FishLab is built on a simple premise—the science of the strike—which is reflected in the research and development process of all their products. Their lures are realistic, scientifically accurate, meticulously crafted, and designed for one purpose: TO CATCH FISH. FishLab doesn’t just throw their version of everyone else’s bait out there and hope it sticks. Instead, they create, refine and perfect every lure through on-the-water testing and development. FishLab lures have applications that spread far and wide across many target species.
We recently sat down with two of FishLab’s ‘Mad Scientists’ Mike Bennett, FishLab Product Manager, and Bill Siemantel, special consultant and product designer, for a behind-the-scenes look at a few of the projects that they have in the works for an ICAST 2022 debut. While we can’t tell you about everything that they showed us just yet, suffice it to say these guys have some real—dare we say—mind-blowing baits in the works that you do not want to miss this July!
FTR: Mike, can you give readers a little background on FishLab lures?
MB: Sure. FishLab came about roughly three years ago when we, Okuma, took the passion of lure design and development in-house. We had been producing lures for quite some time as partners with other companies, but with the creation of FishLab we are free to create the perfect baits, top to bottom, and we can tailor them to our needs and specs.
FTR: Bill, can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be a part of the FishLab family?
BS: It was really a perfect match for me as I have been friends with Mike [Bennett] for years. Further, the idea behind BBZ Baits was always about all types of fish from freshwater to salt and not putting limits on a specific target species, but instead to produce baits that have a wide crossover appeal and can stand up to the rigors of the biggest, baddest fish that swim. This fits perfectly into the FishLab goal, and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this awesome team!
FTR: It was big news when you made the official announcement last summer, just before ICAST, as FishLab now has an awesome one-two punch of ICAST New Product Showcase award winners with both you and Mike in the product design and development team. I can’t imagine that there is another lure company out there who has the same pedigree working behind the scenes like FishLab.
BS: Totally. Mike and I work so perfectly well together as we are both true, hardcore fishermen across so many varied species from bluegill to blue marlin. Nothing is off the table as we are well-versed, in so many species, and we know how fish hit lures and what is needed to produce the baits to draw those strikes.
I’m confident very few, if any, has this blend of talent within the industry.
FTR: One thing I noticed from the first time I walked into the FishLab booth at ICAST a few years back is just how unique the lures are that you are producing. There are plenty of copycats out there, making their version of the same baits, but not so much with FishLab.
MB: We are not positioning ourselves as a “me too” company, and our goal is to continually think outside the box and produce baits that, when you see them, really make you say, “Ah hah!” or “Dang it, why didn’t I think of that?” We feel like we hit that concept out of the park with what we have planned to launch at ICAST this July.
BS: Along those lines, I have some baits that I am known for, but we didn’t want to just slap the FishLab name on them and call it a day. Instead, we are taking those ideas, as well as many that have remained dream baits in my head and on the pages of my sketch and notebooks and we are perfecting them.
FTR: Good stuff for sure. So, let’s talk new baits and what retailers can expect to see from FishLab in Orlando this July at ICAST 2022. How did this year’s line-up of ICAST debuts come about and what was your goal when you chose these baits?
BS: Mike and I sat down and asked the questions, “What does the industry need?” We reached out to contacts to see what they were hearing in their corners of the market. At the local level, from tackle shops and anglers, we sought to find out what was missing and what could be improved upon. It is going to blow your mind when you see what we have been able to do in just over six months since I joined the FishLab family.
FTR: I like that a lot as not everyone is asking what anglers want to see from a lure company these days. So often they tell us what we want or need, and we go from there.
MB: We have been working around the clock and it has not been easy, as everyone knows, with the way of the world today regarding supply chain issues and manufacturing delays. We never stopped hitting the water, testing the designs and reworking them until they were 100% perfect. You’d be shocked to know how many revisions we have done on these baits to get them right where they need to be. We’ve put these baits through a lot of scrutiny to achieve perfection.
FTR: Can you tell us about some of the practicality, or the “Why didn’t I think of that?” conceptualization that went into the new bait designs that you have in the works for ICAST 2022?
