Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ranger Boats Sells To Bass Pro Shop; The Sky Is Falling

On December 11, 2014 Johnny Morris (founder of Bass Pro Shop) announced that he had signed an definitive agreement to purchase Ranger, Triton and Stratos Boats (Fishing Holdings LLC) from Platinum Equity. This blog will explain what this means to customers and dealers. We will also have some fun with those that claim that the sky is falling after hearing the news.

Ranger Boats has had four owners before Bass Pro Group LLC (Johnny Morris's new company) signed a letter to of intent to purchase Fishing Holdings LLC. Ranger was founded in 1968 by Forrest and Nina Wood in Flippin, AR. The Woods were one of the cornerstones that spawned the sport of competitive Bass Fishing. Without them and a very few others, the sport we love and participate in today would have never developed. They ran Ranger Boats for many years, supporting tournaments, anglers, conservation efforts and the town of Flippin along the way. As time past an opportunity to sell the company to a group consisting of some of the Southland Corporation family (of 7-11 fame). That group knew nothing about the business or the sport which cause it to fail and the junk bonds that they used to purchase it were then purchased by Genmar Corporation (Irwin Jacobs). Irwin Jacobs was a Wall Street Raider, he bought businesses and broke them off into parts to sell them off. He had been in the marine business for several years and owned many different boat companies. He purchased Operation Bass and turned it into FLW Outdoors that we know today. The economic downturn of 2008 forced Genmar into bankruptcy. Then Platinum Equity (a global investment firm that purchases businesses, makes them profitable and flips them for profit) purchased Ranger and Stratos Boats in the bankruptcy in 2010. Time came for Platinum Equity to flip Fishing Holding for a large profit and this brings us to today.  Bass Pro Group LLC agreed to purchased Fishing Holding LLC.

What we know today is that Ranger Boats in it's present form will continue to operate in the manner it has for many years. Ranger Boats will not be sold at the Bass Pro Shop locations. Ranger Boats will continue to be managed by the present team, CEO Randy Hopper that has been with Ranger Boats for 40 years, 25 of those as CEO. We know that Ranger Boats has a new owner; Johnny Morris. We know that owners of Ranger Boats will have their warranty and service just like they were promised and will not be affected at all by this change in ownership. What we don't know is what we don't know, going down the road things do change but only time will tell what those changes will be.

As a Ranger Boats dealer since 1988 and having the Ranger's line here at the store since 1986, I am fully confident in the new ownership of Ranger Boats. The only scenario that would have been better in my eyes is if Forrest and Nina Wood would have repurchased Ranger Boats. Having the Tracker -Nitro brands at one of our dealerships since 1998 and having dealt with Mr. Morris's company for many years, I believe in his business plan. Like Forrest and Nina Wood, Johnny Morris is a true cornerstone of our industry. He is responsible for one of the biggest innovations in the history of the boating business; completely factory rigged packages, not unlike Henry Ford's production line. Mr. Morris is also heavily embedded in our sport and has a passion for fishing like Forrest and Nina. He owns many outdoors product companies and gives a lot of his time and money in conservation activities just like Forrest and Nina. Both of the companies have a similar past and investment in our sport. I believe that Johnny Morris purchased Ranger Boats to save it's legacy and to make sure that Ranger Boats would be around for many years to come. Some people buy businesses to flip them and get a return, I believe that Johnny Morris bought Ranger because the sport he loves needs Ranger Boats and if he can make some money, that's good too. Looking forward, if these 2 companies work together and take the best practices of each company, this mega marine deal will work out for everyone; customers, dealers and manufactures. I am looking forward to being here to enjoy the new days for Ranger Boats.

On the day of the announcement and in days since; the phones here at the shop, social media and fishing websites have been bombarded by haters and so called experts saying that Ranger is done and quality will diminish just like it did when Tracker Marine bought ProCraft Boats. People were claiming that you will be able to buy a Ranger at BPS (a fact that we know is not true). Some speak of never buying a Ranger Boat again and discuss brands that they may have to buy instead, the bantering back and fourth was unbelievable. I could go on and on  and on but you get the idea. I have found that most people (not all by any means) that post on these sites don't have a clue on how the industry works. There is no reason on earth that someone as smart as Johnny Morris would pay millions of dollars to purchase a profitable company with the legacy that Ranger Boats has to make it fail. No Reason.

