The great lake sprawled in front of them blending into the horizon. Behind them, an ancient stone wall rose 30 feet above water level; remnants of a 17th century fort towered above them. Here, in the shadow of history, at the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, the two longtime friends were pursuing the future.
The friends are George Thomas and Pat Duncan. They’ve been tournament fishing with and against each other for 25 years, and together with business-partner and fellow cabal member Mickey Grant, they’re bringing a new tool to the fishing industry that’s quickly drawing attention from investors and dealers. It’s called the Trailer Hook Pal, and here’s how it works.
Got it? The concept is simple. The point-of-sale item—that looks more or less like an aluminum popsicle stick—allows anglers to place a durable, tough piece of plastic over a hook. That plastic is made from the same type of material as modern cutting boards.
“A fish isn’t going to be able to shake this off,” said Duncan, the Virginia-native who’s busy making quick work of Lake Ontario’s smallmouth bass population. “I had a prototype on my boat for two years, and it’s been awesome.”
And if Duncan was the guinea pig, Thomas was the creator. “Randy Howell [2014 Bassmaster Classic champion] saw my original prototype a few years ago,” Thomas said, in the midst of a battle for a Lake Ontario smallmouth. “He told me he wanted to have it to use on his boat.”
After Howell’s interest, along with props from fishing greats like Jimmy Houston, Thomas knew he was onto something. Within a matter of months, patents were filed, prototypes became production models. The trio linked up with Bassmaster Elite Series pro’s Mark Menendez and Shaw Grisgby, and Trailer Hook Pal debuted at the Richmond Greater Bass Expo atop a 36-inch table.
They were swamped.
“Once people see it, once they pop that plastic onto the hook, they get it,” Thomas noted.
So what do they get?
For $14.99, customers get the aluminum Trailer Hook Pal and 50 sets of rings. For $8.99 more, they get 100 more rings. It’s a product that’s easy to use, easy to understand and should be easy to sell. It’s also a no-brainer—it keeps fingers away from sharp hooks, keeps trailer hooks on securely, can extend the life of soft plastic baits and is a low risk investment for dealers.
But Thomas, Duncan and Grant aren’t quite there yet. Right now, the Virginia-based company, who’s just in their second year of existence, sells their product at regional tackle expos, through a local Virginia tackle store and Tackle Warehouse. And while Thomas, Duncan and Grant have gained interest from companies like Wal-Mart and even recruiters from CNBC’s Shark Tank, they’re just beginning to grow.
To get to the top—on the inside of tackle boxes across the country—they’ll need to keep building, keep educating consumers, keep building a dealer network and keep both eyes focused on the future.
That’s how building a successful tackle company works.