Graphite’s too Expensive?

Christmas 1976 Bass Pro Shops ad for the Graphite 96 rod.

Christmas 1976 Bass Pro Shops ad for the Graphite 96 rod.

About a year ago we posted a piece here on the Bass Fishing Archives regarding the “new” graphite rods that were just appearing in tackle store rod racks in the 1974 time frame. In that article we mentioned that Fenwick was the company introducing the new material and that the cost of these new space-age rods would be around the $150 price point. In today’s dinero, that’s roughly $700.

Well, as with most new things, someone else gets on the bandwagon, finds a way to make it for less and then the competition begins. That’s exactly what happened.

By 1976, companies like Skyline, Heddon and even Bass Pro Shops had entered the graphite rod market. Skyline rods were high-end rods and their prices reflected. Heddon, on the other hand, was making rods they claimed were graphite but it may have only been the pencil writing on the tag that provided that graphite. Their rods were strategically priced at roughly 50 percent of what the Fenwick and Skyline rods were going for.

Bass Pro Shops, in what would become typical Johnny Morris fashion, entered the market with a rod that may not have been as good as the Fenwicks or Skylines but it was head-over-heals better than the Heddon, was 96-percent graphite construction and cost less at full retail than the Heddon. I have no idea who was producing the BPS rods – it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out since there weren’t many suppliers of graphite at the time – but they were light, sensitive and good quality for the time.

By the start of 1976 I’d already had two graphite rods (Fenwicks) in my arsenal. But when Bass Pro Shops came out with the Christmas ad shown in this article, I had to drop down the $36 to buy one. I ended up with the 6-foot medium action MB-60G. The rod was definitlety heavier and not as balanced as my Fenwicks but at the same time it was 6-inches longer and had a pistol grip. That rod served me for a number of years even after I started down the dark path of Boron that same year.

  • Paul Wallace

    I had one of BPS’s early graphite spinning rods. Kind of heavy and stiff. That being said I used it for quite a while and then the tip broke. Which made it even stiffer. Had to give it up after that. Bought my first Shimano Magnumlite?Fightin rod. 5 1/2 foot pistol grip. Have purchesed many of these in various lengths over the years. I still use the 6 1/2 and 7 foot models to this day. They cost twice as much now as they did in the eighties, on e-bay…lol
    Paul

    • Paul, I had one of those BPS spinning rods too and you’re right, it was a club. 🙂

  • Banks Pope

    I purchased my first graphite rod in 1976, a Skyline, pistol gripped 5-1/2 foot black with orange wrapped baitcaster. I threw anything from ‘blades, buzzers, small cranks to worms and top waters with it. That ole rod helped me catch many big bass. In 1981 a thief decided he needed my Skyline rod as well as 75% of my other rods and reels more than I did. I had paid about $75.00 for that rod, which was twice or more than any of my other rods cost. That was a lot to spend on one rod back then. I did not buy another high end rod until 2010, when I purchased a kistler z-bone. Sometimes I think back to that era of catching big bass and that Skyline rod and a smile comes on my face because of the joy it gave me. Graphite has come a long way since then, but it can’t replace those wonderful memories of that Skyline rod.

    • I hear you on the memories Banks. 🙂