I would be interested to hear any input that you may have on the purchase of Ranger Boats by Bass Pro Group LLC. I have been a Ranger Dealer since 1988 and they have been here at he shop since 1986, I think we will all be fine. As far as I am concerned, it's full speed ahead and I see no reason that the sky is falling.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boat Trailers Used In A Saltwater Enviroment Need Special Care

If you have a boat trailer that is used in a saltwater environment; then you should take special care to keep from having issues down the road, leaving you on the side of the highway.

All boat trailers require maintenance; checking to make sure that the lights work properly, tires are good and are inflated to the proper psi., wheel bearing have been greased and on larger trailers making sure the braking system is working. Trailer used in an saltwater environment need all these same things, but a couple extra steps will keep you from having issues only saltwater trailers seem to have. The paragraphs below will each address an issue and some of the steps to hopefully keep you from spending time and money to get your rig off the side of the road.

If you use your boat in saltwater; it should have an galvanized or aluminum frame on the trailer. If you have a painted trailer you are asking for big problems going down the road. Painted trailers age very quickly in the harsh saltwater environment, lights quit working, brake systems and couplers corrode, even their frames and their welds fail in time. If you use a painted trailer in saltwater, wash and rinse it thoroughly using soaping water every time you put it in the water. Painted trailers are not made for saltwater use in general. Galvanized and aluminum framed trailers should also be washed after every use, but they will hold up for many years to come.

Lighting on a saltwater trailer is an ongoing issue that never seams to end. Most of these issue with the trailer lights are due to corrosion in the wiring harness and especially with the light grounds. Every light will have a power from the harness and a ground to the trailer frame. These connections should only use high quality connectors and stainless steal fasteners. All connections should be either shrink-wrapped or at a minimum be covered in liquid neoprene, No electrical tape PERIOD. Check the lights periodically and take the time to repair them correctly so they are not a ongoing issue.

Tires, wheels and hubs should be check every month or so depending on the amount of use. Any of these items will leave you on the side of the road. Underinflated tires will not have the capacity necessary to carry the weight of your boat, causing a tire failure. A tire that is 5 psi low could cause a blowout on your trailer. Wheels and hubs need to be checked to assure that they are tight and damage free. Hubs should be visually inspected to make sure that seals are not leaking grease which could cause a bearing failure. Everyone has seen a boat trailer sitting on the side of the road missing a tire and wheel, this is caused by lack of maintenance in most cases.

Trailer brakes, especially on larger boats are important to keep you safe on the highway. Some boats that are towed weigh in at over 10,000.00 lbs. It takes a lot of brakes to stop your tow vehicle, now add 10,000 to that. Saltwater trailers brakes have an big issue with corrosion, trailer brakes should be checked at least once a season to make sure that they are working properly. Brake hardware if drum brakes are used or slides if using disc brakes should have anti seize applied to ensure that the brakes continue to function correctly. Trailer brakes should be rinsed off while you are cleaning your trailer after use to help prevent this issues.

Now we will talk about an issue that have arisen on newer saltwater trailers that you might not have thought about. Many new saltwater trailers are now coming with aluminum wheels. They look good for those that want them, but they have started causing some unique issues if not maintained. The aluminum wheels have fused to the steel hubs on the trailers, this issue is cause by two dissimilar metals interacting with the saltwater. I have seen incidence where the wheel and to be cut off the hub to get them separated. Destroying the hubs and the aluminum wheels. Can you imagine having a flat on your trailer on the side of the highway and you can't get the wheel off even with the lug nuts off. YIKES. Talk about a bad day!!!! The solution to this issue is to remove your wheels at least once a year to clean away any corrosion. I have added anti seize to the hub face on my trailer to alleviate this issue, however you MUST constantly check your wheels lug nuts to ensure that the wheels remain tight if you take this measure.

