I often think of companies in the tackle industry — both manufacturers and retailers — like the blade of a knife. Some are sharp; some are ragged; and some are dull.
Assuming they all start life being sharp, the trick is to stay sharp. Sharp blades stay that way by (1) never being used or (2) being properly maintained and honed to a fine edge over and over again.
The blades that are never used face no challenges, no threats. They’re ornamental. Among businesses, that usually means they’re serving such a tiny market that no one else is interested.
Jagged, roughed-up blades face plenty of challenges. They’re dinged up through battle, but no one has taken the time or figured out how to bring back their edge. The rough “blade” represents most of the tackle industry. These companies are still serviceable, but they’re not what they once were or what they could be.
Dull blades are not much use to anyone. They don’t really work, and they’re dangerous — mostly to themselves.
The best blade is one that’s still sharp even after lots of use. It’s well maintained — the go-to whenever you have a choice.
I was reminded of this on a recent Plano media trip. The company’s new lineup of tackle boxes is called “EDGE,” so it played right into my “blade” thinking and inspired this column. The EDGE series even won Best of Show honors at ICAST 2019 in the Tackle Management category.
Plano is a great example of my sharp knife analogy. They’ve owned a big chunk of the tackle storage market for as long as I can remember. Their Stowaway utility boxes helped to modularize the way we carry gear, and their sizing, numbering system and nomenclature (3600, 3700, etc.) have become industry standards. My garage is full of them. Yours too, probably.
Just like a new knife, Plano started sharp. But as other players in their space fought for a slice of the pie, Plano faced challenges. They’ve stayed sharp by refining their offerings, never being satisfied, listening to consumers and introducing innovative new products that address real world issues.
The EDGE series is a great example. Every aspect of the product line was conceived to solve an angler problem — or at least to lessen it in a significant way.
In the EDGE standard lineup, there are 10 SKUs to cover most of the bases. Each model features a Dri-Loc watertight seal, a Rustrictor base that prevents rust on lures and hooks, a Duraview lid that’s crystal-clear, a one-handed latch (that takes a little getting used to, but which is almost a common denominator in the EDGE series), a Water Wick desiccant divider, an easy-to-use labeling system, pre-cut and pre-separated vented dividers and steel-pin hinges for durability. They come in four sizes: 3600 Standard, 3700 Thin, 3700 Standard and 3700 Deep so there’s something for just any angler.
There are another six EDGE boxes for custom storage — the lures and other items every angler carries but which don’t necessarily fit a standard 3600 or 3700 template. For that, EDGE has models for terminal tackle, jigs and blade baits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics.
Has Plano reinvented the tackle box? No. Absolutely not. They’ve just sharpened their blade by building a better tackle box.
Did Z-Man reinvent the bladed jig with the Jackhammer? No. But I really admire the way they refine and sharpen the Original ChatterBait with new iterations every couple of years. They know how to hone their game with their quintessential lure, and they know how to break into new markets with a bang (like finesse fishing).
Does PRADCO reinvent product categories through strategic acquisitions of marketplace leaders and innovators like War Eagle, Gene Larew and Bobby Garland? No. Instead they take what’s working and sharpen it through greater efficiencies.
What can you do to sharpen your game? It’s a question I ask myself quite often, and it’s great to have real-world examples to look for ideas and inspiration.