Oklahoma-Based Falcon Rods Plays Big in Brazil

Like many mainstream rod manufacturers, John Beckwith’s Falcon Rods makes a host of tools for specialized fishing situations. But Falcon is one of the few – and perhaps the only – large-scale rod company making rods specifically for Amazonian peacock bass.

Oklahoma-Based Falcon Rods Plays Big in Brazil

Jorge Gomez, owner of the Sucuri Pesca chain in Manaus, the heart of Amazonian fishing travel, carries Falcon Rods after meeting Falcon owner John Beckwith. 

Like many mainstream rod manufacturers, John Beckwith’s Falcon Rods makes a host of tools for specialized fishing situations, including everything from Carolina-rigging to frogging to throwing a dropshot. Falcon also is one of the few — and perhaps the only — large-scale rod company that makes rods specifically aimed at targeting Amazonian peacock bass. 

The origin of Falcon’s peacock rod lineup was a happy accident. But its continuation reflects the proper way to be profitable and distinguishable in a niche market. 

At the 2000 Bassmaster Classic Expo in Chicago, Beckwith met Phil Marsteller, owner and operator of Amazon Tours.

“I’m just the kind of guy who likes to fish,” Beckwith said. “He had a big display and when we started talking we made a deal to trade some rods for a trip. I started going down and I really enjoyed it, so I went back every year, and eventually started taking other people down.”

Those first few trips, his peacock rod of choice was an extra-heavy, 7-foot Carolina-rigging rod. They were used every day, under the harshest of conditions, pushed to the limits on big fish and by being dragged through thick stands of trees and thorny bushes. Beckwich said “they never broke,” but the local and visiting anglers wanted something different.

That need was dictated by the peacocks, which typically won’t hit a lure sitting still. Warp speed retrieves function best, and typically involve hard downward sweeps of the rod to retrieve, for example, a big prop bait. Beckwith described it as “like going to the health farm. You sweat like crazy.” For the average-sized angler, fishing in a boat low to the water, the heavy exertion can lead to exhaustion, especially with the wrong rod. That in turn leads to occasionally catching the tip on the surface, messing up the cadence, and reduced fish catches.

Beckwith had a long-term history of encouraging and catalyzing the development of rods for specific purposes. As a rep for Lew Childre and Shakespeare before starting Falcon, he’d realized the 5’6” medium-action pistol grips that were the industry standard didn’t maximize efficiency for all lure types.

“You needed a heavier action rod to fish a jig,” he said. When he started Falcon, he always wanted to mold his tools to the job at hand. “That’s kind of been our deal from the beginning,” he said, noting that rods like the “Carolina Lizard Dragger” were the offspring of angler demand.

“The Brazilians like shorter rods because they work the bait with the rod tip down toward the water,” he said. To meet those local preferences, and to maintain a distribution point in a country where his brand was little-known, he teamed with Jorge Gomez, owner of the Sucuri Pesca chain of stores in Manaus, the heart of Amazonian fishing travel, to come up with the right specifications.

Falcon Rods owner John Beckwith in Brazil with a peacock bass he caught out of a watery jungle.
Falcon Rods owner John Beckwith in Brazil with a peacock bass he caught out of a watery jungle.

“He told me they wanted a 5’7” or 5’8” rod," Beckwith said. "I made some shorter specialty rods with a peacock decal and the windings in the colors of the Brazilian flag for them.” 

In addition to using the rods on his own trips and selling them in the Brazilian market, he stocked several influential Brazilian outfitters with them. That got them in the hands of clients with demonstrated interest in the sport and money to spend. The result was overwhelmingly positive, if not unexpected. While Falcon sells the peacock bass rods in the United States and elsewhere, most of the sales are in Brazil. Indeed, Sucuri Pesca has become one of his top 10 volume dealers worldwide. Within the stores there are dedicated Falcon displays.

“It has been very good for our brand to do something diversified,” Beckwith said. “It exposed our product to a completely different market.”

Adjustments, Improvements

Over time, he has made slight adjustments in order to best suit the rods to the tackle-busting jungle fish and traveling anglers’ preferences.

Originally, all of the guides were double-footed. Since then he’s found that if wrapped properly,  single-footed Fuji guides can handle the stress of harsh boat rides and heavy fish. He has expanded the lineup to include rods made specifically for peacocks at three price points: his $99.99 BuCoo Series, the $129.99 LowRider Series and the Expert at $199.99.

While it will likely never be inexpensive to visit the Amazon from abroad, an angler who needs to buy tackle for the trip doesn’t have to spend a fortune. Despite a “pretty heavy duty” to get the rods through customs, he said the majority of his sales are at the upper end of the choices. The same is true in other foreign markets like Italy, where “a fishing rod is kind of an experience, something you treasure.” 

Beckwith added that the birth and ascent of his peacock bass lineup was made possible by the fact that he already had key infrastructure in place. The Falcon brand was already established, at least in the United States, before he ever went to the Amazon, meaning that they already had the basics of building a quality product down pat. Additionally, because he’d stocked some of the Brazilian outfitters with his rods for years before he built a peacock-specific rod, the brand had a fair amount of familiarity in an emerging market. Finally, through Gomez and Sucuri Pesca, he didn’t have to hunt down a means of distribution. 

Most importantly, though, Beckwith thinks the secret of his success in this unexpected market has been his ability to combine what he already knows with an ability to listen to the consumer. 

“We gave the customer what he wanted,” he said. “The secret was meeting the Brazilians’ needs, not what we wanted them to have.”

Bonus: Key Lessons From Falcon's Success

Beckwith’s “accidental” success with native Brazilians and anglers traveling to the Amazon from abroad provides a road map for other manufacturers looking for new markets to explore.

Of course, nothing replaces the need to listen to the ones who are actually the experts in a particular practice. But whether you want to become the leading provider of gear for giant trevally, golden dorado or some rare 6-inch mountain trout, here are five lessons to be learned from his path. 

1. First-to-Market Advantage

While other manufacturers either did not realize the size of the Brazilian market, didn’t think it worth the effort, or believed that existing products covered the necessary basics, Beckwith took a leap of faith. Could another U.S. or Japanese rod manufacturer enter his Brazilian domain today? Of course. But the goodwill, name recognition and shelf space that he’s earned give him a competitive advantage.

2. Gave Access to Industry Bigwigs

From the beginning, Beckwith put the rods in hands of key outfitters, key tackle distributors, and anglers with income to spare on specialized equipment. The word “influencers” has rightfully become a cliché, but in order to build momentum and justification for a new lineup, it’s critical to have at least grassroots support. It’s even better to get them in front of people who can introduce them to more people.

3. Durability and Cross-Fertilization

Beckwith knew his rods would be put to tests in the jungle that they wouldn’t experience stateside, and he had to build a product that would last. He took the best engineering techniques he knew and applied them, and then took that knowledge back to his rods used for other purposes to ensure that they are bulletproof as well.

4. Use Success as a Launch Pad

In addition to selling rods dedicated to peacock bass fishing, Falcon now sells peacock-specific jigs and topwaters, as well as lures specific to the Brazilian market. Run a Google search for “peacock bass rods” and Falcon is the first result. You can get mostly outfitted in terms of tackle strictly from what he offers.

5.    Exponential growth

In addition to selling rods, lures, and clothing suitable for your first — or next — trip to the Amazon, Beckwith also can arrange for the trips. This is the gift that keeps on giving, because not only can he share his expertise and experience, thus making him the de facto expert, but he can outfit you as well. Whether you already own zero Falcon rods or a few dozen, once you see what they can do in the harshest of environments, you’ll buy more for use at home.


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