Big marketing budgets typically put products from the companies in a brighter light. They get more exposure across the board and are diligent about impressions and how their brands are portrayed. No question, research and development gets more dollars as more sales generate the funds.
In the last few years we have seen many of the mega-fishing tackle companies exchange ownership and, for the most part, things have remained status quo. There were blips on the radar with the announcements and subsequent negative fallout of staff moves, but size does have its rewards.
I hate to see the mergers and acquisitions because I have talented friends in most of these companies and most times the bottom line means more than they do. Brand and company loyalty mean little, but most land on their feet because of their talents. No doubt more are on the way.
I also see some great things coming for our industry with companies that have the goal of building superior products. As a friend once said, “They just stick to their knittin’.”
You may not see them front and center with full-page ads or hundreds of pros endorsing their products, but they are building quality and consumers get it. They are building cottage brands that are known by anglers and outdoors folks and are making a mark.
I thought I might outline a few rod and reel companies I would suggest you take a look at. I plan to do more down the road in this column with other segments of similar-sized companies you may or may not have heard about. Biggies will come later.
Here are rods and reels in no particular order:
ARK Rods: A company based in Florida that is growing rapidly because it is building high quality at an affordable price.
Denali Rods: Arkansas-based company that not only builds bass rods, but has a strong following beginning in the crappie market, too.
Leviathan Rods: Texas-based company that has brought custom builds to the masses and their feels and cosmetics are second to none.
Dobyns Rods: Family-owned business that has a strong foothold with grass roots anglers for actions and durability. They have rods for just about every technique and price point.
13 Fishing: Not your standard rod and reel company and may be one of the most innovative in the market. They build rods and reels and step out of the box with just about everything they build.
Lews: They also build both rods and reels and due to their quality and price structure, Lews is known for its variety of baitcasting and spinning reels.
Megabass: Just announced a new series of Orochi XX rods that are second to none at the high end of rod innovation. This model is designed with a metal fiber blank and has greater lifting power and increased sensitivity. Diehards will love these.
Impulse Rods: Another Texas company that is putting design and technique front and center and has a rod for just about every technique and style of fishing. From Texas broom handles to finesse topwater, this company has it covered.
St. Croix Rods: Another family-based company from Wisconsin that continues to build a strong brand affinity with anglers across the country. “Best rods on Earth” is their slogan and they have a strong following with grass roots anglers of all species due to quality and durability. They have a very strong Midwest following.
6th Sense Rods: A relative newcomer in rods, but has a stellar reputation in hard and soft baits that will carry over to its rods. Their attention to detail will make them one to watch moving forward.
Ardent Rods and Reels: The evolution of this company continues. Largely due to legendary angler Denny Brauer, it now has high quality and effective pricing on both rods and reels. Its new Apex baitcasting series and the Denny Brauer Flipping reel are getting rave reviews.
Duckett: Alabama-based rod and reel company that most recently got into the reel market with three levels of reels at different price points.
The big boys such as Abu Garcia, Shimano, Daiwa and Quantum continue to make high quality tournament-tested rods and reels that we will touch on in a later article, but I wanted to give you a chance to kick a few tires on some companies you may not have known about first.
Sam Leman EverBloom
Dave Whalen and Tim Murray won the SLEBTT tournament on Evergreen Lake with five fish weighing 14.80 pounds. Rob and Randy Hakes got second with 10.38 pounds. Rick and Eric Hoepner had big bass of 4.44 pounds.