BS: There was a stage in the lure design timeline where companies turned heavily from illusion to realism, and to a degree the mechanics of what a fish eats, and what triggers the feed, began to get lost. Sure, looking like food is a piece of the puzzle, but to maximize success of a bait it really needs to act like a prey item as well. They lacked the Science of the Strike. That’s what I love so much about FishLab; that concept, that mantra is at the heart and soul of every bait they have produced, and every bait that we have in the works right now and will have in the future. We looked at things from the eye of the fish and what they want in a bait. It seems so simple in hindsight, but sometimes that is the most difficult thing to do.
FTR: Ok, you’ve really got me excited now, I can’t wait to see what’s coming!
BS: When you see these baits, and the array of categories that we are hitting first up in the bass market with more to come in other avenues in the future, it is going to blow your mind!
FTR: Ok, ok, let’s hear about the new stuff!
MB: Bill had a super successful program under the BBZ (Big Bass Zone) name, so first and foremost we wanted to begin there but we didn’t just want to slap the FishLab name on existing products. We sought to improve on those designs, and we feel that we achieved this and more as you will see at ICAST. We tweaked designs to achieve swim patterns and movement unseen in the originals or in anything since – until now. We didn’t skimp anywhere in the design, and added features that truly make the baits better.
Editor’s Note: At this point in the interview the guys showed me a video of one of the upcoming baits swimming, perhaps the first time anyone outside the FishLab team was given this opportunity, and it was sick! No lie, my jaw dropped. Ok, back to the interview…
FTR: That. Is. Awesome!
BS: Just wait until you get one in your hands! When you see the detail in this bait, the level in which we made this thing look alive but kept in tune with producing the action that we wanted, and that we know will trigger strikes, it’s just insane. This bait is going to tweak people’s melons as they think we’re just going to come out with a jointed bait like before – but we didn’t! Everything that we do here today, tomorrow and beyond takes bait design another step further.
FTR: So, on top of never-before-seen stuff, you’re taking the concept of what is there, baits that everyone knows and loves, and making them new and innovative. But with that, it is not just version 2.0 of yesterday’s bait.
BS: Totally. I always had ways that I wanted to rework and improve on my past baits but for one reason or another I couldn’t. Well now we can!
FTR: I can see so many crossover applications for these baits beyond just the bass world, both fresh and saltwater.
BS: For sure. We have that goal in mind across all products here at FishLab in that while the initial concept might have been born of one fishery’s need, they can seamlessly be applied elsewhere for trout, crappie, walleye, stripers and pretty much everything and anything that swims.
FTR: So far that’s five totally new baits that FishLab plans to drop at ICAST, surely there can’t be more, right?
BS: (Begins laughing…)
MB: Some companies might have been happy to settle one or two, maybe even three brand new baits, but we were excited to go after more! Next on our hit list was the natural creature bait market. We set out here with the goal of getting back to nature and to put things back on track to what they are supposed to represent. Rather than building a generic shape creature like everyone else, we made baits that look like the real deal, in unique and original ways, and we built them to be fished in a multitude of fashions—flipping, Carolina rigging, drop-shot, on a jighead, etc.
Editor’s Note: Once again, the FishLab guys blessed me with the opportunity to see these baits before anyone else. I have seen a lot of stuff over my years in the fishing industry, and to be completely blunt, it takes a lot to catch my attention these days; some might say I’m a bit jaded at what I see packaged as “fresh and new.” But I can say, what they showed me in one design in particular really caught my eye. They told me early in the interview that the goal was to produce some never-before-seen baits and make us collectively ask why that hadn’t been done before, and they delivered.
MB: We have three new baits in the natural creature line for now with more on the horizon. For each bait we designed the heads to hold better on a hook, regardless of rigging style. We made appendages that not only look authentic but move like they should in order to replicate nature. The shapes are recognizable, but the details are where they really stand out. Each bait replicates a natural forage option for not only largemouth bass but also smallies, pike, musky, and even trout; really any predatory species that you’re going to encounter at your local lake, pond river or stream. Heck, throw these in front of a Wells catfish and they’re sure to hammer them!
FTR: Thank you both for your time, and I look forward to seeing you both in Orlando this July!
Make it a point to stop by the FishLab booth at this year’s ICAST event in Orlando, Florida in July to see not only these awesome new baits, but the entire comprehensive FishLab line-up. From bluegill to blue marlin, freshwater or salt, they really have something for everyone. In the meantime, be sure to contact Mark Rogers [email protected] or (909) 509-4843 to be the first to add the hot new FishLab baits to your retail store shelves.
For more information, be sure to visit fishlabtackle.com.