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Each year, recreational fishing continues to grow as nearly one-in-seven Americans hit the water at least once throughout the year in the United States.
For many anglers, however, there comes a point where fishing transcends simple “recreation” and becomes something more. For some, that involves joining a competitive fishing circuit. Others may find themselves a career in the industry.
If you keep your finger on the pulse of recreational fishing, however, you also know that many avid anglers regularly make a leap into bait creation. This often begins as a creative outlet or cost-saving measure, but for some, it grows into something bigger.
For Derek Brazauskas of Dallas, that “something bigger” is taking shape in the form of his own growing baits company.
Origins: A History on the Water
If you read any interview or profile here on Premier Angler, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be a common thread: people who work their way up through the fishing world typically started fishing at a young age.
Derek’s story is no different.
According to Derek, who grew up in Massachusetts, he first hit the water around the age of four. His grandparents had a lake house, and fishing was simply the natural thing to do.
During this time, he fished mostly for trout and largemouth bass. It was the latter that got him hooked for life, however. At just five years of age, Derek had landed a five-pound bass — a catch that would make many experienced anglers envious.
Since then, fishing has remained a constant in Derek’s life, especially after his relocation to Texas in 2012.
At first, Derek reached out to other anglers via Facebook groups to get a lay of the land. As those connections — and his passion for fishing — grew, it was time to start the next leg of his fishing journey.
From Hobby to Small Business
Around February of 2019, Derek began experimenting with soft bait creation. Like many others, this foray began as a way of making his own products more affordably than the retail cost for similar items in a big-box retailer.
“I started out just purchasing the molds and the plastisol,” said Derek. “At first, I was really just using one bait for myself.
When someone begins creating consistent, custom, quality fishing products, however, word quickly spreads.
“I went down that rabbit hole,” Derek said. “I started making some products for friends. Then, pretty quickly, it turned into a small business.”
Since then, Derek and his business partner, KD Kidd, have been slowly scaling Barrel Fishing Baits into an expanding-but-practical provider of fishing baits to a large audience in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
Quality Over Quantity
Quality over quantity
It may be the universal creed for small businesses around the country, but Barrel Fishing Baits adopts this tried-and-true mantra as a core tenant of its business model and vision.
“Obviously, we want to make a product that catches fish,” Derek said. “That’s why we have became a company instead of just making baits for family and friends.”
Part of handling that growth has meant placing a particular attention on quality control.
“With our vision, we have to be careful with it because the demand has become much higher,” said Derek. “We’re big on quality control. We won’t put out a product that hasn’t been tested thoroughly. We also want to make sure we offer a better product than the big box stores, which isn’t always easy to do.”
The “testing” Derek mentions isn’t simply a quality assurance measure, though. Barrel Fishing’s baits are being used on a regular basis by both repeat customers and the creators themselves.
“At the end of the day, we are fishermen making fishing products. We are making the products we use,” said Derek. “Together, we have a combined 40 or 50 years of fishing experience. These products have won kayak tournaments. Our products are made right here, in America, in Texas.”
The company’s namesake even comes from the motto that the products are so effective, “it’s like fishing in a barrel.”
Likewise, if the products are not holding up for any reason, Derek wants customers to let him know.
“Honestly, we appreciate the feedback,” Derek said. “If people can’t catch fish on it, they can reach out to us for some tips. If it still isn’t working, we want to know.”
Growing Pains, and a Bright Future
As with any small business, especially young upstart brands, there will certainly be a share of challenges.
For Barrel Fishing Baits, a particular challenge is making sure the demand does not eclipse the supply or, more specifically, the ability to maintain the supply.
“Right now, we are working out of a couple locations, which is definitely a challenge,” said Derek. “We are focused on creating smaller quantities at a high quality. Everything we make is hand-done — nothing by machines.”
Barrel Fishing Baits’ commitment to quality, however, has brought a consistent, dedicated core of customers. It’s those connections, among other factors, that make the venture worthwhile.
“We love seeing people catching fish on our products,” said Derek. “We don’t really advertise a whole lot yet, but we’ve had great local distribution a set of some repeat customers. Once we start pushing our brand, we’re confident that it’s going to take off.”
Fishing with Barrel Fishing Baits
As a growing enterprise, much of Barrel Fishing Baits’ reputation has been word-of-mouth. The company does have a Facebook page, however, where orders can be placed.
The brand also values customer service and input, allowing people to create their own customer soft plastics.
As a sponsor of Texas Fishing, Barrel Fishing Baits also offers a product discount to group members.