Local business gaining recognition in bass tournament circuit
By Lisa Voyles
HOUSTON – For Eric Smith and Casey Lancaster, starting a business based around fishing makes sense but it wasn’t planned at all.
The two Houston men are both avid fishermen and have fished together for several years.
“Every chance we get,” Smith said.
When they got involved with tournament fishing, things started clicking into place.
“We started fishing Aberdeen and there was a color (jig) that no one else had,” Lancaster said.
“We wanted a real bright color for the Aberdeen River because it’s so muddy,” Smith added.
The duo designed and created a bright, multi-colored lure that started to catch eyes.
“We took it back to Aberdeen and some other boys saw it and asked, ‘Can you make some of those for us?’ and we said, yeah, we’ll make you some,” Lancaster said.
They started small but soon the business began to grow in local shops and by word of mouth. They were contacted by Clay Coleman at Clay’s Bait and Tackle in Tupelo who thought the lures were good looking and offered to put them on his shelves.
“We took six or ten different colors,” Lancaster said. “In a couple of days, he called and said they were gone. So we took some more and they were gone again.”
So the men turned their personal workshop into a business on a small scale, making Styke Ryte Lures by hand.
“We used to sit right here and melt down lead and make our skirts,” Lancaster said. “We would buy big chunks of lead, melt it and pour it into the molds one at a time. When we started getting 300 jig orders, we said we’ve got to do something else.”
Smith said they commandeered Lancaster’s mother’s kitchen to produce their hand-made product.
“Ruby Lee (Lancaster) would come in and we’d have 500 jigs in her oven,” Smith said.
“A lot of people don’t go that extra step to heat cure,” explained Lancaster.
Lancaster is a Paramedic with North Mississippi Medical Center and Smith is a Paramedic with Transcare Ambulance Service and they both started using their time off to travel to tournaments and small bait and tackle stores around the state, marketing their lures.
And they found success.
They took in a third partner, Cliff Pace of Petal, to mass produce the lures and are finding more markets for them everyday.
“We went from writing the name on stickers and putting them on bags to ordering bags 10,000 at a time and labeling them,” Lancaster said.
Stryke Ryte Lures can currently be found in small stores from Hot Springs, Ark., to Birmingham, Ala. and from Tennessee to the Mississippi Gulf Coast but the men still have a bigger dream.
“We want to go from New York to California,” Lancaster smiled.
As both are employed full-time, they are able to pour their profits back into the business to continue building it.
“We started three years ago from scratch,” Smith said. “We didn’t take out a businsses loan and we still haven’t.”
They plan to continue making the circuit of tournament fishing, displaying, using and marketing their products. And they still continue fishing tournaments whenever possible. They placed second in a recentevent behind the Galloway team from Houlka.
“The Galloway boys beat us with our own stuff, that’s the bad part,” Lancaster smiled.