FORT SMITH, Ark. — When the doctor asked Carolyn Irvin what she planned to do after hip surgery, her answer was plain and simple— “I said ‘I’m going to back to work!'” For Irving, a 38-year tackle industry veteran, work isn’t just a timesheet, it’s a passion.
“I told him, ‘I’ve got lures to check. I’ve got to get these customers’ orders ready to ship. Why would you ask such a stupid question?’”
The question, by the way, wasn’t that stupid. At the time, Irvin was recovering from a broken hip, an injury that’s altered the careers of many. Luckily for anglers, she wasn’t about to let that minor detail stop her from reporting back to PRADCO, where she represents the fishermen on the water in the manufacturing process, inspecting lures—making sure each and every one is up to the task of landing lunkers.
Irvin started with the Fort Smith, Arkansas, company when it was still called Plastics Research and Development Corporation. Back then, the legendary tackle maker was making as many refrigerator parts as lures. But Irvin thrived in that variety. She liked the wide assortment of projects happening all at once. And when PRADCO shifted to full-time lure manufacturing, the change brought about new variations.
Today, Irvin pulls YUM soft plastics for color checks—to make sure the bags are sealed properly. Then, she checks the molded halves of Bandit crankbaits for defects before plunging Smithwick Rogues into a pressurized tank to check for leaks and then casting a Norman DD-22 into the test tank to make sure it’s running true. If she spots even the slightest of flaws, she has the authority to shut the entire production line down.
“I love the variety of the job. I’m doing something different every five minutes,” she said. “Plus, I love the people I get to work with, and I love the company. The company stood behind me while I had to relearn to walk after my hip surgery and had a job waiting on me when I got back. They treated me so well.”
In her spare time, Irving is usually found at a local bowling alley, where she’s served as a youth coach for the past 29 years—serving up strikes on the clock and off.