“Man, bass fishing was real cheap back in tha’ day. Prices have just gone completely out of sight so that a guy can’t even afford to fish anymore.”
How many times have you heard that? I’ve heard it a lot lately. Thought about it a lot lately. Wondered if bass fishing really was that cheap back in “tha’ day”. I don’t think it was and here’s what got me to thinking that way.
I found a reel that my Dad bought sometime in the mid 70’s. It’s an Ambassadeur 5500C, which was a top of the line reel in the mid 70’s. I asked the Fossil (that’s what we call the man and he’s cool with it, he’s 85 years young, btw) how much he paid for it. $59.99 plus tax. He said he didn’t remember the year, maybe ’74 or ’75, but he bought it from Blass Department Store and it was the most he had ever spent on a reel in his 85 years. He said he thought he was crazy as he handed the clerk a Benjamin to pay for the thing. Of course, over the next few years, we wound up with a boat load of 5000 and 5500’s, but that first one was a real kick in the gut.
As I’m looking at this $60 reel, that’s still in great working order, I’m thinking to myself holy crap, how much would 60 bucks buy back in 1975? Luckily for us, we’ve got the internet(s) and I also have a friend in the tackle biz that is a hoarder of sorts. Let’s start with the minimum wage and household income. I’m going to work with 1977 data, for reasons that will become clear in a few paragraphs. Just keep reading.
The U.S. minimum wage in ’77 was $2.20 an hour. Google it.
Median household income in 1977 was $12,188. (http://www.davemanuel.com/median-household-income.php)
A gallon of gas was somewhere around $0.65. Again, Google.
An Ambassadeur 5500C in the 1977 Bass Pro Shops catalogue was Item # 302-456 and the price was $52.99. I know this because my hoarder buddy Al sent me the catalogue.
Now, let’s compare that to today.
The 2010 minimum wage was $7.25 (higher in some states, as the Feds passed a law allowing states to set their own wage minimum).
Median household income was $48,753.
A gallon of gas - $3.18.
The closest reel I can find to the 5500C is an Abu Garcia 5600BCX that sells for $59.99 at, you guessed it, the Bass Pro Shops.
What do all these numbers mean? We can break them down a couple of ways. In 1977, it would take you 24 hours, or three eight-hour work days (at minimum wage) to buy that 5500C reel. In 2010, it would take just over 8 hours to buy a comparable reel. How’s that for blowing a hole right through the “cheaper back in tha’ day” myth? That’s the beauty of numbers; you can manipulate and massage and mold those little suckers into whatever shape you want them to be. Just another reason not to look a bean counter in the eye.
But, but, but,… K-Pink, you’re not comparing apples to apples, is what you’re thinking. You’re comparing a top of the line ’77 reel to a bottom dweller in 2011.
I’ll give you that one, but… will today’s $59 dollar reel not do the same job as that 35 year old reel I have in the cabinet? I’m saying today’s reel is a better functioning reel than what we had back in “tha’ day” and here’s why – we want it to be better. Let me throw that back at you again; today’s bassin’ tackle is what it is because we want it to be that way. We don’t want reels that weigh 12 ounces. We don’t want rods that are 5’6” with a pistol grip that weigh 7 ounces. We don’t want 17 foot boats with 85 horse motors. We don’t want to drive a truck that rides like a freakin’ truck.
What we do want is lighter, faster, stronger reels (how about that plug for Lew’s), lighter and more sensitive rods, 20 foot boats with 250’s and all the bells and whistles, and trucks that ride like Cadillac’s. And we want to pay less for it all. Really? You think we’re going to get more for less money? LMAO at you, bro. It just ain’t happening.
I’m saying the issue here isn’t that prices aren’t out of control as much as our creature comfort level is out of line with our buying power. Sure, that whacky blood feud that Shimano/ Daiwa has going on with who can sell the first $1,000 bass reel is out of control. Do you really need a $600 reel to catch 12 inch bass with? Really? Would that Lew’s Speed Spool for $89.99 not winch in that 12 inch whopper just the same? Oh, but K-Pink, that’s too heavy for a reel. Fine. A Lew’s Tournament Pro weighs 6.7 ounces and is several crankbaits less than 2 Benjamin’s. Get you one.
