Early Advertising: Garcia – More Than Selling Tackle

How to Catch Largemouth Bass by Milt Rosko. Printed 1968

How to Catch Largemouth Bass by Milt Rosko. Printed 1968

Today’s anglers are hit with numerous infomercials and hard-selling tactics – to the point it’s no wonder that so many novices have a hard time trying to figure out what to buy. I hate to say that the tackle industry has become synonymous with the proverbial used car shark but from the outside looking in I wonder if it has. I don’t know if I credit that to the industry itself or should the internet and its speed-of-light access to the masses be blamed. Maybe it’s the angler (who’s only been fishing for three years) who’s willing to flood Facebook with, “John’s -Garage-Worms-are-the-Best posts,” we should blame. Maybe I’m just old and I don’t “get” all this new-fangled “advertising.”

I hate to beat the cliche that “things were better in the old days” but here’s what I’m talking about with respect to the way advertising used to be.

Although bass boats were starting to become more popular in 1968, most anglers fished out of car toppers with little if any amenities.

Although bass boats were starting to become more popular in 1968, most anglers fished out of car toppers with little if any amenities.

As a kid I ventured into many a tackle shop in the southern California area, courtesy of my mom, and at the counter I’d always see a rack of papers (Western Outdoor News) and pocket fishing-tips booklets.  Many of those booklets were produced by the Garcia Corporation and written by well-known anglers of the time. I owned a number of those booklets in my childhood and read them cover-to-cover to the point I could recite them verbatim anytime – anywhere.

Fast forward to a few months ago when BFA reader Clyde Drury sent me a box of goodies from his office. In that box were a couple of little treasures. One of these treasures is the subject of today’s post and another will be posted later this week – a little 5-by-4-inch booklet filled with information, written by Milt Rosko, to help you learn how to fish, not what lure to buy, per se.

The Table of Contents

The Table of Contents

Written in 1968 the book isn’t anything compared to today’s literature with respect to tactics, techniques or baits but it contains a lot of great information on the types of tackle available, how to choose it, how to use it and there’s even a section on live bait tactics. Yes the well-informed angler would find it boring and may not get anything out of the booklet but for the person just starting out, it was a goldmine that would steer the novice in the right direction – sans the hard-selling tactics of today.

Rosco, who was mainly a striped bass angler but delved in black bass fishing, was a well-known angler of the time and wrote for all the big-three magazines. He was qualified, in my eyes, to write a beginners’ book on bass fishing and it shows in this booklet. The info throughout the booklet is spot-on for the time and would help any aspiring angler to make better-educated choices – be it at the tackle shop or on the water.

Surface lures described in the book.

Surface lures described in the book.

His book starts out with a description of the largemouth bass, its habitats, forage and even how difficult it can be to catch. It then moves into a good description of rods and reels, from spincast to casting, and how to buy balanced gear. He talks about line, and other accessories, such as tackle boxes.

At this point Rosko delves into the business end of the deal – baits. And he just doesn’t cover artificials, he also talks about live bait. Remember is was still fashionable to fish live bait in the late 60s. Full descriptions of every live bait imaginable and how to fish them are in the paragraphs as are all the lures available at the time and their best methods of employment.

The only ad placed in the book was for the Garcia 5000 - the top selling baitcaster of the day - and was placed inside the front cover.

The only ad placed in the book was for the Garcia 5000 – the top selling baitcaster of the day – and was placed inside the front cover.

The booklet, which only has about 50 pages, is all the beginning angler would need to become educated enough to go to the tackle shop and make a sound decision. And if the angler wasn’t sure of something, at least he (or she) had enough knowledge not to be taken by some uneducated salesman.

I think Garcia had it right back then.  Print a booklet with a nice cover and title, put an ad inside the front and back page and then hire a known expert to write a short booklet on what lures work, how to fish them, how to fish structure, etc. – with no other advertisements other than what the writer talked about. Yeah, the writer was probably sponsored by Garcia but in the booklets I’ve owned I never felt I was being hard-sold on any one product. Plus the booklets cost only a buck.

  • Jeff Hahn

    Maybe it’s just me, but by the chatter on a few internet bass fishing forums, there appears to be many others who agree that much the same can be said about the leading bass fishing publications, and to some extent, also the TV shows. The articles are now shorter and far less in depth than they were in the past. And, the primary emphasis now seems to be pushing tackle at the expense of knowledge of the fish, its habitat, and seasonal patterns. As an example, take the series of three articles that Tim Tucker did with Rick Clunn in Bassmaster or the similar series Rick did with Paul Prorok for In-Fisherman. And, I can’t leave out Rich Zaleski’s In-Fisherman articles on Finesse fishing. There are many others I could mention, but articles like these set the standard for passing along useful knowledge, rather than hawking tackle. I haven’t seen an article in a leading bass publication for many years that even approaches the quality of these past gems.