For any angler, shopping for tackle should be a treat. There are so many new and exciting products out there to choose from — all promising to catch more fish.
But for any product to become viable, it has to go through extensive research and development. And the companies who perfect this process usually stand out.
I represent Rapala — the largest lure manufacturer in the world. They got that big because they put an emphasis on product development.
Since the time Lauri Rapala’s first Floating Minnow reached the bass market, the company has dedicated itself to perfection. Their product mantra has always been, “Hand-Tuned, Tank-Tested.”
According to Rapala’s head lure designer, Mark Fisher, the key to success is good communication and an idea for a product that has a definite application.
“We’re constantly networking with our media partners, pro staff and sales force to find new areas of need,” shares Fisher. “And when something viable is presented, we then try to find some overlapping applications. For example, if it will catch bass here in the states, will it also catch barramundi in Australia, or pike in Europe? Obviously, the broader the appeal, the better.”
Fisher says if an idea sticks, the process of development can then begin — first with conceptual drawings by hand, then by computer or computer-aided design (CAD). During this phase, body shape and profile are determined, as well as the lure’s pull-point and hook configuration. Weighting is also considered, and that may include an internal weight-transfer system to aid in distance casting or balance during the retrieve.
Once the conceptual design is refined and agreed on, then the process of prototyping begins.
“There’s a tremendous amount of back and forth during this phase,” claims Fisher. “From Finland to Minneapolis, to our partners in the field and back again. Every new prototype receives exhaustive testing and evaluation.”
Rick Billings, Rapala’s VP of product development, works with Fisher throughout the process, claiming, “A lure has to perform exactly as desired or we won’t bring it to market.”
He also emphasizes the importance of each new product having a message. “Our sales and marketing teams need a story to tell. If they’re not onboard, then it’s not a productive use of our time. Engagement is essential, from our sales force all the way to the end consumer.”
Although they work together, Billings and Fisher are vastly different in their approach.
“Fisher is the creative genius behind our P.D. effort,” shares Billings. “I’m more a spreadsheet, numbers guy. Math and engineering is my background. So, we’re coming from two entirely different directions, yet, we somehow find each other in the middle. And we’re in complete agreement when we get there.”
The pair’s unique synergy stems from more than just their contrasting personalities or working environment. Fisher and Billings are longtime tournament anglers, so they know how a lure has to perform in order to have any meaningful application. Their combined on-the-water experience also aids in visualizing new concepts.