Q&A With Danny Blandford of Secret Lures Co.

Owner Danny Blandford explains how precision in tackle designs, precision in soft plastics recipes and precision in order fulfillment are keys to success for Secret Lures Co.

Q&A With Danny Blandford of Secret Lures Co.

Holly and Danny Blandford of Secret Lures wear multiple hats around the shop, from handling orders and making sales to packing shipments.

Some might look at Secret Lures Co., located in Tell City, Indiana, which specializes in the manufacture of high-quality bass jigs and plastics, as a baitfish among predators. Co-owner and company president Danny Blandford sees things differently, however, and Bait & Tackle Business recently had the opportunity to talk to him about that, and the benefits that come with being streamlined and focused.

 

BTB: What’s the origin story behind Secret Lures Co.?

Blandford: It all started in the early 2000s with an accomplished Indiana angler, tackle tinkerer and hand pourer by the name of Nathan Gray. He and I came together in early 2003 and by the next year we were fishing team tournaments and incubating the ideas that later became Secret Lures. I was involved in the early planning, the launch and the first few years. Then, other work pulled me away from the project for over a decade, while Nathan kept cranking out one great bait after another. In 2018, I had sold a successful restaurant business and I was hunting for an opportunity that I could work on with my wife, Holly.

I approached Nathan knowing he had a gem of a company, but that it needed fulltime attention to get where we both thought it should be. I also reached out to a couple of industry friends and we ironed out a plan to buy Secret Lures and give it a stronger brand message, some advertising support and someone to work on it daily to make sure “The Secret Is Out.”

Danny and Holly Blandford with proof that Secret Lures products work on the water.
Danny and Holly Blandford with proof that Secret Lures products work on the water.

BTB: How does a “David” successfully compete with the “Goliaths” in the tackle industry?

Blandford: I don’t spend time worrying about how to slay giants at this point. We’re too new at this to get that far ahead right now, and I think that mindset is part of the answer to the question. I focus on the things I can control — the quality of our products, the quality of our customer service and the attention we can provide to our brand and those who support it.

Small brands have advantages over larger ones and focusing on those advantages will allow us to succeed. We are right in the middle of the workflow; every single aspect of it. We can see smaller problems sooner than the big guys. We’re closer to our consumers so we hear their feedback sooner, and we can react to it in an hour instead of the end of the quarter or fiscal year. My mantra is, “It’s not the big ones that eat the little ones; it’s the fast ones that eat the slow ones.” That goes for us and any other smaller brand.

 

BTB: What’s at the philosophical core of the Secret Lures brand?

Blandford: It’s all about precision. Precision in our tackle designs, precision in our soft plastics recipes and precision in our order fulfillment are all parts of our foundation. We make sure we get the right products to the right people at the right time, and that the products we ship are of the highest possible quality. Beyond that, we keep our customers informed of the progress of each step of order fulfillment. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year our processes have resulted in comments such as, “Thanks, most companies wouldn’t have done that.” That’s how we will win over time — by doing what most companies don’t do.

 

BTB: What more should tackle dealers understand about Secret Lures?

Blandford: That Secret Lures produces some of the best tackle anglers haven’t heard of. And I believe that more today than I did over a decade ago. We also now have the ability to increase product awareness, and that’s where the opportunity for dealers lies. Our marketing relationships, in television in particular, will drive awareness for this “small” tackle company, and customers will be walking into the store looking for, and primed to purchase, Secret Lures products. Beyond that, I’d like dealers to know that we are small enough to care about their needs and we have the flexibility to produce products specifically for them, especially in our soft plastics line. If a particular color of soft plastic is “hot” on their local body of water and they need a tube or frog to round out their offerings, we can take care of it quickly.

 

BTB: Which of Secret Lures’ products do you feel will have the most impact on anglers and retailers in 2020?

Blandford: Our investment in the Stupid Tube line should begin to really pay off for anglers and retailers in 2020. What started as a handful of tube colors and six variations of jig heads, is rapidly expanding into all the niches of tube fishing. We’ve added a HD Version of the jig head in three different weights (1/8-, 3/16-, and 1/4-ounce), which features a larger and heavier Mustad hook designed for anglers who prefer to flip tubes. We’ve also just added the Stupid Tube Ledge Head, designed for dragging bigger tubes in deeper water and/or in heavy current for offshore anglers. It features a 5/0 Mustad hook in 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-once weights, as well as a horizontal line tie, better suited for deep water and long casts.

Beyond the jig heads themselves, we’re doubling the number of colors of 3.7 Stupid Tubes and added a 4.2 Flippin’ Stupid Tube as well as the Big Dummy. That’s a large-diameter tube that is one of the softest out there and sized specifically for the HD and Ledge Heads. In addition to line expansions, we’ve secured an official trademark to establish that there is really only one true Stupid Tube, so now we can really crank up the marketing elements on a proven winner.

Our Stupid Tube has sent three different Midwestern anglers to the Bassmaster Classic, including Terry McWilliams (fourth place overall). It’s sent multiple anglers to the BFL All American, and it’s been credited with countless regional victories and Angler of the Year titles. Now that we own the name, the recipes and the production facilities for these tubes, we plan to really drive awareness to this product line. It’ll certainly help the anglers who add it to their arsenal and it’ll help the retailers that add it to their stores.

 

BTB: You’re obviously a strong supporter of collegiate-level competitive bass fishing. Can you talk about that?

Blandford: Pretty simple one for me here. College fishing changed my life and it’s simply a passion play for me. My time at the helm of the Indiana University Bass Club led to relationships within the Indiana BASS Federation, Skeeter Boats and several connections and friendships on the business side of the industry. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many great people and brands had it not been for college fishing, so I want to make sure we are invested in that space. Separate from the opportunities it provided me with, I think it is important to the industry moving forward. I was blessed with several men and women in my life who loved to fish, both competitively and recreationally, so it was ingrained in me by the time I went to college. A lot of young men and women aren’t as fortunate as I was in that area, however. Collegiate fishing programs help bridge that gap and allows recruitment of new anglers who otherwise wouldn’t get any exposure to competitive fishing or the camaraderie that comes with it.

Danny and Holly Blandford of Secret Lures are supportive of collegiate bass fishing anglers, knowing they’re the future of the industry.
Danny and Holly Blandford of Secret Lures are supportive of collegiate bass fishing anglers, knowing they’re the future of the industry.

BTB: Where do you see tackle industry trends headed?

Blandford: Like the rest of the retail world, convenience will be dictating purchasing decisions on tackle going forward. People want the right stuff at the right price shipped to their door as quickly as possible, so we’re pretty focused on making sure we do that part well. Beyond convenience, it is starting to look like it’s going to be about consolidation. We’re seeing it in tackle brands, we’re seeing it in the big box stores, and now we’re even seeing it in the bass fishing leagues themselves. Fortunately, there will always be room for the independent stores, but I think we’ll continue to see consolidation there as well. The independents that win that battle will have to have an atmosphere and/or inventory that override the convenience factor of direct-to-consumer and be personal and/or knowledgeable enough to override the appeal of the big box stores.


For more information on Secret Lures Co. visit www.secretlures.com.



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