But boats, yeah, it’s the boats that are just out of control, you say. Compared to what? Have you priced a truck lately to pull a boat with? It’s all out of control because we want more, more, more. Leather seats, navigation, 20 inch rims and tires, engines that are quieter and use less fuel. Manufacturers, whether it’s reels, rods, trucks, boats or lures, are trying to building products that we the buyers want to buy. If we would buy trucks like they built in 1977, don’t you think that GM would build them JUST LIKE THAT? Wouldn’t it be cheaper for them to build them JUST LIKE THEY BUILT THEM IN 1977? Would you buy one? Hell no, you wouldn’t, because trucks in 1977 had terrible gas mileage, rode like, like TRUCKS, and just plain sucked compared to what we have today.
Think about this; remember all the small import trucks that appeared on the scene in the mid to late 70’s? Toyota, Datsun (before Nissan), even GM and Ford had small trucks. They all had small four banger motors, were relatively cheap, and the gas mileage was in the mid 20’s range, which was phenomenal compared to the 6-8 mpg we were getting from full sized trucks. They wouldn’t pull themselves out of their own shadow as far as towing was concerned, but they were great for running up and down the road. Whatever happened to those trucks? People quit buying them. We wanted bigger motors in them to pull things with. We wanted bigger tires on them. We wanted fancier interiors, more this, more that, and suddenly they cost just as much as a full sized truck, which today gets @ 20 mpg on the highway. Two words – demand driven.
Another interesting thing I found in the BPS ’77 cat was an advertisement for BassCat Boats. The model shown was a 17 1/2 footer with a 150 Merc that sold for just under $7,000, nicely loaded (for tha’ day), according to Head Cat, Rick Pierce. $7,000 for a boat in 1977. That was over half of the Median Household Income for the year. How does that compare to today’s boat prices? We can put you in a 17’7” BassCat Margay with a Mercury 150 Pro XS, nicely loaded (for today) (http://www.basscat.com/margay.html) for just over half of today’s Median Household Income. How about that? Massaged those numbers around, didn’t I? Is the Margay a top of the line boat? No. Is it comparable to the boat in the ad? No, it’s actually a better riding, better performing, and better built piece of equipment. If you want top of the line, you can drop close to 70 grand on a Jaguar with 11 inch electronics, dual Power-Poles, and bells and whistles out the ying yang. The Jag will ride better and a little faster, but it won’t catch you any more bass than the Margay. Just for the record, there will be wa-a-a-ay more Margay’s built and sold this year than Jag’s. Wa-a-a-ay more.
So what up with this “cheaper back in tha’ day” thing? I’m calling BS on it. Bass fishing is bass fishing. The prices are whatever the market will bear, just as they are for everything else in the world and just as they have always been. The real issue stems from the fact that today we probably don’t have as much disposable income as we had back in “tha’ day”. I’m not sure how to figure it, but I’m thinking that most of what used to be our disposable income is being pumped into the gas tank every week to get us around the block. Cut gas prices in half, which would save most of us several hundred dollars a month, and we can make that new boat payment. We can buy another $300 combo much easier. We can fish a couple of derbies.
$60 for a reel in 1977 was outrageously expensive, just as $400 is for a reel in 2011. If you don’t want to or can’t afford to spend 4 bills for a reel, it’s real (no pun intended) simple – don’t. Get over it. Look around, do some shopping and you’ll find that many manufacturers are building great products for not much more than they cost in 1977. St. Croix has over 37 models priced less than $100 and another 65 models $150 or less. Lew’s has 15 models of baitcasting reels less than $150. In 1977, Bill Norman sold 8 colors in 4 models of crankbaits for $1.39 to $1.49. Today, Norman has 23 different models in 157 different colors that sell for $3.99 – 5.99. 200 yards of 14 pound Trilene XL was $3.99 in 1977. Today, you can buy 330 yards of 14 pound Vicious Ultimate for $6.99.
Bottom line - buy what you can afford, don’t worry about the rest, and go fishing. But don’t think that it was cheaper “back in tha’ day”, because it wasn’t. We just want and expect to get more today – for less. Again, LMAO.
K-Pink – Gone Bassin’