Don Fuelsch Southern
Anglers & Hunters Guide
An ad the 1964 “Don Fuelsch Southern Angler and Hunters Guide” shows “The new original ‘Strike King’ bass lure” by McEwen Tackle Co. It was a single spin spinnerbait. Bill McEwen was a taxidermist in Memphis, TN and made these lures on the side out of his garage.
In the spring of 1966 Charles Spence purchased Bill McEwen’s lure business which consisted of; a lead melting pot, some safety pins, a few bags of skirts and some molds. He refers to it as Strike King Lure Company.
Ray Scott holds his first bass tournament on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. Bill Dance, Charles Spence and Ray Murski compete in it. Notably Bill got 2nd and Ray got 4th! They all become friends and form business relationships.
- 1968: (estimated)
Ray Murski calls on a man named Sam Walton who has a chain of 4 stores in northwest Arkansas.
Bill Dance became the most successful tournament angler in the early years of the sport and then became a nationally known television personality. Charles Spence built up Strike King Lure Company as a lure manufacturing entity near the Memphis airport on Sanderwood Street. Ray Murski’s sales rep group grew and represented many outdoor products. So Charles built the product, Ray sold it and Bill promoted it for many years!
Strike King was incorporated.
- 1970'S, 80'S & 90'S:
Tournament bass fishing grew in prominence and popularity. Mass merchants and mail order outdoor related companies grew tremendously and Strike King grew along with them.
The oldest catalog we could find shows; 9 models of spinnerbaits, a Spence Spook topwater prop bait, the Spence Scout and a Super Scout crankbait, wooden Big S and Little S crankbaits, and a Happy Hooker tailspinner.
The Prop Scout and Spin Scout were introduced, as well as worms, lizards, grub tails, hooks and sinkers.
Buzz King® 385B, Timber King spoons, replacements skirts.
Houston Model Spinnerbait, Trailer hooks.
Spence Model spinnerbait, Bootlegger Jig®, Grass King spoons.
Polarized sunglasses are added and quickly become a significant product line.
Tri-Wing Buzz King®
Moved locations to Collierville, TN.
Grass Frog, Jig-N-Spoon, Pro-Model® spinnerbait.
PRO38 38 Special® spinnerbait.
Got into the catfish and pork baits with a clever marketing campaign with Bill Dance and a pig! Night Crawler Links® and Bo-Hawg® Pork baits were the early products.
Midnight Special® spinnerbait
Diamond Shad®, Spin-Dance® spinnerbait, Lightn’in Strike Hooks® for the Pork-O® and Whisker Sticker catfish hooks.
Mark Davis wins the Bassmasters Classic, one of his lures was the ¾oz Pro-Model® Pro-Ledge spinnerbait.
Sale of Company - Charles entertained selling the business to a competitor in 1994/1995 but then turned to his ‘ole buddy Ray Murski. Mr. Murski’s sales organization had been representing Strike King from almost the beginning and can be credited with much of its success. The deal was signed in July 1995 but not completed until November 1995. The Company produced 502 SKUs.
- The sport fishing industry had been in a mode of little growth for about the last six years as evidenced by flat license sales throughout the country (US Fish and Wildlife Service data). Sales were tough over the previous few years for retailers and their high levels of inventory made them leery of buying. Surviving in such a market can be difficult. In addition to a mature industry, a fishing tackle business is particularly challenging due to the following reasons:
- The extremely seasonal nature of the business places great demands on working capital, production and inventory management, etc.,
- Competitive forces cause companies to seek overseas labor rates which add to logistics and management challenges,
- Sales are heavily driven by promotion which is expensive and sometimes imprecise,
- Low barriers to entry cause heavy competition,
- Dependence on Mother Nature for favorable conditions can affect sales,
- Very regionalized products can challenge the national companies, and
- Product life cycles can be very short.
- Strike King and its new owner and management were committed to the tackle industry and with all of these challenges and a new heavy debt load, a course was set to turn things around.
Early 1996 John Barns became President and June 1996 Allan Ranson becomes Chief Financial Officer and then was promoted to Chief Operating Officer at the end of the year. The task was to turn the Company around, install new systems and procedures, shore up manufacturing and product development and attack the market. A business plan was drafted and off they went! George Cochran wins the Bassmasters Classic, Catfish Bites®, Pop-N-Frog added.
Production was increased at the Costa Rica facility and an systems upgrade were made and an MRP system was installed to better manage inventory and production. Private label business was pursued to attempt to reduce unused plant capacity in Costa Rica. The Company decided to get back into the crankbait market due to, higher barriers to entry, to diversify its line and to leverage its brand name. All pro staff were requested to provide new product ideas. FinPals® fish tagging system, Premier Plus spinnerbaits, Pro-Model® Jig were also added.
Approximately 400 new SKUs added including the Bitsy Bug Jig® and the Series 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 Pro-Model® crankbaits. Denny Brauer wins the 1998 Bassmasters Classic on High Rock Lake in NC flipping a hollow body soft plastic tube bait. Strike King comes up with the idea for a solid head in a tube so it won’t tear up as easily and comes out with the Flip-N-Tube®. FLW tour private label products went into approximately 1,800 Walmart stores. The El Nino weather phenomenon caused unseasonably warm weather and jump-started the 1998 year. Sales were up 41%!
