Back in the 1980s it seemed like you couldn’t flip a magazine page and see an ad with some sort of sales promotion on it. Offers such as, “Send $5” and receive a lure and a hat or 3 lures and a patch, permeated the bass and outdoors magazines of the day, and a lot of us took advantage of those offers from time to time. Looking back, I wish I’d sent off my lunch money more times than I did. Well, in today’s Garcia Rebates 1979 we’re going to look back on one such offer from Garcia Tackle Company at the time.
Both of the ads we’re looking at today came from the March/April issue of Bassmaster Magazine and were placed on opposite sides of the same page. The ads are a bit redundant, but Garcia was a powerhouse back then with little competition. Other than Daiwa, who had recently come out with the Procast series and of course Shimano with their Bantam series, most reels sold to serious bass anglers came from the Swedish company. In fact I’d wager that the sales were at least 7:1 ABU over both Shimano and Daiwa combined – at least in our shop.
Looking at the first ad Garcia is featuring their 2-year-old 5600C Fast-Cast baitcasting reel. This reel would change the face of casting reels for good. The thumb-bar made casting one-handed and since the mid-1990s, no push-button reel has been produced by any manufacturer.
You’ll also notice on this reel that they’ve gone away from the counter-balanced handle and moved on to a power handle. ABU had actually listened to anglers all over the U.S. who were replacing the smaller, one-paddle handles with Gator Grips. I loved these handles for one thing. The distance between paddles was about 3/8 inch more than the Gator Grip. I hated these handles for one thing too. The knobs were hard plastic and any form of worm oil on your hands made them tend to slip off the handle.
Next in the ad is the ever-famous spinning reel made by Mitchell. This reel, the 900, was one of their first skirted-spool reels meant to compete with the Daiwa Silver and Gold series reels that were on the market. If I remember correctly, this reel was the same size as their 300 and if you look at the bail, you’ll see this reel takes up line backwards from all other reels on the market. This was one reason I was not a fan of Mitchell.
The main thing about this ad is the rebate offered for their tackle. $5, $3 and $2 may not seem like much of a discount today but at the time it was roughly a 10% discount on each of their offerings. The casting reels all retailed for around $50, the spinning reels were about $30 and the rods were roughly $20 each. That’s a heck of a discount.
Now let’s turn the page.
You may have thought ABU was only willing to give a break on a couple reels and rods, but turning the page you see they’re essentially offering this discount on several of their reels – and high-dollar ones at that. Here they’re featuring the 4600C Fast-Cast, the skinnier version of their 5600C, the 1500C finesse reel, the 4500C and the 5500C, all with a $5 off rebate from the factory. How I’d love to have a couple dozen of these reels today for the price of $45 each, in the box brand new.
For example, that 1500C sells all day long today for a minimum of $150 and that’s a reel worn well. If you have the box, and its contents, you’re talking about north of $500, maybe even $1,000. The other reels don’t command as much but pristine 4500Cs, 5500Cs and 4600Cs will garner upwards of $100 and more if you have the box.
In this same ad, Garcia is also offering two more skirted-spool Mitchell spinning reels, the 906/907 and the 908/909. These were equivalent of the 306/307 and 308/309 reels of yesteryear. Take a look at these bails and you’ll notice that they spin the right way. Why Mitchell made reels that took up line in two different directions has always baffled me.
Anyway, the rebates offered on this page are the same as the prior page, essentially giving the prospective customer a 10% discount.
ABU-Garcia would continue to have the market in the palm of its hand through the mid-1980s, not because of deals like this but because they simply made outstanding reels. They were angler-tested and proven to take the harshest abuse. Parts were easy to come by if needed and every tackle shop worth their Jelly Worms worked on them.
The other thing that kept ABU-Garcia at the top, I feel, was a mistrust for Japanese-made products. The main demographic of the angler buying reels at this time was the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War era veterans. They flat didn’t trust anything made from “Japanese beer cans.”
But as time wore on, more anglers started looking into Shimano and Daiwa products. To cover this, ABU-Garcia produced a reel called the Ultra Mag series of reels. Magnetic braking and what appeared to be a low-profile body. I purchased two of these reels when they were first introduced and relegated them to my box of reels I never used. I’ll dive deeper into those reels some other time.
By the mid-1990s, ABU-Garcia was on its heals, with Shimano and Daiwa now fighting for the number-one spot in casting and spinning reels.
You really see this in the collector community. Avid ABU collectors only collect the reels made prior to 1982. Reels produced after that draw a bit of attention but nothing close to the reels of the 1970s and before. Looking at the reels in these ads and remembering the time when they were new makes me wish I had the foresight to stash a bunch of them. But, more so, I wish ABU had continued innovating rather than resting on their laurels through the 80s and 90s.