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Flippinstick Bait Company "Meet Your Maker"

Flippinstick Bait Company "Meet Your Maker"

Terry Thornton |

In the first ever installment of our "Meet Your Maker" series we will put the spotlight on Mike Lukjanowicz, Owner/Operator of Flippinstick Bait Company based in Washington State. We posed to Mike some pretty in depth questions, and here is what he had to say.


Inspiration and Passion:
What inspired you to become involved in creating bass fishing tackle?
Being an avid angler, it all started out pouring lead jigs. I saw it as a way to use my hands and make something I was using a lot of, mainly football heads and drop shot weights, and possibly save some money along the way. I started catching fish on them and began to think, well this is not that hard and
maybe I can expand the jig styles I poured to include skirted jigs and swim jigs. Then I started tying skirts for those and was catching fish. So, then I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if I could pour the jig trailers for the jigs I’m using too. I started catching fish on those too… Then the creativity bug hit me. I
would get color ideas in my head and go to the garage and try stuff. Pretty soon the jig trailers started to migrate to stick baits. Once I started catching fish on those, it was game on. I started finding bait making forums, and youtube videos and was hooked! Of course, the guys in my club, and buddies who fish
started asking me to make them some stuff too. Then they started catching fish and started asking me: “do you have” … “Can you make”… and I was suddenly a hobby level bait maker. Once I get into something, I go all in. The next thing I know I have hundreds of molds, gallons of plastisol, colorant, flake
and all the goodies. During the Pandemic, when most of us were forced with stay at home orders, a subscription table box company reached out and said they wanted some of my bats for an upcoming box. They focused on small American businesses, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was then that I got
my business license and started officially started a company (versus being a hobby guy making baits for friends). The it went in to designing and making packaging to look good in a retail store (not just the clear bags with a sticker label on it.) It’s been a whirlwind since then. The bait company is not my
primary job, but it gets a lot of my hours when I’m at home.

How would you describe the passion that drives your work in tackle manufacturing?
The creativity in making something that I think is “cool” and maybe “different” is so much fun for me. It can get out of hand. I can realistically only have so many bait styles and color options that I can keep up with. The next most motivating thing for me is seeing people catch fish with my baits. I absolutely love
bass fishing and catching bass never gets old. From small ones to giants that adrenaline rush is there for me every time, and I know it’s the same for so many of the bass anglers out there. Knowing I can get baits to the that help them have that same feeling really drives me. I LOVE getting customer pictures and

Design Process:
Can you walk us through your creative process when designing new bass fishing tackle?
There are basic tried and true bait styles that just work. There is room for every company to have some of those (stick baits, grubs, etc.) so of course we do too. But when it comes to being different, my first thought is what is out there that I use or like, but wish was a little different. A little wider, narrower, longer, more tapered, more texture…I start there. Then I play with small variations and tweak then until I feel that I have something that anglers want, but fish have not seen over and over. I want it to stand out to the fish just a little bit more than the baits they see all the time. You’d be surprised at how many of those design just do not draw the attention I was hoping for. Hours of trial and error that do not pay
off in the end. It can be discouraging at times, but it’s part of the process. You must learn to take the wins when you get them.

What factors do you prioritize when developing a new piece of tackle for Flippinstick Bait Company?
First off, it has to catch the angler before it can catch a fish. So It has to have “curb appeal”. The nit has to make sense in the package on the peg in the store. Then what are anglers looking for? From there, color and durability are key. The form must fit the function. Next for me is value. Anglers need to get a
good value for their money. There are tournament situations where 1 bait lasting 1 fish is acceptable,but if an angler can catch multiple fish on one bait, they begin to build trust in the brand, and then brand loyalty is born. I listen to my customers. If a customer has feedback, I’m genuinely interested in hearing it. You want this bait with more salt, OK. You want this one to be made of a tougher plastic? Ok.
You want another size. Any feedback a customer has is valuable. I may not be able to implement all feedback, at least not right away, but I certainly listen to it, and ponder the steps it will take to get that end result.

How does your company strive to bring innovation to the bass fishing tackle market?
That’s tough. As a small business with a limited budget innovation is challenging and expensive. The cost of designing a CNC model, the cost of materials and the cost of time of the machine is not often seen by the angler. Trying something that does not work out as well as planned is all lost profit and impacts the
financial circumstances of the business. The innovation of 3D printing has brought some of the cost down when trying to get to the “final product” before it goes to the CNC mill. So right now, for innovation, what I’m doing is looking at some of the most commonly used bait styles and adding something that makes it a little different. The SKINWALKER is my most innovative bait I’ve worked on so
far. I’m a very small business, and innovation is not at the forefront of my business right now. I’m more focused on quality and consistency.

