Bullet Weights Celebrates 50th Anniversary

A simple but unique idea became the building block of Bullet Weights, one of the largest and most innovative sinker manufacturing companies in North America.

Bullet Weights Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Left to right: Doug, Larry and Joe Crumrine from Bullet Weights standing beside Larry’s original machine for stamping sinkers.

Doug Crumrine says Bullet Weights is “like the American dream,” a business that started in a garage and is now worldwide. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and to learn more about Bullet Weights and its rise to prominence in the angling community, we must start at the beginning.

Half a century ago, Burden Surplus Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, brought in fishing pros and guides such as Roland Martin for seminars. The experts taught anglers how to catch bass using plastic worms and other artificial lures. This was a time when the sport was gaining in popularity, and many new bass-related products were being introduced. Doug’s father, Larry, an avid fisherman, often went to these seminars to become a better angler. As he sat in the crowd and listened, the elder Crumrine was inspired to create a better sinker.

Prior to Bullet Weights, anglers used a bass casting sinker — they cut the brass eyelet out to create a sliding sinker. But it was not an ideal shape for bass fishing because it didn’t slide easily through thick weeds.

Working at Hornady Ammunition in Grand Island, Nebraska, during the late 1960s, Larry understood the aerodynamics of a bullet. Because a pointed bullet passed through the air so well, he predicted a sinker with a similar shape would pass through heavy cover cleanly. Using a Hornady bullet as a sample, he started building sliding sinkers shaped like bullets.

Bass anglers across North America depend on Bullet Weights sinkers to help them catch more fish.
Bass anglers across North America depend on Bullet Weights sinkers to help them catch more fish.

Humble Beginnings

Larry built the original machine to stamp sinkers. He constructed it from items he could scavenge from local junkyards. The components included a 6-cylinder Chevy block in order to use the cam system, and rollers off a washing machine to pull material into the machine. Fifty pounds of weld held everything together — Larry’s original machine still works!

Still working full time at Hornady, Larry built bass sinkers at night and on weekends for sale in local bait and tackle shops. He also promoted the new sinker vigorously through local and regional fishing tournaments. Called Bullet Weights for obvious reasons, his sinker caught on quickly with diehard bass anglers. Larry hired a rep group in the early 1970s. Prior to that, his company relied on independent salesmen.

Larry’s unique sinker design eventually captured the attention of large fishing tackle distributors, and as a result Bullet Weights gained a following from coast to coast. The first offerings from Bullet Weights consisted of sliding sinkers weighing 1/4 ounce and 1/2 ounce. Larry’s original designs featured a flat base; today they’re concave. Constant evolution and improvement of products at Bullet Weights has been a key factor in its steady and continued growth.

In 1972, Bullet Weights received a letter from Johnny Morris (founder of Bass Pro Shops), who was selling fishing products from his father’s liquor store at the time. Morris had heard about the new sinkers and wanted to sell them.

During the same year, Larry wrote a letter to fishing editor Homer Circle at Outdoor Life introducing his product. Bullet Weights also placed ads in fishing publications to promote its sinkers.

Doug started helping his father at Bullet Weights while still in high school. He worked part-time operating machinery, fulfilling orders and overseeing shipment of product while production was still in the family’s garage in Grand Island. With business picking up and new products being developed and produced, Larry moved Bullet Weights manufacturing to an old bank building in Alda, Nebraska, in 1973.

Larry’s wife, Lois, was the bookkeeper, but also ran the machines and processed orders. Both Larry and Lois worked double-time for a decade to sustain the company. They had a few other employees, but not many. There was always something to do in the evening to ensure production was ready for the next day. Family and friends helped along the way, too.

Doug said, “We were very blessed with a lot of help. No one was trained to do the jobs they ended up with, and we didn’t know something couldn’t be done, so we tried it.”

During the early stages of his company, Larry needed pounds of lead, not tons, and he couldn’t afford the material at market prices. Thankfully, Joyce Hornady, founder of Hornady Ammunition, sold Larry lead wire for his sinkers at a reduced price. Having affordable and accessible material was instrumental in helping Bullet Weights become competitive and successful.

“I never thought competition was an obstacle,” Doug said. “In my opinion and that of my dad’s, our product was different, but others didn’t necessarily agree with us. They said, ‘All sinkers sink; what’s your price?’ I looked for ways to talk about how our product was different and better. It’s a tool and not a commodity to help catch fish.” This message still resonates today.

Sustained Growth

Under Larry and Doug’s leadership, the small company grew at a rapid pace, and Bullet Weights products were soon distributed both nationally and internationally. Doug was named president of Bullet Weights in 1985, and Larry was Chairman of the Board. Doug eventually bought the company from his father in 1998.

In addition to offering lead, Bullet Weights demonstrated its innovation as a company by adding Ultra Steel and Ultra Tin products to its line in 1995. These products were offered to anglers as an alternative to lead, but more importantly as a line of sinkers that had their own unique fishing performance advantages. Some Ultra Steel products were also offered with patented PermaScent and PermaColor features.

The rapid growth of new and old product lines led to the expansion of a Bullet Weights manufacturing and distribution facility in nearby Loup City, Nebraska, in 1999. The headquarters remained in Alda and total employment of the company reached nearly 100.

Bullet Weights became a third-generation company in 2004 when Doug’s son (Larry’s grandson), Joe, was named president. Joe started part-time employment with Bullet Weights in 1994 and eventually was named director of marketing after becoming a full-time employee in 1998.

Today, Bullet Weights is one of the largest sinker manufacturers in the world and is reported to have the largest selection of fishing sinker products in the marketplace. Its products are distributed worldwide by major outdoor retailers, marine dealers, sporting goods stores and department stores.

“Since Bullet Weights started 50 years ago, we have added new items every year,” said Bullet Weights President Joe Crumrine. “The purpose of each product remains the same: to help anglers catch fish. Even though we offer more than 3,000 different sinker types, sizes, shapes and colors, we are still looking for opportunities to expand the product line. We continue to see lots of opportunities, especially with non-lead weights such as tungsten.”

From tiny drop shot weights (above) to heavy sinkers for cat fishing (below), Bullet Weights makes products to help anglers make the most of their time on the water.
From tiny drop shot weights (above) to heavy sinkers for cat fishing (below), Bullet Weights makes products to help anglers make the most of their time on the water.

True to Its Roots

Looking back at a half century at Bullet Weights, the following three steps were keys to success for three generations of Crumrines:

  • Larry’s vision and mechanics of building a product that’s different.
  • Doug’s differentiation of product via marketing and promotion.
  • Joe’s use of modern technology to make Bullet Weights a better and more efficient company in terms of customer service, etc.

Through 50 years of business, Bullet Weights has made customer service its top priority. “Our policy is if a customer has a concern, there’s no negotiation,” Doug said. “We take care of it and sort it out later.”

“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, I feel very fortunate that Bullet Weights continues to grow,” Joe said. “My job is to keep us on track for the future, to continue what we’ve been doing, and stay on the path made by my grandfather and father. Along the way, we will always listen to our customers as well as pro anglers who bring ideas for new products or product improvements.”



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