Getting it right

Last week's travel took me to a Texas ranch outside of Dallas where I met with Strike King personnel and media people for a few days of product testing, story interviews, photo sessions and some great bass fishing. Other pros in our group were Greg Hackney, my nephew Jonathon VanDam, Mark Menendez, James Niggemeyer and Mark Davis.

We spent the daytime taking writers and photographers fishing on the lakes around the ranch, demonstrating the performance of lures we introduced last summer for 2011 and how we fish them. We also spent time with Strike King lure designer Phil Marks discussing new baits we're adding to the Strike King lineup, improvements we'd like to make in some of the older baits, and new fish catching colors we need in our arsenal. It's a pretty cool deal because each of these pros has different strengths and ideas of what we need to make us even better.

As far as I'm concerned, we have the best pro staff of any lure company and each of our guys brings a lot to the table. It's such a pleasure to work with a company that values input from its pros and wants what we want — the best possible bait in each lure category. The Strike King management team sets high standards for lure development, and it's up to us to tell them when a lure is ready for the market.

The new KVD 1.5 and 2.5 square bill crankbaits are good examples. We've been working on those for more than a year, testing prototype after prototype, tweaking it here and there to get it perfect. We probably had 10-12 different versions before we got what we just released to the public. We had it pretty good before, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for in a shallow running bait, so Marks kept improving it until I was satisfied. I was looking for a very specific action and wobble in a castable shallow running lure.

More importantly, I felt we needed a lure that had built-in erratic action — the kind where the bait hunts and searches from side to side, yet runs true at all speeds. I've never had a shallow crankbait that would do that, but I do now. We went through the same process with the development of the Series 6XD a couple of years ago. I finished second with a prototype in the 2009 Kentucky Lake tournament, but it was only 85 percent of what we felt it could be, so we kept working until we had it right. We launched the 6XD at the Bassmaster Classic last spring, and it's been a tremendous success.

We spend a lot of time tweaking soft plastic lures, refining shapes and action, amount of flake, salt content and color that goes into each lure. I know of no other company that goes to that extreme to develop their baits. Some companies don't even use their pro staff for product development, and that's a shame.