Can you share a specific example of a unique or groundbreaking product you have developed?
I’m just about to launch it on the market. It’s called the SKINWALKER. The name is derived from the Navajo stories of creatures who can take the shape of other animals. This bait has the ability to transform into multiple different baits. It took over 2 ½ years to get the shape of the bait right, from there packaging and labels took months of trial and error to get it to where it is now, ready for the market. I’m very excited to see it in action across the country.

Quality Control:
What measures does your company take to ensure the highest quality in your fishing tackle?

To start with, my hands are on every bait from the time it is made to the time it gets into a package. I work hard to make sure that I check each bait for flaws or blemishes before they get put into a package. The reality is that a stick bait with a dent in the side is still going to catch as many fish as one with no
imperfections, but the angler looking at the bait in the store is looking for perfection. So baits with small blemishes typically end up in my boat. If a customer has a quality issue that I missed, all they need to do is reach out. I’ll make it right with them.

How do you handle feedback and continuously improve your products?
Customer feedback is important to me. I want every customer to be happy and catch fish. I’m approachable and respond to anyone who reaches out. If the feedback makes sense and is cost effective, I can implement that into future production runs. In some instances, the best thing is to make
something specific for that one customer. Customize it to their requests. That’s the cool part of working with a small business. You have the opportunity to connect with the bait maker, get customer requests made and have something truly unique to you. Confidence is key in bait choices. Anglers throw baits they are confident will put fish in the boat. Being able to adjust a color or firmness, salt content for
example for a customer can often build their confidence in throwing that bait, which means they will throw it more and likely catch more fish on it. I love getting messages or calls about a custom bait I made that really worked well for a customer.

Material Selection:
What considerations go into choosing the materials for your fishing tackle?
Durability, cost, shelf life are the top 3. My baits need to be a prices that are in line (or under) similar products on the market, so I need materials that are going to deliver the quality anglers expect, and allow me to hit the pricing tiers they expect as well. Being a small business I am buying materials in smaller quantities that the “big guys” do and I’m forced to realize price increases much more quickly.

Are there any specific materials or technologies that set your products apart?
Well the plastisol formulations I use are designed to be tough but still supple. You get the durability you want, without compromising the action.

Favorite Products:
Do you have a favorite piece of bass fishing tackle that your company has produced? If so, what makes it
The SKINWALKER has been a labor of love and I’m very proud of the final product for sure. A few of my other favorite baits are the:
Medium DS Leech, 5” hex stix, the Ideal 3.8 swimbait and the Best Toad Ever. I have confidence that those baits will catch fish on any body of water in the country and beyond. (I’ve taken them to Mexico a few times and had great success there too.)

Challenges in Tackle Manufacturing:
What are some of the challenges you face in the process of manufacturing bass fishing tackle?
I covered some of these earlier, but being a small business forces me to buy in smaller volume, which is always more expensive and price changes in materials hit me faster. When the pandemic hit, and more
people were stuck at home, the independent bait making community blew up huge. It seems like everyone is a bait maker now. Trying to stand out in the market can be tough at times. It’s customer feedback and word of mouth that really help a company.

How do you overcome obstacles and ensure consistency in your products?
I work hard to not overextend myself. Not taking on too many orders at one time, or large volume orders on short notice.

Environmental Sustainability:
How does your company approach environmental sustainability in the manufacturing process and
product design?
Well, I try to be thoughtful in reducing manufacturing waste. I recycle where I can and use responsible manufacturing processes.

Customer Feedback:
How important is customer feedback in shaping your product development and future releases?
Without my customers I have no reason to make baits. I’m always available for feedback and I genuinely listen and consider all the feedback that I get be it good bad or indifferent. I consider all of the feedback and apply it when it makes sense, is reasonable and cost effective to my overall production. Some feedback is better used for individual customer requests vs production, and I’m happy to accommodate individual requests as often as I can.

Can you share an instance where customer feedback led to a significant improvement or change in your
I worked very closely with a few very specific customers during the R&D process of the SKINWALKER. It is the feedback that I received from them combined with my own on the water time that brought the final version to life.

Trends in Bass Fishing:
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in bass fishing, and how does it influence your product development?
The current trend that has people talking is with forward facing sonar. It has certainly changed the game for bait makers. As more people move away from the docks, and shorelines, some of the tried & true soft plastic baits are not being used as widely as before. More and more baits are being developed
to be used in conjunction with FFS and that market is growing very fast. I’ve got a bait in design now specifically designed for this purpose as well and I’m hoping to have it market ready by summer of 2024 or sooner.

