The Passing of T.J. Stallings

Two days ago, you lost a friend. Whether you knew him or not, if you fish or work in the tackle industry, T.J. Stallings was your friend. He was just 59 years old and died of complications from cancer.

T.J. grew up in the tackle business with his brother Ron, hanging out at their father’s retail store—Tim’s Tackle Box in Central Florida—and eventually helping to run the place. As he grew older, he did just about everything you could do in the tackle business—public relations, marketing, manufacturing, repping, design, consulting and whatever else anybody does to sell a hook or a bobber or a spool of line.

I met T.J. about 20 years ago at an outdoor writer conference. He was friendly, helpful and made me feel welcome. I could tell that everyone there liked him, too. He was a leader without attitude or pomposity — pretty rare in those circles.

A couple of years later I watched T.J. teach a new tackle store owner how to set up the shopping aisles in his store so that he’d have better sightlines to keep watch over things. T.J. told him about end-caps, margins, turns and lots more that I’ve forgotten, but I’m sure that retailer remembers.

In early 2006 I was working for B.A.S.S. and preparing for the Bassmaster Classic in Orlando. A man in Arkansas had an old bass boat just like the ones used in the first Classic back in 1971, and B.A.S.S. was going to display it at the Expo. I was responsible for getting it in place and ready for the show, but got stuck at the office for some reason I can’t recall.

When the boat arrived, it was much the worse for wear. It looked its age, with three-plus decades of dirt and grime. I didn’t know this and couldn’t be there to fix it, but T.J. saw it and immediately jumped in.

He found some rags and cleaner and about a five-gallon bucket of elbow grease, and he got to work. It took hours, but by the time I arrived the boat was gleaming. It was a big hit at the show, and T.J. made it so … all without asking for his help. T.J. never waited for anyone to ask if he saw the need.

His business card with TTI-Blakemore said he was in charge of “Marketing & Crazy Ideas,” and that probably sums it up better than I can here.

He was an idea machine, a man who looked for ways to grow our sport and help his friends—including you. He was tireless in his love and support of fishing.

T.J. was the man behind Daiichi’s Bleeding Bait Hook series and many other innovative and successful products. Having seen the industry from so many different angles and perspectives, he knew what fishermen wanted and what retailers could sell. Everyone who crossed his path learned something valuable from T.J.

When I accepted the Managing Editor position with Fishing Tackle Retailer, T.J. and his brother Ron at TTI-Blakemore were one of my first calls. I knew I’d be leaning on their experience and expertise in the new job. They immediately began contributing columns and articles to FTR, all without asking for any compensation. They just wanted to help me … and you.

T.J. and Ron worked with “family” at TTI-Blakemore. Owners Wes and Kerry Campbell were “Dad” and “Mom.”

Late in his too-short life, T.J. found true love with Kathy, his new wife. They should have had decades together. Instead it was just a couple of years, but I know they made them count. We should all be so lucky.

I had dinner with them just a few weeks ago. Of course, we had no idea it would be the last time. It certainly shouldn’t have been. T.J. was full of plans and ideas, as always.

As I type this and wipe tears from my eyes, I’m pretty sure that whatever ails us as a sport and an industry could be cured with half a dozen T.J. Stallings on the job. Unfortunately, we just lost the only one we had.