I know that these precautionary maintenances seem like a lot of work and hassle, but they are nothing compared to being on the side of the highway on a Sunday afternoon with the family. A little care will ensure that it is not you we see on the side of the road with a wheel missing.       


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some Complaining About Fishing On The Potomac River, What Do You Think?

The fishing on the Lower Potomac River has been tough according to most anglers that we have spoken to, others seem to be catching good numbers of fish. Below we will discuss the river and how fishing has been. What are your thoughts?

The fishing on the Lower Potomac River has always been pretty good. Over the last 30 years that I have fished the river, fishing has always cycled between good to one of the best fisheries in the country. Today, many of the anglers I have spoken to say bass fishing has been lousy. These anglers claim to fish hard all day without catching a keeper bass, some of these anglers are seasoned high caliper fisherman. Other anglers say that fishing is tough but they are catching good numbers of bass on the river. On a recent visit to our Virginia location last month, an angler came in complaining about his day on the river, later on that same afternoon I talked with a different customer that claimed to catch 40 fish with 17 being keepers while fishing with his buddy that day. Seemed like the river wasn't the same dead sea that others have been complaining about. So what is the deal with the bass fishing on the Potomac River and what can be done about it? Let me first start by stating that I am not a marine biologist and don't claim to be an expert. I look at issues in a simple way and sometimes the answer is not as complex as it seems to be. Sometimes the complexity of an issue is far more involved and for those answers you will have to see what the marine biologists come up with. Below we will look at some of the issues and causes with possible solutions to those issues.

Grass or lack of Grass: Everyone that has fished the river has noticed the lack of grass in the river. Hundreds to possibly thousands of acres of grass has disappeared on the river over the last couple of years. When the river was full of aquatic vegetation, fishing was great. BassMasters Magazine always listed the Potomac as a Top 10 Best Bass Fishery. The weights in tournaments and catches overall kept growing as long as the grass kept spreading throughout the river. I can remember the river before grass arrived, with a very few exceptions, no one fished below Mattawoman. The pre-grass Potomac was hard structure fishing; drop offs, holes, rock piles, docks, barges etc. Weights  in tournaments were low, sometimes under ten pounds to win. Then grass started growing up river in the mid to late 80's.  Around  1991 grasses spread to the waters south of Mattawoman and the bass fishing gold rush on Potomac River was on. For the next couple of decades the river was the best bass fishing ever. Grass thrived which meant the water quality got better, small fishes and other food sources had a nursery to grow in up in while expanding the food-chain for the predator fish. As the grass dies off, these great qualities die off with them, water quality gets worse, food sources and young of the year have no where to hide and don't survive. The bass in these locations that have grass die off are often caught be anglers quickly on any piece of structure or grass that remains, making it a great place to fish for a limited time before it becomes the dead spot. Nanjemoy Creek is a perfect example of no grass killing a great fishery. Several years back the salt wedge entered the creek killing all the grass, bass fishing was over in that creek within 2 years. Lack of grass I believe is truly one of the largest issues that faces the health of the Potomac River bass fishery. Grass on the river has cycled from area to area over the years; but now the cycle appears to be no grass in many areas. How do we fix it? Mother Nature and good environmental practices control the growth of the grasses that are the lifeline to our bass fishery. Hoping for better weather, a new cycle of grass growth and controlled smart growth regionally is all we can do going down the road.

