Andy’s amazing Classic adventure

HOUSTON, Texas — With the exception of champion Edwin Evers, no one’s life changed more after the 2016 Bassmaster Classic than Andy Vallombroso’s. He’s Andy of Andy’s Custom Bass Lures. It was with Andy’s E Series Finesse Jig that Evers sacked 29-3 on the final day to win the Classic.

Vallombruso will never forget the moment on the Classic weigh-in stage when Evers, championship trophy in hand, mentioned the jig that they’d designed in the months leading up to the tournament at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. He was watching the live Internet feed at home in Madison, Conn., with his wife, Sheila.

“My wife screamed, ‘You did it! You did it!’ Then she fainted,” Vallombroso recalled. “I thought I’d lost her for a second.”

In that moment, Vallombroso’s life changed in ways he could not have imagined.

“Within three minutes my PayPal account went nuts,” he said. “My website crashed three days later. Within a week, I had $4.5 million worth of orders.”

Although Vallombroso has been in the custom lure business for 38 years and is well-known in the northeastern U.S. But in no way could he could supply that kind of demand, especially from the big-box tackle stores that suddenly wanted his jigs. It’s a nice problem to have. Vallombroso has enjoyed a remarkable year, stepping up production while remaining 50 to 100 orders behind. He has remained committed to quality, hand-tied jigs.

Vallombroso’s story is one of faith, persistence and, seemingly, fate. It’s also a testament to how many anglers every year want to purchase the lure that’s used to win the Bassmaster Classic.

“It’s almost like a cult,” Vallombroso laughed. “I was going through airport security recently. A TSA agent saw my hat and said, ‘Oh, you work for Andy’s?’ When I told him I was Andy, he started telling me what an honor it was to meet me. He was screaming it.”

If Evers manages to repeat as Classic champion, Vallombroso will be able to personally congratulate him. He has a booth at this year’s Expo.

I am so humbled by all this,” he said. “I’ve worked hard for 38 years in this business. I’ve got my legacy now. If it all ends tomorrow, I’ve got my legacy.”

The following is an abbreviated version of the events that led to Evers’ 2016 Classic victory:

  • It began several years ago, when Vallombroso met Evers at a Massachusetts boat and tackle show, where he gave him a package of black, synthetic hair jigs.
  • At the 2015 Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River, Evers discovered that those small hair jigs were catching big smallmouth in practice. He was able to dig through his truck and find the package Vallombroso had given him years before.
  • Evers won the tournament on the St. Lawrence, thanks in part to Andy’s hair jig.
  • That victory started the relationship to develop the E Series Finesse Jig, which includes flat, rather than round, rubber skirt material. Flat rubber has long been a favorite in the Ozarks.
  • As you may recall, Evers went way up the Elk River, a clear Ozark tributary of Grand Lake, to catch that remarkable final day five-bass limit weighing 29-3.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Vallombroso has been making “simply the world’s best hand-tied jigs” since 1981. He didn’t invent the synthetic hair jig, but he did some scuba diving to determine why they’re so effective. Smallmouth bass feast on catfish fry at certain times, and Vallombroso has the pictures to prove how well these jigs imitate catfish fry.

His underwater fact-findings have helped refine his other jig patterns as well, particularly crawfish imitations. Vallombroso was featured in a Bassmaster television segment after the Top 100 tournament on the Connecticut River in 1994. (You can see it here, in a segment that runs from 7:10 to 7:58 of the show.)

Looking back at this decades-long string of events, Vallombroso said, “I think this was meant to be.”