Buying baits online is easy. Buying baits from a local manufacturer may seem more difficult – where do I find local guys? How do I know they will provide what they say they will? The answer is social media and word of mouth. All small bait manufacturers rely on those two avenues to gain customers.
We could all shop on Tackewarehouse…. and most of us get at least some of our products there. It is easy. It is a one-stop shop, if you will. But there are many reasons to shop local when it comes to artificial baits of any kind.
Every angler has their favorite color. Many of us have an idea for a color, but it is not one we can get in a the type of bait in which we want it. While I have heard Gary Yamamoto is an awesome guy, I cannot believe I could call him on a Monday after a tournament:
“Hey Gary! Yeah, Beckie Gaskill from Fish Like A Girl in Wisconsin. Hey, I have this great idea for a color for your twin tail grub….” Not only will Mr. Yamamoto likely not answer his phone, but if he does, I would imagine he long ago tired of random people asking him for different colors. On the other hand, I can call one of the several local bait makers I have a relationship with, and likely get the bait and color that I want by next weekend’s tournament. I make soft plastic baits now, too, and have for a couple of years. But I know people who have molds for baits that I do not have, nor do I want. I will certainly rely on them when I am looking for a certain thing.
Turn around time
Expedited shipping from a major supplier can be bought, of course. But, for the most part, you and I are just a number – not that I would expect it to be any other way. At some point in a business’ growth, everyone needs to be treated equally. But, I cannot tell you how many times I have called a local soft plastic bait maker and, really, called in a favor. Can you get me # of X by Friday? Any chance? The answer is almost always yes.
In a world where your order number is your identity, most local bait makers will follow you back on social media. They will start to understand who you are, how you fish, and a million other things about you. While you will most definitely get individual attention when you call or text to place your order, occasionally you will get that text:
“Hey, I saw what you were fishing last week. I made this color I want you to try out.”
Local bait makers get out on the water, too, but they may not be on the bodies of water we are on. They may have different experiences on the water. When they find people who are ambassadors of the sport, and who really put in the time and the effort, they often reach out to us – what is working, what is not working. Our input can help shape their business. For me, there is no bigger honor.
To me, there is never a harm in networking. I love to learn from everyone I meet. Occasionally I learn what not to do – as others learn from me what not to do! That is part of fishing and part of pitting yourself against any other animal on the planet. While we like to see ourselves as top predators, and we are, we can easily be tricked fairly easily by our prey, as any angler or hunter knows. There is a reason we celebrate our wins.
Networking allows us to meet people and get an insight into why they do the thing they do, why they fish the areas they do at certain times of the year, how they break down a lake, why they choose certain colors…when we order from a local bait maker, he or she wants us to be as successful as possible. They want us to talk to other anglers about what we caught on their baits and how it worked for us. Again, social media and word of mouth is the life blood of, really, any small business. The bait making business is no different.
I would highly recommend taking a look at what bait makers are near you. Find those who seem to have the same vision as you do, and place some orders. I do not say this only because I am making a few soft plastics myself. I am saying it because I love this industry and I would like to see people throw something created by their neighbor, or the guy down the street, across the county, etc.
Of course, we cannot discount the big tackle guys. Even though I make a lot of my own baits now, I will likely always have some Yamamoto, Strike King, and Reaction Innovations in my boat. But, for the rest of my tackle, I will rely on local people to get the big fish in the boat.
What are your favorite baits? Do you have a local bait manufacturer you love? Feel free to share that information here!