PRADCO buys War Eagle Custom Lures, will move operation to Fort Smith

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 3,371 views 

Booyah baits sold by PRADCO Outdoor Brands.

Birmingham, Ala.-based PRADCO Outdoor Brands has acquired Rogers-based War Eagle Custom Lures and will operate the business from its fishing division in Fort Smith. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

War Eagle was founded by Keith Brashers in his garage 21 years ago, with his spinnerbait brand now the No. 3 U.S. brand according to the 2016 Annual Anglers Trends Report by Southwick & Associates. Bruce Stanton, vice president and general manager of PRADCO Fishing, told Talk Business & Politics that Brashers will remain with the company. The other four War Eagle employees will have the option to relocate.

“We have long admired the way Keith Brashers has grown War Eagle Custom Lures into a premium supplier of fishing lures for serious anglers – especially their hugely popular spinnerbaits and buzzbaits,” Robert Schoenvogel, PRADCO Outdoor Brands president, said in a statement. “When the opportunity arose to partner with Keith and bring War Eagle into the PRADCO family of brands, we absolutely jumped at the chance. We look forward to supporting War Eagle’s continued growth through investments in design innovations, broad distribution and customer support.”

PRADCO is eager to build on the combined spinnerbait market share with War Eagle products, which has 9.3%, and PRADCO, which has a 9.6% market share.

“It’s a good position to be in when you can say you’re the dominant market leader in that category,” Stanton told Talk Business & Politics.

Stanton also said the move helps with shelf space in Walmart U.S., Cabella’s and Bass Pro Shops, noting that “space is highly competitive in those stores, so this helps with the reach.” He also said the deal helps improve product diversity in that War Eagle products are used in “high land water reservoirs” that are clear, with PRADCO brands typically geared toward “dirty water” uses in places like the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.

The War Eagle acquisition is not the only news from PRADCO. The company, which employs 230 people in Fort Smith, is set to hold an expansion announcement Nov. 17 in Fort Smith. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to attend, and company officials have teased that the news includes converting a 56,000-square-foot warehouse into new manufacturing space. PRADCO has a three-shift, 24-hours-a-day manufacturing cycle in Fort Smith.

PRADCO Outdoor Brands manages hunting brands such as Moultrie, Summit, Code Blue and Knight & Hale and fishing brands such as Arbogast, Bandit, Bomber, BOOYAH, Cotton Cordell, Creek Chub, Heddon, Lindy, Norman, Rebel, Smithwick, Thill and YUM.

Acquisition and expansion by PRADCO is not a surprise considering growth in the industry. The 2016 National Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation national survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows fishing participation is up nearly 20% over the last 10 years. The survey, conducted every five years with support from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows anglers increased their overall spend by 2.4% during the past five years.

The survey also showed “fishing participation” was in the past five years up 8.2% for ages 16 to 65. It marked the highest level of participation since 1991. Revenue from equipment purchases to “all trip expenditures” also increased from $45 billion to $46.1 billion in the past five years, noted the report.

A September 2016 report from Global Industry Analysts predicts sports fishing equipment industry sales will exceed $20 billion by 2022. The growth will be “driven by the growing popularity of recreational fishing, and steady launch of innovative and advanced fishing lures, baits, bobber, reels, and lines, among others,” noted the report.