Tournaments: Some locals including some guides blame the demise of the Potomac on tournament anglers; over-fishing, to much pressure on the resource and fish kills caused by those tournaments. There are a lot of tournaments on the Potomac, especially in the spring when the northern states have a closed season. Most tournaments are run well, especially the national tours that work hard to protect the fishery as their lively-hood depends on tournaments. Some local tournaments are run well but some not so much, all of us have seen guys standing in line with bags of bass on hot days trying to weigh their fish. These guides that blame the poor fishing on tournaments for poor fishing should look at the fishing hours put in by their companies, often having several boats out on any given day. That's 3 people fishing per boat several times a week. That is as many fishing hours as a club tournament. Some of these guide companies also put on corporate tournaments a couple times a year. So they could also be part of the problem they complain about. Here are some thoughts I have on mitigating harm caused by tournaments if they are part of the problem. Really high non resident fishing licences prices, it may keep some anglers from traveling to the Potomac during their closed season. Just remember not to complain when your fishing their state and the price for a license is high.  Make every tournament on the river pay a user fee that goes into a dedicated funds used only for the restocking of bass on the river, kinda like a greens fee in golf. The fee would vary by size of tournament, even club tournaments would pay a nominal fee but fishing would be better for everyone in the long run. Change the daily creel limit to 4 or even 3 fish per day per angler whether you are in a tournament or not. This would make the tournament standings a lot tighter and make it more exciting for all. It would also put an end to the talk that tournament anglers are not willing to contribute to the health of the fishery.

Water Quality: Water quality is a huge issue facing our bass fishery; it controls the growth of grass and the health of every living creature in the river. Our river is fed by several rivers, streams and creeks; Shenandoah River, Manocancy River, Difficult Run, Broad Run, Rock Creek, Occoquan River, Mattowowan to name just a few. When these headwaters flood and poor millions of gallons of water into the Potomac they bring with them thousands of tons of chemicals, trash and silt that fill in the lower river. Water quality drops and the rivers overall health pays a price. One of the most damaging results of this is the muddy water that happens in late winter and early spring. The silt in the water in conjunction with the cold temperatures stunt the growth of the aquatic vegetation in the river. This keeps the grass from growing and in turn hurts the water quality even more. The grasses help to filter the water, no grass, no filter. We have had several hard winters in a row that contained a lot of wind. Wind stirs up the water and keeps the grass from growing down river. Again Mother Nature and good environmental growth are he key to controlling this problems.

Invasive species: Some say that the snake-heads and blue catfish have a roll in the demise of the bass fishing on the Potomac. I have heard that snake-heads are eating bass on the river and I have heard from people that have checked the stomach content of these fish that no bass were found. This could also be true with the blue cat. Invasive species do not have any natural predators in the body of water that they are introduced into. This means that nothing in the river is keeping their population in check and from getting out of hand as nature intended. Humans are the only controlling factor of these species. This I do know, snake-heads and blue cats eat a lot of little fish, bait fish that in the past have been a food source for the bass. A diminished food chain means a unhealthy river and when fish have to compete for food, only the strong surviving. The solution to the snake head and blue cat is to kill and remove every one you can catch, both Virginia and Maryland fisheries management groups are pleading for this to happen. Maybe there could be a bonus weight at tournaments for adding one to your creel. Time will be the only judge on the effects that snake heads and blue cat have on the bass fishery, hopefully the results will be recognized before it is to late.

 Largemouth Bass Virus: Largemouth Bass Virus has been detected in the Potomac River. No know large scale fish kills have occurred on the river due to this virus. But it could be a issue going forward as the health of the river diminishes. Bass that carry the virus are more susceptible to death when they are in a unhealthy waterway, with a poor food-chain and with extreme water temperatures. All of these conditions appear to be present on the Potomac River today. We can only hope that conditions improve going down the road that allow the bass to remain healthy enough to avoid submitting to the largemouth bass virus.

