OPINION

Bill Cooper Column: Innovation and Ingenuity - The  Mark of LeadCo Sinker and Lure Company

Bill Cooper, Special to The Rolla Daily News
USA TODAY NETWORK
Ray Tudor began LeadCo Sinker and Lure Company due to local requests for sinkers and other fishing paraphernalia.

ICast, the world’s largest fishing trade show took place in Florida a few weeks ago. Vendors from around the world gather to showcase innovative and new fishing products to retailers and the media. It is an incredible gathering of talent and ingenuity that generates untold millions of dollars annually for the fishing tackle economy. However, IÇast does not have a corner on the ingenuity department as evidenced by Ray Tudor’s  LeadCo Sinker and Lure Company in Buckhorn, Missouri, just west of Waynesville.

Tudor is a jack-of-all trades type of person, and is quick to jump on an opportunity when he sees it. An avid outdoorsman, I met him at The Fallen Outdoors Outdoor Expo at Roubidoux Park in Waynesville recently. Tudor was a primary sponsor of the event.

Tudor began the LeadCo Sinker and Lure Co. out of a need that he saw among area fishermen. “I began the business by making fishing sinkers that guys were looking for.”

The days are about past that people make things with their own hands out of necessity. Convenience and big box stores have all but eliminated the ingenuity and creativity of people in general, but particularly so among outdoorsmen and fishermen, according to Tudor. “Not many guys make their own fishing sinkers anymore,” he said. “I had a few molds from days past and simply heard so many guys talking bout needing lead sinkers, that I decided to start during some.”

Tudors idea rested on the principle that he wanted to supply a much needed item at an affordable cost. “I love to fish and I like to see people go fishing,” he said. “I want to do my part to make fishing affordable for anyone.”

The outdoor industry blossomed in the 1970s and 80s. Dozens of new outdoor products companies sprang up in garages across the country as the bass fishing craze swept the country. Too, turkey hunting, deer hunting and fly fishing grew by leaps and bounds. Often, needed products were scarce, and ingenious American outdoorsmen began to invent and produce tackle and outdoor gear on an unprecedented scale. 

Quite often individuals began their business by producing only one item, just as Tudor did. With limited production equipment, many of the early outdoor products entrepreneurs found themselves struggling to provide enough supply to meet demand. 

Many of the early outdoor products innovators found other opportunities with larger companies that could mass manufacture. Often, garage based outdoor products manufacturers found themselves being offered decent profits for their products and sold out to larger companies. Pradco is one such company and has amassed approximately 15 fishing products companies under their corporate umbrella.

“I started very small,” Tudor said. “But, demand just for sinkers grew incredibly fast. “Guys would call and ask if I could make a certain size or shape sinker. I knew I could if I had the moulds. I found myself buying all kinds of new moulds as the business developed.”

Tudor began by making 6 and 8-ounce sinkers that were used for snagging paddlefish. It’s popular sport on Missouri’s bigger rivers and lakes. Anglers need heavy weights to pull big treble hooks down in the currents where the prehistoric fish spawn. “Guys were having trouble finding these heavy weights and began asking me if I could make them. It was an easy decision for me. I saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Success came quickly for Tudor. His flexibility and ingenuity fueled his business as more and more requests came in for specific products. “Guys became more aggressive with their requests. I think some of them asked for different products just to see if I could make them.” 

There are a gillion fishing products on the market. Too, there seems to be an abundance of companies producing very similar products. Competition is keen, but Tudor has an answer for that, too. “Sure, big companies are real forces in the markets,” he said. “However, big companies can’t match the quality of service and responsiveness to customer needs that an independent like myself can supply.”

And big company store employees cannot begin to match the outdoor experience level of Ray Tudor. “I’ve been around for a while,” he explained. “I’m from an outdoor family in a great outdoor region. I’ve met many really good outdoorsmen, who have good fishing skills. I’ve learned from all of them.”

Tudor began producing dipsy divers per requests from fishermen.  A dipsy diver is a round weight that you attach your line to while trolling for paddlefish. It takes the treble hooks down to various depths according to speed traveled. “I probably sold a thousand dispel divers last year, just out of my little shop,” Tudor said. “I can do that, because I make a good quality, functional product and sell it priced well under what the big stores sell for.”

And now other companies purchase dips divers from Tudor, because they can’t find them elsewhere. It’s another case of American ingenuity filling in the gaps.

Tudor’s sinker business grew rapidly as he adapted and provided what anglers wanted. “I produce about any kind of sinker or jig you can think of“ he said. “From the 6-to-8-ounce snagging sinkers, I’ve advanced into egg sinkers, round sinkers and brush and football jigs. Our business grows by the month. I’m looking forward to what the future brings.”

Fast forward. Tudor’s LeadCo and Lure Co. now offers a complete line of fishing equipment and gear. Rods, reels, lines, lures, accessories, and live bait make the shop a place that any fisherman will enjoy.

LeadCo Sinker and Lure Company is located at 26605 Samantha Ln in Waynesville, Missouri. Contact them at 573-202-5044, or find them on Facebook.

Ray Tudor is a people person and enjoys talking fishing. He never started his business with the intention of making a living at it. He simply wanted a little extra money…to buy fishing gear I bet.