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You are here: TackleMaking Encyclopedia > Articles > Starting a Fishing Tackle Business
The Lure of the Living - Starting a Fishing Tackle Business

Imagine this. You're watching the Bassmaster Classic on ESPN2. Bass boats are tearing across the lake, fans are screaming along the shores, and the world's top anglers are fighting furiously for a place in the record books. You watch in anticipation, fingers crossed, praying that one of your pros takes the lead. Then it happens. The camera closes in on your key guy just as an enormous largemouth explodes through the surface, jaws extended, and crashes down on a lure you designed. Splash! Yank! The hook is set. Your lure company just earned a spot in history and a huge chunk of the $4 billion tackle industry. You turn to your family and whisper, "we did it."

It's a dream many lure makers share, but how possible is it?

Making a living in the fishing tackle industry is not easy. It takes years of persistence, truckloads of cash, nonstop commitment, and a keen knack for business. But if you're successful, the pot of gold at the end of the journey is enormous and the lifestyle can't be matched. Successful lure companies can earn tens of millions of dollars a year and enjoy the benefits of having America's top fishing heroes at their disposal.

If you're like many tackle makers, right now you're probably saying, "Sounds great. But I don't have truckloads of money and I know virtually nothing about business." Fear not! If you invent a good product and are dedicated to it's success, the money and business training will be easy to get. There is NEVER a shortage of people who want to invest in a good idea that is proven in the marketplace. But before you can get the funding, you'll need to invest your own time and money to get your lure company going. Here's what you'll need to do to bring your lure company from an idea to a stage where you can attract investors (we'll cover raising money in the next issue).

Step 1. Develop a Successful Attitude
It sounds weird, but trust us, the most important thing you can do for your company is develop the right attitude about success! Every successful fishing business started with someone who believed deep down that they were going to succeed. You need to believe with everything you have that you will create a nationally-known brand of fishing tackle. There can't be any "maybes" in your belief, because when you hit your first challenge, that "maybe" will turn into a "can't" and you'll be tempted to quit. If you believe you can do it, you'll overcome the obstacles and keep heading down the road to success.

Step 2. Plan Your Business
When you're getting started, you'll be tempted to skip the planning stages of your business and go right into making and selling your tackle. Don't!!! Even though planning is tedious, you really need to do it. Take a month to map out exactly where you want your business to go and write a business plan that describes how you will get there. The SBA has a great business plan outline to help you get started. Most importantly, clearly define how your business will make money. If it costs you $.70 to make a fishing lure and you're selling it to retailers for $1.20, that's a $0.50 profit. So to make $100 you need to sell 200 lures. Is that realistic? Can you quickly make 200 lures? Are you better off trying to sell directly to the public for more money? How will you market? These are the types of questions that you really need to answer before you invest your time and money. Take the time upfront to really think them through.

Step 3. Execute Your Business Plan
After you finish your business plan, it's time to execute it. Follow the steps you outlined and be persistent. Starting a business can be a crazy ride filled with ups and downs. The key to surviving is to appreciate the ups and learn from the disappointments. Focus on short term goals that will get you closer to your long term desires. Over time, these short term successes will add up to a large success and your business will move forward. But remember, there truly is no such thing as an "overnight success". True success takes time to build and there's a learning curve you'll need to go through to figure out the best way to the to market and sell your fishing tackle. Be sure to constantly evaluate your current course of action and look for ways to make the next step in the journey more successful than your last.

Step 4. Follow the 5 P's
There is a rule in the fishing tackle business that we call the "Five P's". The P's stand for: Promotion, Product, Personality, Price, & Persistance. If you figure out how to excel in all 5 of these areas, you will be able to build a business that you can live off of.

Marketing is a key factor of success for tackle manufacturers. For the most part, anglers are less likely to purchase tackle they haven't heard of. Unlike the Rapala's of the world, most of us don't have millions of dollars to throw at a huge marketing campaign. So we have to be creative and find other less expensive ways to market our products. The key to this is to get your product into the hands of as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Trade shows are a great way to do this and you can often pair up with another company to split the costs of the booth (usually about $400 to $900 a show).

Also, give away your baits to INFLUENCERS in your fishing community. By this, I mean that you should think very carefully about who receives your baits for free. The ideal recipient is someone who fishes a ton, talks to everyone they run into, and fishes with many different people. When you give your baits to someone who fits this description, you are starting a word of mouth marketing campaign. This person will use your bait enough to catch a fish with it and they will talk about your bait to everyone they run into. The next time you run into them, ask them for feedback on your bait.

