Are Fishing Tackle subscription boxes a scam?
Gourmet soap… Beef jerky… Tennis… Star ninjas (probably). These days, you can find a subscription box service for just about anything. Many of them are so expensive and niche that I wonder how they stay in business. I mean, how many people really want new votive candles on their doorstep every month? But of all the goods available in these boxes, fishing lures still made more sense than a lot of them. When Mystery Tackle Box launched in 2012, the idea was revolutionary: tailor the boxes to the species the subscriber hunts the most and send out surplus lures and bait from small businesses that might struggle to gain exposure. It caught on and in no time Mystery Tackle Box had competitors. A decade later, there are dozens. But if you’re considering signing up, proceed with caution.
bait and switch
According to this story, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost recently filed a lawsuit against four people accused of running a bogus fishing box subscription service. The lawsuit comes after 84 customers filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau about the National Anglers Association (NAA), the illegally operating box service with a surprisingly similar name to the legitimate National Professional Anglers Association. Grievances ranged from signing up for a subscription without permission, failure to deliver goods and refusing to refund. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section also found that when the company’s payment platform was shut down due to chargebacks and shipping issues, another member of the group created an account on the platform. form to continue accepting payments.
The NAA was a complete scam, but the fact that it was able to work proves that since there are so many subscription box services out there on the fishing market, you can easily slip a non-legitimate one into the mix. What happened with NAA is an extreme case, but there are other things to consider when signing up for a box service, even if the company is totally up.
Quantity rather than quality
Years ago, I was approached by a Mystery Tackle Box competitor and offered a three month free trial. Box services were new at the time and I was curious. On their website, I specified that my main interests were saltwater and smallmouth bass. The first box did the trick and had a few salty baits and plastics that would tickle a bronzeback’s fancy. But with each subsequent box, the selection drifted further and further away from what my profile said I was targeting most often. Also, the boxes kept coming after the trial was over. About a year later I called and begged them to cancel. I had loads of rubber skirted bass jigs that I had never used and mountains of repeat lures that I didn’t like. In the end, I was not impressed.
You could say that in the early days of these boxes, companies didn’t have enough vendors to maintain variety from month to month. But now, with so many subscription services to choose from, I wonder if that problem doesn’t exist yet. On paper, the idea of discovering new subscription lures is great, but after a whole year of subscription, I discovered exactly one bait that I later purchased commercially. The other issue to consider is quality.
I was also roped into a subscription fly fishing box trial years ago. Here too the company claimed that they could tailor each box to your every fishy desire, and I have to say they did a much better job than the lure box company. I asked for a striped bass box, a steelhead box, and a smallmouth box, and each included a dozen suitable models, tapered leaders, and even a few sink tips. The problem was that although they looked good, the quality was lacking. Hooks bend and blunt easily; the sink tip coating has disintegrated after a few uses; and the chiefs had terrible memories. The final straw came when I was on a fishing trip and started tying one of the striped box black deceivers. I was holding the fly in my left hand while pulling on the leader to tighten the knot with my right…when all the gear slid down the shaft, driving the hook straight into my thumb past the barb .
The fine print
Some of you might be happy subscribers, and that’s cool. I also think these boxes are great for young anglers who just like to get lures in the mail and don’t really care what they are – they just want full tackle boxes. Shit, I would have loved this when I was 10, and my son would love it now. But as an alternative to reading individual lures and flies in a store or online, I don’t see it. If you think about it, you’ll waste less money buying the occasional dud than having a huge pile of duds from a subscription service. I also think you learn more about fishing by picking your own guns for your local waters, but you might not buy into that theory.