The numbers began to rise almost as soon as statewide safer at home orders began to go into effect. It was an unusual trend bucking the national tide of economic trauma surrounding the COVID-19 crisis—in the middle of a sea of confusion, fishing license sales began to rise. Today, state agencies across the country are reporting record license sales, and the tackle stores who’ve managed to stay open are seeing inventory wear thin in the aisles stocked with fundamentals like entry level rod and reel combos and, especially, fishing line.
Mark Rogers knows a thing or two about distributing that line. The Okuma Sales Manager oversees much of the fishing line distributed via Soft Steel, a rising line company that broke out of its SoCal roots behind a stretch fluorocarbon line at last year’s ICAST. And amidst a bustling, remote office space, he sat down with FTR to talk about the challenges Soft Steel has overcome to keep its dealers stocked with product.
“We are seeing a massive influx of orders over the last few weeks,” Rogers says. “April was a challenge for us; however, we ended the month just slightly off from the previous year. This month, we are going to blow the numbers out the door. The amount of orders the warehouse is processing in May is probably twice that of what we would normally process this time of year.”
What’s with all of the fuss? Rogers points directly at license sales. Up nearly 40% in some states, increased licensed sales mean an influx of new anglers and reactivated anglers that need line. “Retailers are stepping up to the plate,” adds Rogers. “We have product coming in and we are keeping the supply chain as full as possible.”
For the Soft Steel team, that supply chain runs through its parent company, Okuma. When Soft Steel debuted their stretch fluorocarbon at ICAST 2019, they were the only company offering a line that fills a clever niche for anglers who need maximum knot strength out of a fluorocarbon line. Where a traditional fluorocarbon might have 65% knot strength using a Palomar knot; Soft Steel’s stretch fluorocarbon dials the meter up to about 95%. The difference comes from inherent, monofilament-like properties that keep Soft Steel’s line from fraying as its knots are synched.
As you might guess, that feature—combined with Okuma’s already excellent distribution network—has generated rapid growth for Soft Steel and Rogers’ team.
Before COVID-19 hit, Soft Steel was already gaining a reputation among coastal anglers running surface iron for bluefin and yellowtail tuna and Great Lakes anglers pulling rigs for salmon. They were also beginning to make inroads with the tackle hungry bass market as well, thanks to a proprietary, camouflage braided line. But when the pandemic hit, California-based Okuma was forced to a full halt. Immediately, months of work hung in the balance of an uncertain Spring.
Fortunately for Rogers, his company was about to hit on a rare stroke of luck. “We invested heavily in Soft Steel early on,” he explains. “We loaded our warehouse with what we felt was more than enough line, because one thing we didn’t want to do last year was introduce it to the market and be out of stock when the customer needed it the most.”
Today, as fishing line continues to sell like wildfire and Americans look towards the water for a safe, outdoor form of recreation, Soft Steel has been able to keep pace with their supply chain. And though Okuma is still running on a limited staff, Rogers and his team have streamlined the ordering process to land new line on store shelves in about 10 business days. The orders, he says, go to Soft Steel sales reps, who send the information directly to data entry for processing. Usually, that order is processed within two or three hours, then picked and shipped in two to four days. From there, it’s up to USPS or UPS to get that line to the retailers and the anglers who need it most.
As for retailers who don’t currently sell his product? Rogers says they can order Soft Steel right through their existing Okuma reps and distributors—two companies working together to smooth the supply chain in otherwise stormy seas.
A quick intro to Soft steel fishing lines
Fluoro-Stretch Stretchable Fluorocarbon
- Low Diameter with high breaking strength
- 100% Fluorocarbon that stretches for increased catch ratio
- Perfect for running short leaders on top of braided lines
Transcend Braided Line
- 8 Carrier Construction
- Advanced Slick Coat Technology
- Longer Lasting Durability
- Increased Abrasion Resistance
- Line Color: Moss Green
Covert Camo Braid
- 8 Carrier Construction
- Optimal for heavy cover punching and frog fishing and inshore fishing around structure or kelp
- Camouflage colored line for decreased visibility
- 8 Carries Construction
- High Knot Strength
- Extreme Abrasion Resistance
- Line Color: Moss Green
Cyclone Hollow Braid
- 16 Carrier Construction
- Hollow Braid for knotless connections
- Extremely strong and supple