Big Fly Rod Maker Finally Blinks – Winston at Cabela’s

| October 17, 2010

Say it ain’t so Joe! I visited Cabela’s Fort Worth, Texas, last week, and took my usual round in the fly fishing garage, looking for the simple things – brass eyes for saltwater flies, and looking for anything new and exciting to report to readers. I think I may have found something, just not what I was looking for.

If you watch the fly fishing industry you know there are a couple of shows that happen every year, where manufacturers of everything fly float new products designed to make us hate our worthless new gear, and upgrade to the latest, greatest and newest. Reams have been written on the state of these trade shows, one is on the ropes, and eyewitness descriptions say things like “miles of carpet” to describe the lack of attendance.

There’s so much written about the industry, the two competing shows, and the state of retail fly fishing, that I myself blinked, and decided to send you, the faithful, outward to read for yourself. (There are several more links on this topic at the bottom of the post, so for a complete overdose – check those out.) It seems, these days, when any industry is widely effected, shaken, and stirred, the first reaction is; What? Us? We’re way too good for that. We are fine, and we have our “Core Business” that will never go away. Why? Well, because we’re good, that’s why.
Then, reality begins to set in, and press releases begin to mention “challenges,” and “going forward,” and “unexpected,” and the dreaded “leaner more efficient.” Very quickly, what I call super reality sets in; “combining operations, closing, trimming the workforce, acquisition, austerity measures,” and now we have a new one – “going big box.” Companies with nearly one-hundred years of experience now find themselves thrust into 21st. century paradigms.

How could anyone connected to reality not see this coming? Sure, Winston held out the longest, but did anyone really think the road would go on forever, and the party never ends? The word from inside Cabela’s is that this may be the tip of the Winston iceberg, and that Cabela’s will carry the BIIx, BIImx and yet to be released BIII.

What are the mom-and-pops (MAP’s) to do? Reams have been written about this as well, but I still contend the number one thing MAP’s offer is knowledge. They can and should be counted on to give us something to go on, and we should always return the favor by paying their price on something, anything, every time we darken their doorsteps. That may be a tall order, but what is good information worth to you?

Sure, there are plenty of knowledgeable sales people at the big boxes, and they are plenty friendly (at least locally). Given the choice of a fly rod for $700. at Cabela’s or Tailwaters Dallas, where do we go? I think it’s a simple to answer the question with another question; who needs us the most? If we think Cabela’s (Symbol CAB on the NYSE) needs all our cereal box-tops, then by all means – meet them at the register with your new rod in a fresh new tube. If we think our MAP is more appreciative of our business, more in need of our patronage, then by all means tell them I sent you!

What about ordering online? To say things are “fierce” in retail is a bit of an understatement. There is little doubt that big boxes have the manpower, technology and buying power to fill our orders with no delay. On the other hand, do we go out of state to MAP’s to save sales tax and deal with the shipping? Sales tax on a $700. fly rod is about $55. Shipping could run as much as $15., so the math will almost always favor interstate commerce – at least until Obama taps into a new revenue stream. Personally, I live 45-miles from my nearest MAP, and the near death experiences in Dallas traffic, the gas cost, are factors that completely stop me from purchasing things like fly tying supplies locally (big box or MAP). It gets even more complicated when our local MAP’s go online with new stores, entering the blood sport of online fly fishing gear sales. People are ordering from them out-of-state (to avoid sales tax), so why shouldn’t we return the “favor?” And it’s tempting, for even a small-ish startup site like Texas Fly Caster to dabble in online sales of hard to find fly related items.

What are we to do? The final answer lies with each individual, and an old quaint concept, one that seems to be completely exhausted and on the brink of extinction. That concept would be wrapped in a word called “loyalty.” We all have our bargains to seek, be it Craigslist, E-Bay or elsewhere. When all things are equal, where does your loyalty lie?

Fly Fishing Show Denver, CO
American Fly Fishing Trade Association Show
Angling Trade Magazine
Trout Underground Article
Cabela’s To Carry Winston Rods

We now return you to our regularly scheduled fly fishing extravaganzas. Please forgive us for the interruption!

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Category: Equipment, Fly Rods, Industry

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

Comments (2)

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  1. shannon says:

    It’s hard to tell who you may be dealing with at Craigslist. Some real irresponsible people who may not even have what they advertise! Let all buyers beware.

  2. shannon says:

    For those of you reading along – TFC’s left and right column contain advertisements for Fly Fish Express, NRS and Wildfly. If you click through and order from them within 30 days (cookie) of clicking through, yes, TFC gets a cut. That cut goes to defray the costs of bringing you priceless content and … dare I say, knowledge. If anyone else would like to advertise related products and / or outlets, TFC’s door is always open. Thanks for reading!

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