Another key part of marketing fishing tackle is to sell an "experience" instead of just the item. This is the technique that companies like Bass Pro use to move their merchandise and it works VERY well. When people buy from Bass Pro or Cabelas, they feel like they are part of an elite group of "true outdoorsmen". These companies have spent millions of dollars to develop that product association and it's one of the main reasons they're so successful. For example, say I was selling you a jig. If I said "Look at this jig. The paint is incredible and the dressing is made from spun gold!" you might be impressed but it won't necessarily make you want to purchase it. On the other hand, if I say "This is the jig that caught the last state record largemouth bass", you'll buy it in a second. Why? Because now I'm selling you an "experience" that you want to have - you want to catch a state record fish too. When you're developing your slogan and your "pitch"...keep the "experience" lesson in mind. It will save you a LOT of headaches!

Our last piece of advice for promoting tackle locally is to customize your tackle to work at a specific fishing destination in your area. For instance, say there are three lakes in your area that are big among anglers...lets call them "Blue Lake", "Willow Pond", and "Deer Marsh". If you develop three different lure patterns and name the first "Blue Lake Bomber", the second "Willow Pond Walker", and the third "Deer Marsh Diver", they'll sell like hotcakes. Again, your customers are buying the ability to catch fish...not fishing tackle. By customizing your lures to match the fishing conditions of a certain body of water, you're essentially selling your customers the ability to catch fish at that specific destination. That "experience" is something they'll pay for, and assuming your tackle is good, they'll keep coming back to you for more tackle that matches that local body of water.

You need a product that catches the eye of anglers. The age old advice that tackle is designed to "catch fishermen, not fish" is true. Your tackle needs to be catchy and unique enough to make customers want to use it. The better the finish, packaging or color combination, the more you'll sell. If your tackle doesn't look clean, crisp, and of high quality, it won't sell. Even if it's the greatest lure in the world and catches dozen of fish, nobody will ever know because it won't move off the shelves at the local tackle shop.

Also, remember that your packaging is part of the product. If the lure is wrapped in an old plastic bag, that won't be very appealing to your customers. If you can't afford to buy blister packaging or worm bags, think about other creative ways to display your baits. One of the best lure displays I've seen is a foot high piece of coral mounted on driftwood with a logo plate. The lures were hung off the coral on small hooks, ready for the picking. The whole display probably cost about $20 to make and caught the eye of every fisherman who walked past that counter.

The fishing industry is all about personality. You'll need to be able to strike up conversations with everyone you meet to promote your products. Like any business, you'll need to network, network, network! Get into the habit of asking everyone you meet if they fish. If they do, let them know that you're in the business and ask them to try out your tackle. Carry around business cards with your contact information and give them to everyone you meet!

We can't emphasize enough how important this part of your business is to your success. If you're not comfortable socializing, then try to partner up with someone who is.

You'll need to price your tackle competatively, even if it means loosing money at first. Over time you'll be able to buy your supplies in bulk and your costs will go down. Tackle that is priced too high won't sell...and if it does sell, it won't be used for fear of losing it (thus no repeat business). By the same token, neither will tackle that is priced too low. As a general rule, you should keep your products within 10% of the going market price for similar items. Remember...the best way to make money in the fishing industry is by moving large volumes of affordable tackle, not small volumes of expensive tackle!

If you're planning on selling your tackle through wholesalers or dealers, you'll need to develop a dealer price list. Start with the retail price of your tackle and then subtract 30%. That gives you the dealer price. Then subtract 30% of the dealer price from the dealer price. That gives you the wholesale price. For example, let's assume that you make a lure that retails for $5.99. To get the dealer price, you subtract 30% from $5.99 (30% of $5.99 is $1.79). You end up with $4.20 - so your price to dealers is $4.20. Now to get the wholesale price, you subtract 30% from $4.20 (30% of $4.20 is $1.26). You end up with $2.94 - so your price to wholesalers is $2.94.

To figure out your profit per lure, you subtract your cost for making the lure from the wholesale price. Let's assume that it costs you $1.50 to make and package the lure. $2.94 minus $1.50 equals $1.44 - so your profit per lure is $1.44. Also, keep in mind that many wholesalers or dealers require larger margins, thus leaving you with smaller profits. Some of the large catalog retailers will not carry a product unless they can double their money on it.

It takes time to build a business and you'll experience great times and scary times. Some customers will love you and some will hate you. It's all part of the learning process. The key is to ride all of the experiences out - don't get too excited by the "big breaks" and NEVER get depressed about the problems you run into. Every great business faces challenges. You have to learn from the mistakes and keep going. If you keep at it, odd are that you'll learn the tricks you need to be successful.

Good Luck!

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