"Made in the U.S.A." is an expression that we can all get behind, and finding the companies that design, build, and sell their fishing gear right here in the America just makes everyone happy. Add to that the fact that these companies were all born, raised, and do business in the U.S., and we've got a big smile on our faces. We certainly don't have the attitude that fishing gear made elsewhere in the world doesn't have a place in our tackle boxes. However, if it doesn't have to be imported, it gives us the feeling that we've tried to do our share to spend our hard-earned money right here at home.
Fishing tackle comes in many forms, from baits, lures, and flies to what we wear while we're using those items. We need good fishing knives, products that keep our skin safe from the sun, and, of course, fishing rods and reels that will last for many years. That all takes us down memory lane to a place where we can share a little of the backstory of these 10 homegrown U.S. fishing companies that are still going strong.
Born in Jackson, Wyoming, in 1980 and since relocated to Bozeman, Montana, Simms has a long history of getting anglers on the water and, more specifically, in the water with their long line of vaunted fishing waders. When John Simms founded the company, he was one of the first worldwide to introduce neoprene waders to fishermen—and the rest is history.
Today, Simms continues to be a leader in the market when it comes to manufacturing premier technical fishing apparel, footwear, and equipment. Anglers are keen to note that Simms introduced breathable waders in partnership with W.L. Gore & Associates (makers of the vaunted Gore-Tex fabric we all know and love) to give wading fishermen the newest and lightest wading gear available.
In the late 1920s, Drew McGill and Stan Wright formed the Wright & McGill Co., the innovative hook making company that is now what we know as Eagle Claw. As it was, Drew McGill was fishing the Colorado River all those years ago and chanced to notice how easily the local eagles could grab fish and carry them away. Once he began to bend the shanks of his own hooks to resemble that of the eagle's talons, he found that they penetrated incredibly well—and that was that, as they say.
Today, its product line currently features over 1,500 items such as fishing line, floats, swivels, sinkers, nets, scales, fishing tools, and many other accessories, especially its excellent line of fish hooks.
J.C. Axelson started AFTCO in 1958, with the acronym standing for the Axelson Fishing Tackle Co. But somewhere along the way, anglers the world over began to mistake it to mean the American Fishing Tackle Company—so much so, and to the company's delight, that AFTCO embraced it and officially registered the American Fishing Tackle Co. with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.
AFTCO is an award-winning company that makes many clothing items for men, women, and children—not to mention a great lineup of fishing tackle such as knives, daypacks, gloves, nets, lines, and much more.
Founded and still based in the Green Mountain State, Orvis has called Vermont home since the mid-1800s, and it's never looked back. Ever since Charles F. Orvis founded the Orvis Co., it has been known as the first name in fly fishing to anyone who has had the pleasure of wetting a fly.
While it has been privately owned by the Perkins family since 1965, Orvis is still headquartered in the southwestern part of Vermont with other operations in both Virginia and the UK. Orvis offers a vast line of fishing gear, but that's not all. It also offers products for hiking, hunting, traveling, and walking, and it also has an excellent line of dog supplies.
The Shakespeare Co. (which is now a subsidiary of Pure Fishing) was founded at the turn of the century in Kalamazoo, Michigan, around 1897. Inventor and fisherman William Shakespeare Jr., whose name may remind you of the fabled playwright, began to make level wind reels and was one of the first manufacturers of fiberglass fishing rods.
The Shakespeare Co. moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1970. And by now, you've heard of one of its most famous products, the Ugly Stick fishing rod. Add to that its amazing line of kids' rod and reel combos, and you will find that Shakespeare leads the way in getting kids out on the water.
In 1932, Otto Henze left the Ocean City Reels Co. and started his own fishing reel company, which he then called the Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Co., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since avid saltwater charter captains had the need for bigger and better saltwater reels that could stand up to the rigors of deep-sea fishing, it wasn't long before Henze had them in their hands.
It was in the 1950s—after his wife, Martha, had taken over the company following his death—that Penn reels began to set and break IGFA saltwater fishing records. Penn models reels now hold over 1,400 IGFA world records and counting, while the company continues to manufacture rods and reels for both professional anglers and the everyday fisherman.
St. Croix Rods
For many of us, St. Croix brand fishing rods were some of the first that made us drool on our catalogs. When brothers Bob and Bill Johnson started St. Croix Rods in 1948 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they probably had hoped that their excellent fishing rods would create such a stir—and they were right.
Now, St. Croix lists some 97 rods on its website, from tournament bass and walleye fishing to salmon and steelhead rods, all the way to legendary muskie rods that are some of the best in the world.
Back in Spirit Lake, Iowa, in 1937, a very young Berkley Bedell started a homespun business selling his hand-tied flies to fishing tackle shops and vacationing anglers around the area. With a little luck and the blessing of the Dupont Co., Berkley began to produce their own nylon for fishing line; and before long, one of the most iconic fishing line brands was born: Berkley Trilene.
Berkley is now one of the leading makers of soft plastic baits that anglers just can't get enough of, including the PowerBait and Gulp! series. Bass anglers everywhere now count on this brand like no other to catch fish.
It seems as if we've all had one of those bulky and ignominious metal tackle boxes at least once in our lives. But as far back as 1952, when Plano founder Pete Henning created the brand name, he was already onto something when he revolutionized the fishing tackle industry with the first molded-plastic tackle box. Now, when we hear the Plano name mentioned in fishing circles, it's like hearing from an old friend.
Plano is now one of the world leaders in storage for everything from rods and reels to every single lure and bait that we use. And if you didn't know, Plano also makes a great line of rifle and shotgun cases, along with storage for your favorite bow.
1952 seemed to be a good year for fishing tackle—and it was then in Kent, Washington, that a small group of Seattle businessmen and avid fly fishing enthusiasts formed a fishing rod company using the new fiberglass blanks that so many would turn to in those days as a great way of giving anglers the most updated rods they could get.
But it was in 1973 that everything changed, as Fenwick offered up the first High Modulus Graphite rod, and fishing has never been the same. By now, most modern bass anglers are familiar with both the Fenwick Flippin Stick and the rod that couldn't get into enough bass fishermen's hands: the Lunker Stick.
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