Merwin: Consolidated Tackle

Jim in Mo, a new reader here, asked over the weekend if I knew that Stren and Trilene (fishing line) were both owned by the same company and if I thought the two brands would still be allowed to compete.

Yes, and yes. Actually the Stren brand was bought by Pure Fishing quite a few years ago, which put two formerly arch competitors under the same roof. That said, Trilene is still Trilene, and Stren is still Stren in that they look and feel differently in fishing, each with its own loyal following. It does seem, though, that they don't compete against one another as viciously as they used to.

Which brings up the whole question of consolidation in the fishing-tackle industry. Pure Fishing, which began as Berkley, acquired a whole bunch of brands such as Abu Garcia, Mitchell, Stren, and SpiderWire over the past 20 years. That ensemble was recently acquired by Jarden, which owns K-2 skis and Coleman, among other things, and at about the same time acquired Shakespeare fishing tackle.

There are other examples. Rapala (Normark Corp.) recently bought Luhr-Jensen, the northwestern lure-maker. Zebco Brands (W.C. Bradley) now owns both Fin-Nor and Van Staal, which are a far cry from inexpensive push-button reels. And as our economy continues to head south, I think the pace of consolidation will increase.

If that's what it takes for a good old brand and product line to survive, then I guess consolidation is a good thing. But I also think that consolidation tends to stifle innovation, in which case we as the angling public are the losers.