Yesterday we started a look back at the tackle available to the angler in 1945 with Bass Lures 1945. Today in Rods and Reels 1945, we continue down that path. The year 1945 is important to the American angler because of one important event, World War II. Being that it is Memorial Day, let’s also take some time to reflect on those who served, not just in World War II but every other war or conflict we’ve had since the dawn of our country.
Back to the subject at hand.
At this point in time, rods were still made from both split bamboo and steel. Reels were obviously made from metal, and this complicated the manufacturing of those commodities as most metal was dedicated to the war. By 1945, most manufacturing companies had retooled to provide equipment for the war.
One example that can be related to the rod industry is, companies that had manufactured steel rods were then tasked to manufacture communications antennas. Reel companies could have been tasked to cut gears or make other parts for vehicles ranging from Jeeps to airplanes.
Also, important to note is that nearly all military-aged men and some women, were abroad fighting the Axis countries of Germany and Japan. Those left in the states were all working to aid the war fighter in some way. There wasn’t much time to fish, and if you did have the time, you were hard-pressed to find tackle of any sort. What an angler possessed at the time, better be taken care of, for there wouldn’t be any new tackle on the shelves until after the war. This was especially true regarding rods and reels.
The ads we’re showing today all came from the magazine, Sports Afield. They were printed in the March, May, June, July, and August issues. One common thread amongst these ads, which is slightly different from the Bass Lures 1945 piece posted yesterday, is that every single ad mentions each respective company was not manufacturing fishing gear at the time due to their support of the war effort.
What I find amazing about this time is the tackle companies, even though they weren’t producing fishing tackle, were still spending money on advertising. My thoughts on this are they didn’t want to be forgotten and they wanted to show the fishing world they were supporting a due cause. Plus they were making enough money off the government contracts to support paying for ads.
So, let’s look at the ads the rod and reel companies placed in 1945.
Bronson/Coxe Reel Company
During this era, Bronson Reel Company was a major producer of fishing reels for both fresh and saltwater angling. The first ad, featured in the march issue of Sports Afield, states:
Coxe Reels Are Worth Waiting For
The ad also states that since the war, the company had been dedicated to producing materials for the war and they hope the day will soon come when they can get back to producing reels. They also note that they use the same skill producing war products as they invested in making reels. That’s a pretty hefty statement.
The second ad, this time placed in the June issue said the same thing as the prior ad, but they feature a number of different reels and a rod/reel combo.
The July ad offers a promise that the war may be ending soon. The European war had ended in May, and it gave more hope the Pacific war would end soon. Little did they now that all fighting would stop on 2 September 1945.
The Bronson Reel Company started business in 1922 and ran through 1967, when they were purchased by the Tru Temper Corp. Tru Temper manufactured Bronson/Coxe reels into the 1970s until finally closing shop in that same decade. For a nice history of the company, please refer to the Old Reel Collector’s Association.
Gephart MFG. Company
Here’s a rod company I would guess has been lost to history for nearly all anglers today. The ad presented below was in every issue of Sports Afield I have and like the Bronson/Coxe reel ads above, the ad states firmly that Gephart was in full war mode with their production of equipment for WWII.
The ad discusses their Nu-Grip, non-twisting handle and “actionized tip”, whatever that means.
The ad itself, from an artistic standpoint, wouldn’t fly in today’s climate. As a man sits comfortably in the front of the boat, holding a pipe, he watches a damsel in the back of the boat lose control of fighting a bass. The look of panic can be seen in her eyes as the fish jumps behind her.
Montague Rod and Reel Company
Montague Rod and Reel company placed this ad in nearly all of the issues of Sports Afield I have for this year. It’s a scant ad but one that reminds the reader that they’ll be back in business as soon as the war is over.
Montague doesn’t mention anything about steel rods, evidently their material of choice was bamboo.
The ad shows an angler holding one of their rods and reels with a big smile on his face. His hat has a Buy War Bonds button on it and the entire ad is dedicated to the war.
The Enterprise MFG. Company, better known as Pflueger, was one of the biggest tackle companies in the world at the start of the war. Because of this, it’s easy to understand why they’d be asked to support the war effort at the time. And the ads presented below reflect that.
The first of three ads, placed in March 1945, opens with images of draftsmen, machinists, and a rod and reel being held. It simply states in the headline, “Skilled Hands Will Make Good Fishing Better.”
Pflueger is capitalizing on their experience in producing equipment for the war and extrapolating that to their future production of better gear than they’ve ever made. There is a lot to be said about that as new materials and production methods were discovered during the four years of war. In fact, the entire fishing tackle manufacturing community would benefit from this in the coming years.
The ad placed in the May issues of Sports Afield only mentions the war through the Buy More War Bonds slogan. What this ad highlights is the easy takedown of their reels and that each and every angler who owns one of their reels needs to service that reel prior to the season opening. Remember, although the south doesn’t have a season, so to speak, the north does and Pflueger wanted every angler’s reel to operate in tip-top shape.
The final ad, this one placed in the July issue, was selling anglers on their 81-year history in the business. Again, they talk about what it takes to make top-of-the-line fishing gear and that they could wait to get back to that after the war.
By 1945, Shakespeare had been in the business of making fishing gear for 48 years. In the issues of Sports Afield I went through, they placed ads in every issue that consisted of the three ads below. In their first ad, from March 1945, they mention their first big innovation to the baitcasting reel, the levelwind mechanism designed in 1896. They then go on to say they can’t wait to get back into the manufacturing of fishing tackle after the war.
The second ad, placed in the May issue, talks about how anglers appreciate fine craftsmanship of fishing gear. Shakespeare takes a line from the Kentucky reel designers of the 19th-Century, comparing their reels to the precision utilized by those watchmakers of the 1800s.
The final ad, placed in August, presents the Wondereel and how it was the best anti-backlash reel on the market before the war. Shakespeare touts the reel’s popularity as a night fishing reel due to this. No more messing with backlashes at night allowing the angler to concentrate solely on catching the big night lurkers.
I have to say, after nearly another 80 years, there still isn’t an anti-backlash reel on the market and I wonder how many would-be baitcasters bought this reel and were more than disappointed.
One thing I find curious with both this ad campaign and the Pflueger campaign is they don’t mention anywhere their rod lines. Both companies produced several rods in both steel and split bamboo.
Tru Temper, manufactured by American Fork and Hoe Company, was another one of the early companies that produced rods and other fishing-related equipment. It is my understanding that Tru Temper rods were of the highest quality and are still used today by anglers who like to fish the old gear.
Tru Temper placed ads in every issues of Sports Afield that I have and those four different ads are shown below.
There were three different ads that contained casting rods and the remaining ad was a fly rod. Remember, fly rods were as big a part of the bass angler’s equipment as casting rods during this time.
The text for each ad is different but they always talk about the quality of their rapier (sword) steel and the tempering they put it through to construct one of the world’s finest steel rods. I’m telling you, these ads have me wanting to find one of these rods and give it a try. They’re that convincing.
Another subject present in each ad is their unwavering support to the war effort and letting anglers know that they’ll be back in the rod business as soon as the war is over. Like I’ve said repeatedly in this post, these companies did not have to place ads in these magazines, but it shows their commitment to the war and to the angler that they did spend the money to keep anglers abreast of their whereabouts.
With that ends out look at the rods and reels offered in the year 1945. Next, we’re going to cover lines that were available at the time. We’ll see the importance of line was to the war effort as well as a remind that sex sells, even in the 1940s.