We have looked at some of the issues and solutions to the struggling bass fishery on the Potomac River, but have we solved the problem?  I would say not, but there are some things that we as angler can do to contribute to a better bass fishery. 1. Remove every invasive fish that we come across. 2. Change some of the game regulations to help with conservation and help the river recover quicker.   3. Change some of the bad practices in fish handling plaguing some of the tournaments on the river. All of these will make a difference to the bass fishery. I believe that a tough fishing is a combination of several issues facing the fishery, Some fish could have died from the bass virus, some could have been eaten by snake-heads, some do die after tournaments but the lack of grass seems to be the largest factor. Healthy grass beds spread all over the river help the water quality, create a nursery for food sources to thrive and helps keep the river temps lower for the fish during the summer months. Nothing bad other than overheated motors occur from grass in the river. There is not much we can do to make this happen except pray for a mild winter and spring. Until the grass rebounds. do your part to help change the issues we can affect, it will make a difference.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter Won't Stop, Getting Your Boat Fixed Will Be A Problem

Winter this year just won't go away, every three or four days it gets cold and frozen precipitation falls. If you are one of those guys putting off getting your boat serviced, you are going to have a problem.

Every year when the weather finally breaks, customers bring in their boats to their mechanic to get them ready for the upcoming season. This generally happens over a month or so, many repair shops can handle the load. This year is different, when the weather finally does break, there will have a bunch of anglers wanting to go fishing. The problem is that the mechanics can only get so much done in a week. Everyone is going to bring their boats in at the same time and it will take some time to get all those boats repaired. The only fair way a dealerships can handle this is to take customers first - come first serve. A lot of customers will be unhappy with their mechanics. It's not the mechanics fault, they came to work every day and were there to serve you, you couldn't get your boat out or just put off taking the boat for repairs. Calm down, we will get through this, we always do. It will just take a little hard work and a little patience.

No one expected a winter like the one we are having this year. Things come up, we understand. But if you want to be one of the first to go fishing this spring and your boat needs some repairs, I would suggest getting your boat to the repair shop today. It hasn't snowed in a couple of days and that means it could snow at any minute.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It Just Keeps Snowing; Guys Are Going South

Have you ever seen a winter when it just kept snowing and arctic blasts keep coming through our area? I can't remember a year it seemed to snow several times a week, week after week. Local anglers are tired of it and a lot of the guys are going south.

We have a group of local anglers that go south every winter to get away from the cold and do what they like to do, Fish. This year it seems that the unusually snowy and extra cold weather has sent even more angler than usual south. Check out the FaceBook pages of your fishing buddies and I bet you will see the same thing. You will start to feel that you are the only one not fishing Lake Okeechobee. I have seen guys fishing on Stick Marsh, Toho and Okeechobee. I started to feel bad for myself, stuck here in the cold, while they were getting to fish wearing shorts and T shirts. Then it hit me, good for them. They are getting to fish. Hopefully they will come back with some stories and good photos that they can share with the rest of us. It will give us something to talk about and get us excited about the up coming fishing season, instead of sitting around dreaming of fishing.

Having your fishing buddies getting to go fishing is the next best thing to getting to go yourself.  We can all live and learn through their fishing experience. It looks like we will have to, the groundhog says it going to keep snowing and stay cold. If it continues, maybe we will get a chance to go fishing down south or at least get to go groundhog hunting.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Show Time Again!!!!!

Every January it happens, Boating and Fishing Shows Start. After the holidays and deer season have past, anglers are tired of having nothing to do. They are tired of cold and short days. Fear not, It's Show Time Again.

In our region, many of the fishing shows have disappeared, they have been replaced by  boat dealer's having Open Houses, taking boats to fishing flea markets and smaller shows with only a few boats to look at. Several of the big power boat show are still around, but many fishing boat dealerships have discontinued going to those show because anglers generally do not attend that type of show. Few bass boat dealers survived the economic downturn and those that did struggle to find enough customers at the larger power boat show to recoup the expense of those shows. If you spend $25K on a display booth and sell only a couple of boats it is a burden that many dealership just could not afford. Fishing boat shows with 50 bass boats to look at may be gone forever. Hopefully our Government they will pass a law that every house needs to have a Bass Boat and then those shows that everyone used to attend will  return. Till then, we will just have to attend the shows that are still around or go to dealerships that carry multiple boat brands to cut down on running half way around the world to look at boats.

Yep, it has already been a long cold winter. But starting this week are will have something to do on Saturday and Sundays, we can call our fishing buddies and pile in the truck and go to the fishing show.Because It's Show Time Again.