the past couple of months and been pretty frustrated from the first report of the sky falling. As near as I can tell, due to other people's greed and lack of management/business/common sense I, the American taxpayer, will be bending further over so that financial giants can pay their top execs multi-zillion dollar bonuses for what? Screwing up the companies they were supposed to be running? Since when do you get a bonus for sinking the ship, Captain Ahab? Get your ass in the lifeboat — the one with the leak in it.

So here I am (we are) stuck with this huge bailout bill that we may, or may not, be reimbursed for some time in the future. I understand that if our government hadn't stepped in, the sky could have really fallen down around our heads. No, I wouldn't want that to happen. But ... do you think they (whoever they are) would have made that mistake again if we'd let their little fingers get burned?

Enough of that, it's done — or being done. Financial giants are trying to get a piece of the bailout pie, home mortgage agencies, even the auto makers want some help for their bottom lines. Now if the oil companies try to get in on the act... that's wrong. So all this bailing out and shoring up the economy got me to wondering; who's going to bail out the ailing fishing industry?

That's right; times are tough in the fishing industry too. Been to your local tackle store lately? Probably not as many of you have been or been there as much as you have in years past. It is amazing what $4- and $5-per-gallon gas will do that to a man. It makes it hard to buy a pack of Zoom worms, much less a new BassCat. I hope your local tackle store still has the door open.

For many companies in the tackle industry, this past season has been one of status quo. A few companies are up (a little), some businesses are flush with the previous year (which is darn good), while most are down — a lot. Those that are up seem to be the ones who are pushing forward with new products, new colors, new whatever they can get. These will be the guys who will be leading the pack on the other side. Those who are cowering in the corner will have a lot of catching up to do, if they make it.

Much of the tackle we fill our boxes with is made from petroleum products. Many of the lure companies are having a hard time holding down their prices down to a level they feel we the buying public will stomach. How much would you pay for a bag of Zoom Speed Craws? Even the bag they're packaged in has doubled in price over the past few years; it's made from natural gas. Don't be surprised if the prices are higher when you make that trip to the tackle store.

The boat/motor portion of the industry is in far worse shape than the tackle industry, in large part because of the higher price tags on their goods. Higher price tags because of higher costs at the manufacturing level. Remember that $4+ a gallon gas? How much of a boat is composed of petroleum products? Resin, gel coat, carpet, vinyl, tires, etc. How much of an outboard? Hoses, cowlings. I seriously doubt that any of the top execs at BassCat (I know all of them, it ain't happening), Mercury, or any of the other boat/motor companies are pulling down multi-zillion-dollar incomes. Some of them are just hoping to keep the doors open until the dark clouds pass.

Here we have an estimated $125 billion annual industry that is in pretty bad shape. Who are you gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters, not the President-elect. Exactly who can a boat manufacturer or a lure manufacturer turn to for a financial bailout in times as tough as these? Their local bank? Probably not; if they could afford the interest. The Federal Government? I don't think so. I can hear it now, "You want bailout money to build a jig-a-what to catch bass with?" Who are you gonna call? No one.

The only bailout for the fishing industry is in the form of our pocketbooks. Yes, our. Regardless of what you've heard or read or been lead to believe, even us bass pros don't get all our stuff for free. None of us. Not even KVD. Oh, he probably pays a lot less over the course of the year than I do, but he still has to buy some things here and there. Me? I've spent a total of $6,338.16 since January 1, 2008. I've been doing my part to shore up the industry.

Gas is now around the $2-per-gallon mark across the country. Hit your local tackle store and buy a crankbait or two. Go fishing.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.