Fishing tackle is a global business, but that doesn’t mean we all go about that business in the exact same way. In this edition of this series we’re heading down under to catch a glimpse at how the industry works in Australia – a land where the outdoors is second nature to so many of its citizens. Fishing is a solid industry here with many similarities to the USA, but there are also some differences that make for interesting comparison and that you could possibly learn a thing or two from.
A large part of the Australian trade is similar to that in North America – based on chain retail stores, many in the big box style with locations around the country. Some of the big players include the likes of Boating Camping Fishing and Tackle World. There are also quite a few large independent stores in Australia, which although they only have one physical store, have large online and mail-order presences that effectively make them nationwide dealers. Examples of this model include Fishing Tackle Shop in Illawarra just south of Sydney, The Tackle Warehouse in Brisbane, Otto’s Tackle World in Sydney, and Tackle HQ in Perth, to name just a few. Most of these types of stores are found in out-of-town retail parks in large, often custom-designed buildings with plenty of space to display items in effective ways. The rest of the retailer network is made up of smaller, independent stores, many of which thrive by offering hyper-local advice and specific tackle that suits the needs of their patrons.
As far as brands go, Australia has a few of its own, but perhaps not as many as you might expect from a country of its size and with its love of angling. Some names you might have heard of include Halco, JM Gillies, Samaki and Atomic Lures. These brands are heavily focused around lures, which is probably one of the most popular methods of fishing in Australia – for both fresh and saltwater species. In terms of rods and reels, there aren’t too many Australian brands to speak of these days (with the main exception being Alvey Reels, which has been around since as long ago as the 1920’s). Most of this kind of gear is imported and sold into retailers by wholesalers and distributors. Names like Shimano, Daiwa, the Pure Fishing brands, Rapala, Gamakatsu, Z-Man, Boone, Okuma, Savage Gear and Westin are all commonly spotted brands inside any fishing tackle store in Australia. Japanese brands also have a strong presence in Australia, perhaps because of the similar time zones the two countries share and also the healthy numbers of Japanese migrants living in Australia. Expect to see brands like DUO, Ecogear and Jackall if you ever make it to an Australian tackle store.
The Australian fishing tackle industry has had its fair share of challenges over the years covering everything from invasive species to overzealous catch restrictions and even the occasional apocalyptic bushfire year (see 2019/2020!). Thankfully it does have a robust industry body – the Australian Fishing Trade Association or AFTA – which does some fantastic work to protect the rights and interests of fishermen and fishing businesses alike. AFTA also runs an annual trade show in Gold Coast, Queensland each summer. Sadly the 2020 edition, set to take place 9th to 11th July, was recently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic (hardly a surprise, of course). Normally the show runs two trade-only days and allows the general public in on the final day – a move that has really helped offer extra value to the exhibitors and allowed them to communicate their messages through to end consumers in a more precise way.
As a nation where an estimated 85% of its inhabitants live within 30 miles of the coast, saltwater angling is clearly a big business in Australia. Aussie anglers can catch a wealth of hard-fighting monster species in its waters including grouper, trevally, golden snappers, GTs, barramundi, bream, marlin, tuna, mangrove jacks, parrot fish and many, many others. Heavy-duty sea fishing tackle is subsequently one of the main sectors in the country. The health and variety of sea fishing in Australia means the country also boasts higher than average boat ownership among its population, making boat fishing-specific tackle a hit.
For freshwater fishing, there is still plenty of fun to be had with Murray cod, Australian bass, catfish and even freshwater cod all there in abundance. Most of this is conducted with lure fishing, though bait fishing is not uncommon. Quite a lot of this fishing takes place in estuaries and other areas of brackish water where river meets sea. There is also a good population of trout, salmon and even some grayling in Australia, so there is also a small, but very healthy fly fishing industry present too.
In general, Australian anglers are pretty knowledgeable and shop at all levels of the price spectrum. Certain conditions of fishing here mean that only the best gear will do – for example in harsh sunlight and constant saltwater exposure – but because fishing is also a much more widely accepted and enjoyed pastime among Australians, many will simply buy cheap and cheerful gear to enjoy fishing with their friends and families. Australians are known for being able to have a good time, and that extends very succinctly with their fishing too.
Vital statistics on the Australian fishing tackle market
Estimated number of anglers: 4,000,000
Estimated number of tackle shops: 700
Estimated number of wholesalers: 25
Estimated number of manufacturers/brands: 120
Estimated value of fishing to Australia’s economy: $2.5 billion