What Color is Your Rainsuit?

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Right now, if you want to spend $80,000 on the bass boat of your dreams, you’re probably going to have to wait an unusually long time for it.

If you’re looking to drop $2,700 on a trolling motor, get in line, bud. They’re flying off the shelves faster than Minn Kota can make them.

Fewer and fewer people are resisting the allure of a $16 bladed jig.

To the extent that the fishing business is in any way a reflection of the larger economy, it’s showing that we are living in boom times. Other indicators seem to offer evidence of the same – the stock market is sky-high, unemployment is historically low, and while interest rates may be rising slightly, they’re still exceptionally low and it seems like anyone who can fog a mirror can get some credit.

The “Dow 100,000” folks may disagree, but the economy can’t go skyward forever. I hope that I’m wrong, but it seems inevitable that at some point we will have a “correction” or a “swoon” or a “recession.” Why? I’m not fully qualified or authorized to discuss politics or economic theory in this space, but if you look at the history of the last century, it’s rare that we go more than a decade without any sort of reversal.

So where does that leave the fishing industry? 

I’m worried, not because I have anything against $80,000 bass boats, $16 bladed jigs or $9 tungsten weights, but rather because the boom feels too unfettered and too lacking in any sort of self-awareness. While Americans may overall be more cautious about their economic fates than we were prior to the downturn that started in 2007, I’m not sure that extends to the bass fishing world. We’re conditioned to have short memories – forget about that big fish you lost and go on to the next bite – and that can be dangerous. I don’t know that we’re in the Pets.com or no-interest-mortgage zone yet, but clearly we are expanding our footprint. How many rod companies do we need? How many soft plastic makers? How many fully-sponsored “tour level” pros with a yearly memo boat, a family that accompanies them on the road and a jacked up truck with all of the options?

Once again, I’m not hoping for gloom and doom – and I’m sorry if you feel like I’m spitting in your Cheerios – but my sincerest hope is that people in the industry aren’t enjoying the boom times without regard to the laws of economic gravity. We saw through the recent Maurice Sport Goods debacle a short time ago, the fates of lots of industry members hinge upon very thin connectors. Some came through that struggle ok, while others had to scrap their business plans completely – and it wasn’t always the players you’d expect.

Now think about what would’ve happened if the Maurice situation had occurred when gas prices were above $3 a gallon, or after a 2,000 point Dow Jones drop. The results would be much more dire. This is the time when as individuals, as companies and as an industry we need to be strategizing to hedge against any forthcoming downturn. It may not be as fun as electing to upsize your graphs or build a new manufacturing plant, but it will matter more in 5, 10 or 20 years.