Two days ago, you lost a friend. Whether you knew him or not, if you fish or work in the tackle industry, T.J. Stallings was your friend. He was just 59 years old and died of complications from cancer.

T.J. grew up in the tackle business with his brother Ron, hanging out at their father’s retail store—Tim’s Tackle Box in Central Florida—and eventually helping to run the place. As he grew older, he did just about everything you could do in the tackle business—public relations, marketing, manufacturing, repping, design, consulting and whatever else anybody does to sell a hook or a bobber or a spool of line.

I met T.J. about 20 years ago at an outdoor writer conference. He was friendly, helpful and made me feel welcome. I could tell that everyone there liked him, too. He was a leader without attitude or pomposity — pretty rare in those circles.

A couple of years later I watched T.J. teach a new tackle store owner how to set up the shopping aisles in his store so that he’d have better sightlines to keep watch over things. T.J. told him about end-caps, margins, turns and lots more that I’ve forgotten, but I’m sure that retailer remembers.

In early 2006 I was working for B.A.S.S. and preparing for the Bassmaster Classic in Orlando. A man in Arkansas had an old bass boat just like the ones used in the first Classic back in 1971, and B.A.S.S. was going to display it at the Expo. I was responsible for getting it in place and ready for the show, but got stuck at the office for some reason I can’t recall.

When the boat arrived, it was much the worse for wear. It looked its age, with three-plus decades of dirt and grime. I didn’t know this and couldn’t be there to fix it, but T.J. saw it and immediately jumped in.

He found some rags and cleaner and about a five-gallon bucket of elbow grease, and he got to work. It took hours, but by the time I arrived the boat was gleaming. It was a big hit at the show, and T.J. made it so … all without asking for his help. T.J. never waited for anyone to ask if he saw the need.

His business card with TTI-Blakemore said he was in charge of “Marketing & Crazy Ideas,” and that probably sums it up better than I can here.

He was an idea machine, a man who looked for ways to grow our sport and help his friends—including you. He was tireless in his love and support of fishing.

T.J. was the man behind Daiichi’s Bleeding Bait Hook series and many other innovative and successful products. Having seen the industry from so many different angles and perspectives, he knew what fishermen wanted and what retailers could sell. Everyone who crossed his path learned something valuable from T.J.

When I accepted the Managing Editor position with Fishing Tackle Retailer, T.J. and his brother Ron at TTI-Blakemore were one of my first calls. I knew I’d be leaning on their experience and expertise in the new job. They immediately began contributing columns and articles to FTR, all without asking for any compensation. They just wanted to help me … and you.

T.J. and Ron worked with “family” at TTI-Blakemore. Owners Wes and Kerry Campbell were “Dad” and “Mom.”

Late in his too-short life, T.J. found true love with Kathy, his new wife. They should have had decades together. Instead it was just a couple of years, but I know they made them count. We should all be so lucky.

I had dinner with them just a few weeks ago. Of course, we had no idea it would be the last time. It certainly shouldn’t have been. T.J. was full of plans and ideas, as always.

As I type this and wipe tears from my eyes, I’m pretty sure that whatever ails us as a sport and an industry could be cured with half a dozen T.J. Stallings on the job. Unfortunately, we just lost the only one we had.

About The Author

Ken Duke
Managing Editor

Ken Duke is the Managing Editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer Magazine, most recently serving as Senior Editor of B.A.S.S. Publications (2005-14). Before that he served as B.A.S.S.’ Senior Publicist (2004-05) and as an editor with Game & Fish Publications (1999-2004). He is the author of two books on bass fishing and has been published in more than 50 regional and national outdoor magazines.

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21 Responses

  1. dan Dannenmueller

    Ken, I echo your eliquent comments. We have lost a unique asset to our beloved industry. We have a hole in our hearts where he resides. Will never forget him for sure. Dan

    Reply
  2. Kathy Barker

    I think the only thing you missed mentioning about TJ was his laugh. No mistaking it if you heard it. Will miss the gentleman immensely.

    Reply
  3. JOHN DROUET

    Ken, I was shocked and saddened to hear this. I too saw T.J. at the show and all seemed well with him. He will be missed by all who knew him.

