In the Field With Berkley

Over the past 25 years or so, I’ve attended over 100 media junkets with all sorts and sizes of tackle manufacturers. Some of the best and most interesting of those trips have been with the Pure Fishing brands, like Berkley. I’ve been to Spirit Lake, Iowa, twice—once in 2006 and again last year. It’s where the company used to be headquartered and where they still do a lot of their design, engineering, and manufacturing.

The Spirit Lake trips have been fascinating. It’s quite something to see the state-of-the-art science labs, test tanks, and manufacturing facilities. If there’s a company that can match Berkley for high-tech processes, I haven’t seen their facilities.

Of course, high-tech and a great process is just part of the mix. Berkley also has an army of promotional staff anglers that assist in the design of products. Sometimes the company has worked well and closely with those anglers, and sometimes it has seemed they have not. I’m glad to report that they’re working very closely and very well with pro staff these days—and that’s been mostly true for the last decade—and the results have been strong.

Of course, it helps when the pro staffers are top-notch. Bass tournament legends Hank Parker and Gary Klein have been with the company for decades. Edwin Evers, Skeet Reese, Michael Iaconelli, Bobby Lane, and others have also been integral in the effort, and there’s a “next generation” coming that keeps the future looking bright. I met Bassmaster Elite Series pro Shane Lehew at the junket and was very impressed with him and what he has to offer his sponsors. Elite rookie Joseph Webster is poised to make a name for himself in the industry.

The junket was held at Bienville Plantation, a classic north Florida destination for business and big, big bass. Bienville is under new ownership, and they’re working hard to make the fishing and facilities better than ever. If you’re looking for a junket site, it’s tough to find a better one.

This event focused on the new Berkley PowerBait Jigs and Spiderwire DuraBraid line. Both performed well. Berkley has a full lineup of bass jigs (finesse to flipping to swim and beyond) all spearheaded by Gary Klein, Bobby Lane, and the bass-mad scientists and engineers from the Spirit Lake facility. The jig lineup truly covers all the bases, but what makes it special is the skirt material. The skirts have been infused with Berkley PowerBait, and the folks at Pure Fishing say it makes fish hold on longer and stronger.

If you have customers who are devoted PowerBait soft plastics fans, carrying these jigs should be a no-brainer. And even those customers who don’t use PowerBait soft plastics will be impressed with the designs and Fusion19 hooks on these jigs. They’re quality products.

As for DuraBraid, it’s Berkley’s best-yet push into the line market targeting flippers, pitchers, and punchers—the hardcore heavy braid market that seems to be growing fast. It comes in sizes from 8- to 80-pound test, and Berkley claims it’s 25% stronger than similar-diameter line from other manufacturers.

As a Florida resident and bass fanatic, I do a lot of pitching and punching. DuraBraid is certainly soft enough to do the job. I look forward to seeing how strong the 65-pound Moss Green version (currently the only available color) is on a hookset using an extra-heavy punching rod. It’s a test that a lot of lines fail.

This story originally appeared in the March issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer.