JURASSIC PARK, Florida— The boat was a Phoenix at one point. But thanks to a matte-black wrap, the 21-feet of fiberglass bearing us across the water resembled a stealth fighter more than a bass boat. That was fine by the owner.
He was Jesse Tacoronte, sales manager of Enigma Fishing, and under a black hat at the wheel of a black boat he was about to tell his story.
[dropcap size=small]E[/dropcap]nigma is making their official debut at the Bassmaster Classic this week. They are an unknown brand with one of the most well-known names in fishing behind them—Aaron Martens. Martens joined Enigma just days after parting ways with long-time sponsor Megabass. And if that doesn’t make sense now, it will soon.
Tacoronte, the “Enigma Dude,” doesn’t do anything half way.
That much is evident from the moment FTR Managing Editor Ken Duke and I rendezvous with him at the favorite starting point of all great bass adventures: the service station.
Half-dozing and half-brimming with anticipation, I wasn’t sure if Duke and I would recognize the Enigma Dude at the rally point. Central Florida service stations can be hit or miss on the sketch-o-meter, but as soon as we rounded a bend there sat the Dude’s boat, like a black knife stretching out into the fog. Carrying it was an equally outlandish Dodge pickup—the kind with big wheels and bigger speakers. It was wrapped to match. Rage Against the Machine blared from inside.
Thus began our journey to Jurassic Park.
Tacoronte and Duke had tried to fish these waters before. Jurassic Park is a legendary water in Central Florida, drawing its nickname more from the giant fish that lurk beneath than the 12-foot gators prowling its sidelines. “We tried to launch,” the Dude said, “But the ramp was covered in vegetation. You couldn’t get a boat in.”
This time, they brought backup.
In truth, we had a small caravan heading towards the park this time. We were careening down a dusty, dirt road leading through forests and plains and down to the gates of Jurassic Park.
Enigma Dude and I were up front. Behind, in another truck with another boat, Duke followed with 2014 FLW Rookie of the Year Jason Lambert.
We were all in search of King Kong.
Enigma Dude doesn’t do anything half way.
Tacoronte is surrounded by a gravity that sucks in oddities. In another life, he raced motocross. That was a life under a mohawk in the California rock scene—before he became a charter captain, and before he would go on to found a successful Florida real estate company. He carries the wisdom of a savvy, self-made businessman and the aggression of a west coast teenager at a rock show.
He’s a maverick. And he also knows a thing or two about fishing.
We drop the boats in.
It doesn’t take long for Enigma Dude and I to ditch Duke and Lambert. They’re headed for the weeds—Lambert wants to practice his punching. The black boat heads for open water.
Bereft of my own tackle arsenal, I am at Tacoronte’s disposal—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, Enigma Dude has come prepared with a complete line of products to test. He hands me a matte-grey medium action rod: a prototype of the new Aaron’s Edge line that will be on hand at the Classic. The rod retails at $179.99, and it’s agile in my clumsy grip.
It takes some time to adjust my casting for the Microwave guides on the Enigma rod—they really do cast farther with less effort. For those used to chunking, achieving a longer cast while using less power is a new skill, but it’s also one that pays off at the end of a long day on the water.
But for now, the day is young. And Enigma Dude and I are busy searching the grass fields that cover Jurassic Park with speed worms and swim baits.
Splish. Splash. We trade scattered bites for an hour or so. No giants are revealed early, except for perhaps the depth of Enigma’s business strategy:
Enigma is not just propping a booth up at the Bassmaster Classic to sell a few rods. Tacoronte is giving this a serious go. Martens is just the first of what the company plans to be an enormous pro staff of anglers not just wearing logos, but earning money by selling Enigma rods, of which there will be plenty. The Aaron’s Edge line alone covers 12 casting models and three spinning rods.
The rod in my hands is stamped “prototype”. Though, already it reveals some of the customization Martens inserted into the design. It’s high-quality, and even for a shorter rod it packs a strong, flexible spine. There are a few marks where eyelets were rearranged based on Martens’ input, and the line flies away smoothly on the guides.
Enigma wants to bring a higher quality to their price point than is currently available, and they may be on to something. The Aaron’s Edge series is poised to compete with the new G.Loomis E6X series that’s also entering the bass market at this year’s Classic.
The Aaron’s Edge rods feature detail work—like intricate wraps—that will appeal to long time anglers as well as modern, aggressive styling that catches the eye of the younger crowd. (One flipping stick is neon green, which I found to be exciting even though Duke hated it.)
[divider]Finding the Bite[/divider]
After meandering around the grass fields for an hour or so, Enigma Dude and I spot cluster of straw jutting out from the lake’s flat surface. This was unusual. And naturally, this was where the fish were.
As we cautiously approached, monstrous swirls engulfed the straw patch—the kind of swirls that only come from big, big bass. Jurassic bass. They were here. And we had stumbled on to them as haplessly as kitchen full of velociraptors.
In the distance we could make out Duke and Lambert, who were—thankfully—unaware of our find.
The black boat would spent most of the day hovering around this straw patch. Underneath lay beds of formidable bass who gave the Enigma rods and line an eight-hour workout. Only briefly did we stop hauling them in to change tactics and let the spot breathe.
To keep off the beds, Tacoronte and I were forced beyond what would qualify as comfortable range for me. And on lesser gear, I would have been right. But the rods and line held true even at extended range. At about 25 yards, even on worms and top water, we were able to get solid hook sets and coral the fish home.
In all, the black boat would haul up over 50 bass at Jurassic Park, the majority of which were substantial. In prehistoric terms, if they weren’t all tyrannosaurs most were larger than your average gallimimus.
Enigma is entering the bass market with a clear message: “we are aggressive, and we mean business.”
The company motto is “cast. catch. repeat.” and it’s a simple slogan that belies the true complexity of their strategy: a business-like approach to the pro-staff, an initiative to break into the youth ranks, and a social media buzz. When you spend a day on the water with the Enigma Dude, you start to see his vision for the company. More than that, you see an unflinching belief in his product.
Enigma has broken onto the scene with a splash—scooping up Martens—but it’s the savvy behind their branding that will make or break them. The products are good: the Aaron’s Edge rods I used straddled the line between power and finesse while providing both. They felt like high quality rods. The Enigma brand line on our rigs never failed. But Enigma the company may find itself relying on another quality that is less tangible and more highly sought by younger consumers. It’s a quality that many legacy brands are still scrambling to find.
The Martens sponsorship, the stealthy boat, the edgy logo, the split-personality head of state—these things are all cool. The cool factor is in their D.N.A.
That’s a feature it’s hard to put a price on, and in the world of rod building, high quality with an attractive price point and cool branding might go a long way.
Even in year one, a gambling man wouldn’t bet against them.
Enigma Dude doesn’t do anything half way.