    Reply
  4. JIM LINER

    Ken,
    I remember that boat at the Classic. I walked in to set up our booth and there was T.J. waxing a boat. I said,” Hey brother are you gonna use this boat for your products?” He replied, ” No, it was a mess and I volunteered to clean it up.” That’s the kind of guy he was. You could not help but like the man. Myself and the industry have lost a good friend. JIM

    Reply
  5. Pat Wrob

    Wow! Very sad news. What a great guy. I could tell from the first time I met him what a genuinely nice guy he was. Worked for some great people as well. He will be missed.

    Reply
  6. Colleen

    KEN,
    I spoke with you last evening when you called TTI.
    Thank you for this great article!

    Reply
  7. Patrick E. Mc Hugh

    Ken, as you stated TJ was always there to help anyone and everyone he ever encountered. He had an infectious laugh, an over the top personality, a really great teaching attitude about how to have fun and be serious about fishing at the same time and a smile that made everyone around him feel special. We lost a great person, a beautiful man and most of all a real true great friend.

    Reply
  8. Carol

    So sad to hear this news. TJ and Ron Stallings have sponsored me for years and I’ve proudly shared their products. Probably amongthe most kind and generous people I’ve known. May God continue to bless them and their company.

    Reply
  9. Dave Mauldin

    I have been associated with TTI Blakemore for many years, and feel I know Ron like a close friend. Sorry we never got to know TJ. My prayers are with Ron and all the family. They are great people to work with and we value the relationship. Dave Mauldin

    Reply
  10. Capt. Gary Henderson

    I too was shocked as I learned of TJ’S passing from Ron. I was fortunate enough to know him and his family and spent many hours in that shop, Tim’ s Tackle Box.
    Farewell, my friend…where ever you are!

    Reply
  11. Dick Hulcher

    I spent many hours in that shop with Tim when TJ and Ron were youngsters. I watched his Dad experiment with red beads in the minnow tank and this is where TJ got the idea for the red hooks. I am 80 now and was associated in some way with the tackle industry from a retail shop at age 14 until I turned 70. I never met a finer person in the industry than TJ and will miss him tremendously.

    Reply
  12. Dave Ferrell

    Pretty work Mr. Duke. Tim’s Tackle Box (the old location that is) is just three blocks from my house and I spent a large amount of my youth in that store. I’m sure I met all the boys in your story at one time or another. I miss that place. I never got to know Mr. Stallings, which is a miracle since I’v never missed in ICAST show in the last 24 years, and after reading your piece I’m extremely sorry that I missed that chance.

    Reply
  13. Vance W Hopkins

    Vance Hopkins
    TJ called on me when he first went on the road. Both he and his brother worked with me back in their early days and it was a pleasure. TJ was a class act – always had a smile and had a great business understanding. I spent a while talking with him at the show in January and he was his same smiling upbeat self. I have lost a good friend.

    Reply
  14. Phil Wolf

    Thanks for your kind words about T.J. What a great guy he and brother Ron have been supporting our local Shad and Crappie Derby for 8 years now, I was lucky to see him at ICAST last July, now sadly for the last time. His smile and laugh was one you won’t forget. No more pain now! Fish are always biting in Heaven I heard. We have lost a true fishing industry friend. God Bless Ron and their family. Phil Wolf, Coastal Angler Magazine, Orlando

    Reply
  15. Phil Lillo

    I just spoke to TJ at a January Show and he looked and sounded like he was in a great place in his life. What a shock to hear of this unfortunate event. I grew up and currently live in Orlando. TJ and his family were a major part of my employment in this industry. He was always there for my family and had a heart the size of the state of Florida. Any time you needed him, he would find a way. He continuously gave back to the industry and never asked for anything in return. He always had the ability to look at things from an abstract point of view which made him such a great “Idea Man”. I was blessed to cross his path in life and wish his family my condolences.
    Rest In Peace TJ.

    Reply
  16. kenneth

    Lost 2 many friends just like you have nothing to say just reminisces good times.

    Reply
  17. Larry Claypool

    Great article Ken! About a great guy! I met T.J. twice when he came to Pennsylvania for a Crappie Camp for writers. What a classy guy, and so nice and helpful! Thank you T.J. You will be missed!!

    Reply

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