There are a couple of reasons we all buy bass lures. First because we want to catch fish and second, we have an addiction to buying them. I don’t know how many baits I’ve bought over the course of my life but I’m sure I don’t want to know that answer and I’m doubly sure that my insurance agent doesn’t either.
One thing that’s happened over my life is I’ve seen a lot of lure companies go by the wayside. Some of them just went out of business for whatever reason be it bad designs, not enough revenue to make the industry worth while or, as we’re going to talk about here, a bigger fish buys them out.
Recently we’ve seen this happen more than once. For example a couple of years ago the Mann’s Lure Company bought the rights to make and sell the Alabama Rig from Andy Poss. Another example is the Chatterbait designed and built by Rad Lures to Z-Man. in both cases a large company bought a small company, which can be good for the original designer.
What has always troubled me, though, is when one of the big hitters in the industry sells out to another big hitter – especially when the big hitter doing the buying acquires a large number of other big hitters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m about as conservative as one can be business wise but when we lose a tackle company that’s been around a long time, we lose its history. Not only that, the new “owner” always seems to change something and that “something” they change always seems to be important.
Back in the dawn of the bass fishing industry, there were a ton of small lure manufacturers, many of which were local bait makers who, by word of mouth and a little advertising, became big. Examples of these companies would be Whopper Stopper (Texas), Arbogast (Ohio), Bomber (Texas), Creek Chub (Indiana), Lazy Ike (Iowa), Smithwick (Louisiana), Cordell (Arkansas) and bass lure powerhouse Heddon of Michigan.
All these companies were strong and provided top-notch baits to the entire country through their own manufacturing. Another company that can’t be left out was the Plastics Research and Development Corporation (PRADCO) who manufactured the Rebel line of lures.
I won’t argue that when PRADCO started buying companies like Whopper Stopper and Creek Chub, those companies may have been on their last legs. It may have been good for them to be bought in order to preserve the names. Unfortunately when they started buying companies like Smithwick and Bomber, they not only discontinued a number of really productive lures, they changed molds and manufacturing techniques and that had an adverse effect on the lures themselves. With respect to Bomber, PRADCO has pretty much turned around and redesigned baits like the Model A and Long A to their original effectiveness.
That can’t be said for the Smithwick Rogue, though. Original Rogues still garner top dollar when you can find them because there’s a huge difference in the action between the originals and the new ones – even after the redesign following KVD’s win at the Three Rivers Classic. This is why it scares me when one company buys out another.
Another prime example was Storm Lures selling out to Rapala. Rapala, one of the biggest names in the fishing industry, is known for producing top quality baits. From the days of Lauri Rapala, the company has nearly always hit the mark with lure design. You’d think then that a company with so much knowledge of lure design would know what they had with the Wiggle Wart when they assumed the company. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Rumor has it they didn;t buy the original molds and then more rumors went around that the actual plastic wasn’t the same as what they were making the new baits out of. Whatever the truth is, Rapala, with their R&D abilities, should have been able to figure out the differences and manufactured an identical lure. Until they do we’re going to see original Wiggle Warts selling on eBay for $100 each while the new stock rots on the pegs at your local tackle shop.
In any event, there’s no stopping business and the buying and selling of tackle companies. We can only hope that when one of our favorite companies does get bought, the new owners treat the manufacture of their newly purchased lures the way the original companies did. If they don’t, what have they really bought?