Made In U.S.A. Makes a Comeback With Reprise of Storied Tackle Maker

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The Return of the Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company.

But in this process, said Lawrence, we sacrificed craftsmanship and creativity for cost - and in many ways we have been trying to recover from this departure of value ever since.

It has been more than 35 years since the Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company of St. Petersburg, Florida, one of the Southeast's leading manufacturers of fishing tackle, shuttered its doors.

In 1974, after five decades of management by the Reynolds family, the company could no longer profitably make its premier Barracuda fishing tackle. Strong competition, a sluggish U.S. economy, and the passing of its patriarch, Carl Reynolds, all combined to end the storied company.

Fast forward to 2010. Entrepreneurs Rick Bulman (Miami, Florida) and Bob Lawrence (Lancaster, New York) decided to reprise FFTMC with one clear goal in mind: to revitalize the once great lure maker relying upon some of America's best lure artisans to create handmade wooden lures for fishing and collecting under the company's premier Barracuda brand.

Growing up in the rustbelt of Western New York, the chance to reverse decline in the US manufacturing base wasn't lost on Bulman and Lawrence. "In the late 60's and 70's, big companies that suddenly decided to close or move really disrupted the WNY economy. In many ways, that initial decline of our U.S. manufacturing capacity is still being played out," stated Bulman. "We were drawn to this project by the chance to recapture the best of our manufacturing past, using vintage brand values, timeless American craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology," said Lawrence.    

After identifying leading American lure artisans, the pair assembled a virtual company to design, market and sell original handmade fishing lures, limited edition baits and one-of-a-kind folk art originals to anglers and lure aficionados. "This virtual company with roots in Brickell Key and Buffalo, as well as Texas and Pennsylvania, will enable us to make a high quality Made in USA products in a personal, profitable and efficient way," said Bulman.


It's not the first time the U.S. fishing tackle industry has seen innovation amid volatility. From the early 1900's through the late 1950's, powerhouse American sporting goods companies like Heddon, Pflueger, South Bend, Shakespeare, Paw Paw, Creek Chub and others, were at the forefront of the American fishing industry with the creation of iconic wooden baits.

During the 1960's, many anglers began to buy cheaper foreign made plastic lures. American tackle manufacturers anxious to compete, adopted the new materials and standards. "But in this process, said Lawrence, we sacrificed craftsmanship and creativity for cost - and in many ways we have been trying to recover from this departure of value ever since."

Many sportsman and collectors, including the more than 5000 members of the National Fishing Lures Collectors Club NFLCC, have kept the mystique of antique tackle, lures and equipment alive.

Bulman and Lawrence see the launch of their company as an opportunity to enable anglers and collectors alike the chance to acquire the high quality work of proven American lure craftsman, all reminiscent of the 30's and 40's, but with a modern twist.


In forming their company, Bulman and Lawrence turned to veteran lure artisan Richard Whitehead of Colmesneil, Texas. "Richard is one of the country's finest makers of unique hand carved fishing lures", said Bulman. His lure carvings are one of a kind whimsical forms drawn from nature and embellished with contemporary hand painted folk designs. We were drawn to the color and the raw energy found in his pieces. And we wanted to make sure that people got a chance to see and experience his work".

"At the same time, Lawrence added, we needed to make sure that our retro baits are practical for people who fish. That's why we have teamed up with a veteran maker of hand-made, custom lures that employs a 19-step process for the manufacture of FFTMC lures right out of the 1940's". Bulman noted "the real value in our process lies not just in how great each lure looks, but the art infused to enable them to sink, skip or surface. Our retro lures don't just look fabulous, but they are truly fishable".


FFTMC recently launched its e-commerce operations on with a dozen handmade retro production and limited edition lures. Each FFTMC Barracuda lure is packaged in a vintage cardboard or cedar box. Prices range from $24.95 for single handmade retro lures, limited edition lures are $39.99 and original Whitehead folk art designs start at $69.99. To bring their art to the masses, FFTMC also sponsors Luremania - a free monthly fishing lure giveaway.

The jury is out on whether FFTMC's business model will advance the cause of U.S. manufacturing or simply be another grand attempt at resurrecting that which should be left for dead. With a $900 million U.S. market dominated by foreign competitors selling an array of cheaper plastic baits, it would appear the folks at FFTMC have both a clear opportunity and their work cut out for them.

But Bulman and Lawrence know that sink or swim, the baits they now create for anglers and collectors will be great to look at, fun to use and make folks nostalgic for the past. It's up to their customers to decide whether their company and its products will truly stand the test of time. As the U.S. economy struggles, it is perhaps fitting that a namesake of the famous lure maker should get a second chance to prosper.

CONTACT INFORMATION: The Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company, Inc., circa 2010, is a reformation of a company that operated from 1920-74 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Its goal is to promote the fishing arts through the manufacture and use of handmade American lures crafted by leading lure artisans. Contact: Rick Bulman at (954) 609- 0259 for comment or questions. Web:    


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