BWU: Where are your baits sold, Mike, in stores or online?
MIKE: I have tried selling my baits all over. When I rst started, I tried eBay as a quick and easy way to test the water. Today I have six core retailers that I deal with and they pretty much take all the stock I am able to turn out. At times when I have extra inventory on hand, I also sell a few off my website at www.bullshad.com.
Last year, I stopped counting after I had to turn down 55 retailers who were re- questing to carry my baits, including a few overseas establishments. It’s simply an is- sue of supply and demand. I can’t make enough swimbaits to meet the demand that is out there and I don’t want to sacri- ce quality for quantity.
BWU: So where can anglers get Bull Shads, Mike?
MIKE: My home shop is Natures Tackle Box here in At- lanta, Georgia. I have a hearing impairment, so Christie Lester, the owner of NTB has been a tremendous help to me by handling my customer service calls. Christie handles the phone calls and I handle the email aspect of it. Her son Kohl helps me with the lure assembly part of the business.
My other retailers and online etailers are Bass Tackle Depot, Hammonds Fish- ing (Cumming, GA), Tackle Warehouse, Hi’s Tackle Box, and Fishermans Headquarters out of Benton, Kentucky.
BWU: Do you accept direct orders from consumers or do you deal only with retail?
MIKE: Yes, I do accept orders from con- sumers via my website www.bullshad.com.
BWU: Are most of your sales regional, mainly within your local area?
MIKE: Indeed I do sell a TON of Bull Shads here in my home state of Georgia. Word gets around pretty quickly locally. I
am a guide here in the Atlanta area (www. TritonMike.com). People read my shing reports, take a guide trip with me or hear through the grapevine and in-state demand for my swimbaits kind of mushroomed from there.
BWU: Do many Bull Shads reverb back to California - the home state of swimbaits?
MIKE: If you think about the high popular- ity of swimbaits there, then it’s not surprising that California is tied neck and neck with Georgia as being my biggest market.
BWU: Across the South or across the nation, are there any regional pockets of users out there? If so, where? Why?
MIKE: Alabama and Texas are two other strong markets for me as well. I have some pretty good sticks using my baits in Alabama and Texas so the word has spread through them slowly but surely. I have one guy who chooses to remain anonymous in Texas that I have been told has won a few boats with my baits but still, the word gets out. Also, my good buddy Jake Tippee on Lake Pickwick, AL has been ab- solutely whacking big smallmouth on my baits. For over a year now, Jack has won countless big sh pots with one being a 7lb smallmouth. It just goes to show how a few key people catching big sh can create a strong demand for a quality product.
BWU: How about internationally, Mike?
MIKE: Overseas has been a smaller market for me, and not one I’ve gone after. Still, I have shipped to ev- ery continent but Antarctica. I don’t think they’re all being used for bass though. Australia has been my best inter- national market thus far. They use Bull Shads to sh for barramundi in Australia.
BWU: Is it limited in how many you can make? Are you working with a constant backlog?
MIKE: Honestly, I can’t keep up with the demand. I could easily raise my prices and still be just as swamped. People are willing to pay good money for a quality swimbait that produces and closely mimics the forage that they have locally. A couple of years ago, there were not that many shad swimbaits on the market. Now the market is full of shad baits with some being a good deal cheaper and some more expensive than mine. I am still here and in demand, so I must be doing something right. In 2010, I was constantly one to two months be- hind on lling orders. In 2011, we’ve reorganized in order to build batches of baits by the hundred, which is faster and more ef cient than making odd lots to ll arriving orders. What that means though, is that cus- tomers and retailers will need to pick from the batches, but this makes it easier for me and the customer/retailer will get their baits faster. So it is a win-win.