Series 1XS and 4S crankbaits and 16 more FLW sku’s were added for 1999. Sales were up over 9%.
Rocket Shad added.
A new saltwater line was introduced and the Company became the title sponsor for the premier television program “One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby” which aired Saturday morning and at 7:30pm Central time Sunday nights on TNN. The sports fishing industry began receiving significant attention from outside the industry and it appeared to positively affect it. The Company sold its building and moved into a larger leased facility in December. This enabled all of the operations to be consolidated under one roof and gained some much needed space. KVD wins the Bassmasters Classic on Louisiana Delta. Sales up again.
Bitsy Minnow crankbait, Tube Technology soft plastics line, Catfish Dynamite®, and inshore saltwater lures. Sales were up. January 1st Mr. Murski elected to have John Barns convert his note receivable from Murski into Company stock. Barns became the majority stockholder.
Was a difficult year for the tackle industry with many companies having a down year. Strike King’s new 3X product line that was promised by its producer to be the ultimate and in fact revolutionary material for soft baits produced huge sales. 2003 was the second best sales year in Company history. The Company hired one of the most experienced and talented camera men/producers/editors in the outdoor programming industry and started producing its own new television program, the Strike King Pro Team Journal. Ranson became a shareholder. Kevin VanDam’s Wild Shiner jerkbait added. Got out of the Pork bait business.
The Pro Team Journal began airing on the Outdoor Life Network (now Versus). Bleeding Bait® Spinnerbaits.
More catfish baits, Redfish Magic saltwater spinnerbaits and “Bleeding” themed lures. The Pro Team Journal show was moved to the Outdoor Channel. The newly named media TV production department, “Shazam Productions®,” started shooting and producing a new Academy Outdoors TV show that would start airing in 2006. KVD wins the Bassmasters Classic on Pittsburg and George Cochran wins the FLW Cup in Hot Springs, AR. Sales up again.
Sales were up slightly.
A new formula was developed for the original 3X and the supplier changed the name to ElaZtech to emphasize the new generation material. A third TV program, “Step Outside” started being produced for the Outdoor Channel. A new Sunglasses supplier was engaged and new models were introduced. Instigated a new product development process and team to prevent us from getting behind in the process. SK’s top pro, Kevin VanDam, won two BASS tournaments on a color of our crankbait that he had created and was not on the market. He and Bassmaster TV host Mark Zona referred to it as a “Sexy Shad”. The name stuck and SK quickly went into production on this color and it became one of the hottest lures in the country. Red Eyed Shad introduced.
Rage Tail® and Coffee Tube soft plastics were tremendous hits, hardbaits sales in the new Sexy Shad color were unbelievable, and sales of the Shaky Head and Football jigs greatly exceeded anyone’s predictions…and 2007’s new RedEye Shad and King Shad continued to sell strongly, Sexy Spoon introduced. The “Great Recession” hit and record gas prices were feared to hurt business yet sales were up and were a record for the Company!
Sales up and set another record! Costa Rica decided to join the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) which it had previously decided not to for many years. This hurt SK with a new tariff. Started the implementation process of a new ERP computer software system upgrade. Perfect Plastics line and Mini 3 crankbait introduced. Greg Hackney wins the FLW Cup.
Most of 2010’s stocking orders were shipped in December 2009 so sales were off. Hack Attack Jig added. KVD wins the Bassmasters Classic on Lay Lake.
Two new squarebill crankbaits (KVD1.5 and 2.5) were launched in late 2010. In the first two months of the year these were Bass Pro Shops hottest selling lures and the gas was thrown on the fire when Kevin VanDam won the Classic in late February on a 1.5. These became hyper successful new products as well as our new 6XD deep diving crankbait. Silent Crankbaits and Slab Hammer Crappie baits and SG Plus Sunglasses were added too. Spence Scout was dropped after over 40 years on the market. New ERP computer software upgrade was launched. KVD wins the Bassmasters Classic on Louisiana Delta. Sales were up over 2011 for another record! Sadly, Mr. Murski passed away in a tragic car wreck in late December.
The 6XD, 1.5 and 2.5 crankbaits continued to sell extremely well and the new 3XD, 5XD and KVD1.0 did well too. Sexy Frog and Tour Grade Tungsten weights added. Sales were up again for yet another record! 4 out of the last 5 years have been record sales. What recession? A related entity purchased the building the Company occupies.
KVD Jerkbait, Sexy Dawg topwater, Silent Series Red Eyed Shad, Mr. Crappie crappie baits and many new Rage Tail® and Perfect Plastic lures. Another record year of sales.
10XD, KVD1.5F Flat sided crank, S11 Sunglasses. Yet another record year of sales! Independent Dealer business has grown tremendously and new owners/managers have grown sales by nearly two and a half times what is was in 1996.
KVD8.0, 1.5SH Shallow, 8XD cranks and Walleye cranks; Lucky Shad, Bonsai Shad and Banana Shad. Over 2,600 Strike King Brand SKUs!!!!