By Steve Chaconas
Branding is a key component in every marketing plan. Some products are so well branded they become the default name in a category. The competition tries to create a generic label to break the branded lock on the market. Kleenex becomes tissue, Coke becomes cola, Scotch tape is reduced to tape. It’s no different in the fishing business.
Fishing is brand oriented. Anglers want to know exactly what pros use to win tournaments. Anglers want to know details down to the hook, line, and sinker. In fact, many anglers think pros fish with prototype lures not available to average fishermen. Worse yet, it’s been common practice for anglers to use a lure, only to give credit to their sponsor equivalent or no credit at all. This practice has been exposed by co-angler presence and media coverage, but still happens. The industry has coined generic lure categories to remove inadvertent advertising for competing products. Winners can keep their bait a mystery using generic names, while the actual lure company goes without credit.
Around 2004, pros were winning with a new lure. Chatterbaits brought immediate angling success and were on the deck of nearly every level of tournament angling. Demand was overwhelming for the original designer who struggled to meet orders. Tackle makers pounced with lookalikes. Legal action stopped most, but astute intellectual property attorneys encroached without infringing on patents and a new category was created, the bladed jig. As the water cleared, ZMan emerged as the sole proprietor of the Original Chatterbait. While wins came with the Original Chatterbait, unsponsored anglers credited their success to the nondescript bladed jig label, denying Chatterbaits of their due respect. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it doesn’t pay the bills. As the Chatterbait led the way in the bladed jig category, more good vibrations have been coming from ZMan. The Jackhammer, Stealth, and MiniMax and many other unique Chatterbait versions have expanded their bladed jig dominance.
Take for example the Silver Buddy lure from Kentucky. Buddy Banks and Billy Westmorland designed, tinkered, and forged a metal multi-species fish catching bait nearly 40 years ago. Owning the market, this proven cold water slab of metal has been labeled a blade bait. Sources witnessing the record catch of the largest Potomac River bass report a Silver Buddy was used. Even at the weigh in, credit was given to Silver Buddy. However, once a record was recognized, the catch was attributed to another brand. Published reports name a BPS Lazer Blade lure, or simply blade bait, as the bait that landed the record setting 11.2 pound fish. There are many blade bait brands, some with holographic finishes, glass eyes, fish shapes, however, Silver Buddy lures enjoy a strong brand as most anglers refer to all blade baits as Silver Buddys. This simple but well-branded bait lives up to their slogan, Catching Anything That Swims.
Walking the dog took on new meaning for fishermen when the Zara Spook first hit the water. It’s been copied hundreds of times since it was created in the early 1900s. Creator James Heddon cracked the topwater lure surface and set the stage for a category where every lure company has an entry, the walking bait. Walking topwater lures are called Spooks, no matter the manufacturer. While many have floated designs with artistic baitfish patterns, sound chambers, and modified shape to affect the walk, after nearly 100 years there’s only one Spook. Look alikes were called Spooks. But as the effectiveness of the walking action proved positive through many angling generations, other companies entered the market under the walking bait category or in many cases, just walker. The Spook brand wasn’t just created, it endured versions from around the world.
The best branded bait was named after the old clunker car inventor Bill Lewis affectionally called his rattle trap. In fact, his Rat L Trap crankbait is so well branded, the industry needed to come up with two generic labels, lipless crankbait and simply “Trap”. Not only that, but there are more copies of this bait than of the Mona Lisa. No matter how many different sound chambers and thunks, dings and clicks, the Original Rat L Trap remains the standard in this lure class. Still independently owned with many of the original employees the Rat L Trap catches fish and, when the going gets tough, anglers tie on the real Trap.
Branding isn’t just a marketing ploy to promote a lure into a legend. It’s the other way around, legendary lures create the brand. With fishing lures, branding perpetuates the lure and its lore for generations. Build the brand and they will copy. Well-branded lures catch fish. The category copies catch fishermen.
Potomac River Bassing in July
Time for frogs over thick grass. Use 60 pound test Gamma Torque braid. Same line with a ¾-1.5 ounce tungsten weight to punch through matted grass with Texas rigged soft plastics. These techniques are best when it’s hot and sunny. For frogs, cover water over grass to locate bass for the punching method. Punch through loose grass and sticks, etc. floating around thick mats.
Early in the day or under low tide or cloudy conditions, use walking baits and poppers, on 30 pound test Torque braid around edges of grass, docks, or riprap. Vary speeds depending on water clarity, faster in clear, slower in stained water.
Shallow diving crankbaits cover water tied to 14 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon. Another bait to use it a big bodied, buoyant crankbait like the Lucky Craft BDS 4. Contacting grass is key for both of these. Crank down to the grass and snap free, then pause and repeat.
Jigs work…pitching, swimming and bladed jigs in craw patterns or black/blue pattern…in grass and around docks. Use either Gamma braid or fluorocarbon line. Heavy drop shot works around cover and in grass.
About the Author: Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.