Are there any emerging trends in the industry that excite you?
Materials. The plastisol industry is growing and more durable, yet soft / subtle materials are being developed. I’m always looking for new innovations in this area. I’ve tried some that did not turn out to be as good as I had hoped. I’m looking forward to seeing advancements here that are cost effective and
easy to work with.

Collaborations and Partnerships:
Have you collaborated with any professional anglers or other companies to enhance your product offerings?
I have had the opportunity to send some of my stuff to some pro anglers, gotten some feedback but I have not built any official partnerships.

How do these collaborations contribute to the development of your tackle?
As I mentioned earlier I am always interested in the feedback of my customers. Pro anglers spend more days / hours on the water but they too are still customers who love finding new and productive tackle. Because of the hours on the water and they accessibility to a large variety of brands and products I take their feedback at face value for sure.

Memorable Moments:
Can you share a memorable moment or achievement in your journey as a bass fishing tackle manufacturer?
The first time I had an angler bring me a bait and say “I won the tournament with this bait!” was pretty cool. I asked them how may they used that weekend for the win, and he said “ONE! This One right here!” I still have that bait. It’s a dropshot bait that lasted two full tournament days and is still in usable

Is there a particular product launch or event that stands out in your mind?
The upcoming launch of the SKINWALKER!

Do you offer customization options for anglers who have specific preferences? How does that process work?
Absolutely. All an angler needs to do is email me or reach out on Instagram. I’ll share my number with them and we can talk about what they are looking for. The hardest part of the customization process is getting colors right. If the angler is local, I’ll invite them to the shop se we can work side by side to get it
just right. But when a customer says, “Blue, but not too dark, and maybe a hint of ……” It’s so challenging to match what they see in their mind’s eye. I prefer having an actual bait in hand if a customer wants a color match. Your phone talking to my phone never shows the exact color when sending photos.

Tips for Anglers:
What advice or tips do you have for bass anglers when selecting the right tackle for different conditions?
The clearer the water, the more natural the bait color should be. For me “Natural” also includes more transparency or translucency. The darker / dingier or stained the water is, the more opaque the colors should be when using “natural colors like greens, browns and black. The really bright colors have a time and place as well. But my best advice is to fish a bait (or color) that you have confidence in first. If you have confidence in it, you’ll fish it like you have confidence in it. It it’s a new color you have not fished before, and you do not get bit right away, it’s probably coming off pretty quickly and you’re going back to the color you have more confidence in regardless of the circumstances.

Community Engagement:
How does your company engage with the bass fishing community, both online and offline?
I follow a ton of small business bait makers. I but their stuff, and share their posts. There is rom for all of us and supporting each other, even if it’s just positive comments on their posts is really valuable to the bait making community. I never post negative comments.

Do you sponsor any events or initiatives to support the angling community?
For the last few years I have been supporting a high school team in Georgia with product donations, I donate products to our Washington State TBF Federation, I donate product to an annual charity bass tournament as well as other small events.

Future Plans:
What can customers expect from your company in terms of new releases or developments in the near future?
Stay tuned for the SKINWALKER launch!

Are there any long-term goals or visions you can share?
Nothing super inspiring right now. My goal is to continue to be a make to order small business who delivers great quality baits that catch fish.

Customer Support:
How does your company approach customer support? What steps do you take to address customer inquiries or concerns?
Just email me or message me. If you have any quality issues, shipping issues etc. I want to hear from you. I will make it right. I want every angler who busy my baits to have a great experience.

Educational Resources:
Does your company provide educational resources or guides to help anglers make the most of your products?
I’m currently working on this but I do not have it dialed in just yet.

How important is angler education to your brand?
Generally, getting people on the water is important. Helping them catch more fish is important. When invited, I’ve spoken at seminars, and some of my pro staff have “sample packs” of baits to hand out, especially for kids.

Closing Thoughts:
Is there anything else you would like our customers to know about your company or your approach to bass fishing tackle manufacturing?
I’m a mostly make to order small business. Whether it is for a single angler, or a retail store reorder, I make it specifically for the order & customer. This allows me to focus on quality and craftsmanship. I’m happy to work with anglers on customer requests and work hard to have reasonable turnaround times. I fish my baits; I believe in them, and I know you will too one you put them to use. I want you to have a great experience on the water, and I want you to be a repeat customer. If something is not right, I’ll fix it. I’m grateful for every purchase, and I love to get pictures of the bass that are caught using my baits.


"I would like to personally Mike for being so open in sharing the information above. I am looking forward to working with Mike for years to come, and I think we will all be looking forward to the SKINWALKER!"