Every company has a history, and once a company gets beyond the one or two people whose vision and passion for the products or services they provide, it becomes more than just a company. It becomes the lifeblood of all the many people that make up the team behind the product. Talking to a company like Mudhole.com, whose passion for fishing and technical knowledge combine to make them a global leader, gives us insight into the connection between our sport and profitable companies. There is a good reason Mudhole is as successful and well-respected as they are. Examining how such a true American success story came to be is the focus of this article.
The Mudhole site offers an incredible array of products for the custom rod builder, fly tier, or lure creator. You can do everything from create the tackle you use to the split shot you use to weigh down whitebait. Check out the Rod-Building 101 section of the site - here you will find some of the best educational resources available. Even if you're not inclined to enter the business of custom rods, the site will surely have something that tickles the angler inside you.
The company meets the need of what was once a very dispersed collection of sport fishing elitists: guys and girls who built their own rods and even made their own lures, sinkers, and riggings. Add to that group people into fly fishing, and tying their own flies, and you can see how the Internet brought those wide-spread communities into a single world wide web.
Getting the chance to interview the people at mudhole.com was unique for me. I had been involved in developing web sites long ago - when doing so required hard, long nights backed-up by a solid understanding of code. When I heard that Tom McNamara, (the President & CEO of Mud Hole Custom Tackle, Inc.) had started building his company doing exactly that, my curiosity was piqued.
Starting as an Online Customer
Tom started working on the Mudhole web site not as it's owner, but as one of its early customers. If you think about it, the Toms of the world were the first people buying anything anywhere on the web. The year was 1998, and McNamara was quite successful running his electrical engineering consultancy. An avid angler, buying stuff online- especially things like custom blanks and the components required to build custom rods - was a dream come true. I was one of those early adopters of online shopping. I know the feeling.
Focusing on the Custom Rod and Fly Tying Communities
The businessman in Tom saw an opportunity. He felt that if done right, and if done with a hard and clear focus on the Internet and its ability to communicate with a vast marketplace, Mudhole.com- that place he loved to shop so much - could become a major player. He was right, as you will see.
As an increasing percentage of our community moves to flyrods, the thought of tying your own streamer flies has to enter your mind. I speak from experience when I say that tying very effective streamer flies is a great place to start, and not nearly as difficult as tying the typical (and tiny) insect simulators used for rainbow or brown trout. The most difficult fly you will ever have to tie for saltwater is a good crab, which requires good skills tying with bucktail jigs. The freshwater equivalent of a good bucktail crab would be what we call a "Muddler Minnow".
A year after former client Tom bought the company and moved it to the first (of three) warehouses in Orlando, FL, he and his wife (who, with Tom and the help of a trusted babysitter, ran the entire company) hired their first real employee. With more than fifty employees today, the company's incredible growth pattern shows they are doing the right things. Under the McNamara's obviously well-planned management, mudhole.com has continued to grow and thrive in an ever increasingly competitive online marketplace.
Being Part of the Online Fishing Community
Tom's thoughtful approach to the world wide web proved as much a part of the company's success as did his taking it over, and focusing it purely on the custom and hand-made marketplace. The people who build rods, tie flies, create their own sinkers and split shot, and paint their own plastic bass plugs know mudhole.com well. Long ago the company recognized what the more geeky among us call "The Cloud". Today their customer services, contact information, Internet presence, Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing make them uniquely qualified to handle those more than 80,000 monthly orders their global presence often generates.
Can you build rods, tie flies, or create lures? You never know...
I fish. I have since I was a kid. My uncle Eddie used to help keep an eye on me in our NJ home when I was young. Down in the basement we would melt lead and pour it into one of about a dozen different molds he had. He had molds for various sizes of pyramid sinkers, egg sinkers, torpedo leads, and split shot. We never bought sinkers. I can still smell the smell of the metal and the fire as I type. I would buy a mold in a minute if I knew it would not bother my smell-sensitive loved one. Unfortunately, she would sooner see me buy a pet parrot that would outlive its owner by 50 years.
Tying rods is another thing. I have some friends --like Kris Greene (a very well known and admired local custom rod builder) -- who see no reason to teach other people how to tie threads the right way. His rods (a few of us have them) are expensive but worth every penny. I understand his fears but I don't agree. Building custom rods is not something most people are going to adopt as a career once they learn how. I certainly see the beauty and elegance of custom rods having built and used them myself even to this day.
From custom rods, through split shot, to the bodies you need to paint and create your own topwater plugs and jigs, you can find everything you need at Mudhole.com.
Custom rods are an area where mudhole.com really excels. When G. Loomis decided that they were no longer going to make blanks available to the international markets, Mudhole was their biggest global distributor. The shortage was met with what appears to be typical McNamara style: he designed and manufactured the now famous MRX blanks, which have successfully met the needs of a worldwide professional builder community. The one that was left in the lurch by Loomis with no help on the horizon until Mudhole stepped up to fill the void.
Learning About Mudhole.com
Check out the company's incredible web site. We can promise you that even if you don't find something you want right now, you will have fun looking around. If you're a professional rod builder who hasn't been asleep for the past couple of decades, you know who they are. That is also true if you tie your own flies and look for things like real bucktail for tying the perfect Muddler Minnow (look it up if you don't know, you can think of it as weird fishing term-of-the-month).
I really think the serious fun though is to be had by those readers without a lot of insight into the smell of hot lead, or who don't know how to tie the perfect thread patterns on the perfect flyrod blank with the perfect spine point. The fun and thrill of creative discovery is for the newbies because even if all you ever do is try to build one rod, or tie a few streamer flies for your newfound but beloved flyrod, embarking on this adventure of practical creativity will hit a hot spot in some of you that you didn't even know existed. Visit mudhole.com where you will find a side of our sport that might make it even more enriching for you than it already is.
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