From Tournament Success to a Winner for all Walleye Anglers
Jan 6th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jan 6th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
We couldn’t fill orders at first, Jeff Pierce Mustad sales manager said of the Slow Death hook introduction, “We grossly underestimated sales.” This hook design came directly to Mustad from their pro angling team, specifically Gary Parsons.
Parsons views the Slow Death hook as being totally tournament-driven. The tactic won money and tournaments for a small group of guys, and eventually the word started leaking out. Parsons said, “I knew that Dave Spaid was super-successful with it, and he showed it to Dan Stier, Rick Olson and Norb Wallock. They fished it, and shared it with Keith Kavajecz, Bill Ortiz and Shannon Kehl, and it really bugged me that I couldn’t catch fish like they did on some systems.”
“By the time they showed me their hook-bending method, I was so frustrated with them being in the top 10, fishing only a couple points away, that I had to learn more,” he said. The evolution blossomed from that point, with Parsons and son Chase competing to determine the correct hook-bend that would prove consistent. The key was getting the piece of night crawler to spin effectively. In the summer of 2005, the father-son duo figured they created and discarded 30 to 40 shapes and designs. Concentration on the slow death concept may have explained how Chase won PWT Rookie of the Year that season.
Pierce scheduled a meeting in Escanaba, asking his pro team to bring ideas to the table. “Gary and Keith showed me the hook. Scott Fairbairn and Chase chimed in with their assessment that a slow death hook would be huge, and they wanted Mustad to be first to market. I really liked hearing how this tactic produced even when walleyes were off-bite for others,” he said.
A history of the Slow Death method shows it originated with the Lake Oahe guides, specifically guide Dave Spaid (davespaid.com – 605-224-5009). Parsons refers to him as the Father of Slow Death. Those not in the fishing industry might not understand that title, but walleye anglers coast to coast sure do. Spaid said spinners and bouncers were the bread and butter method, but when fish dropped deep in the heat of summer, the guides had to experiment. They modified what had been working to keep from getting hung up and to catch more of the “short-biters.”
“I was familiar with cut-bait herring for salmon, so tried to make my “plain-Jane” rigs (hook and bead) spin. “This twirly part of the equation was the secret, and after winning the South Dakota Governor’s Cup in 1990, and again in 1994 and being successful in other tournaments and on the guide scene, John Cooper, tournament emcee asked me to tell what I was doing, so I blurted it out.”
The name Slow Death stuck, and meant that to work, the angler fished slower than with a bouncer and spinner. The death name was because anglers didn’t miss very many fish once they bit. “I bet 90 percent of the tournament guys who bait fish on tour use the Slow Death rig,” Spaid said. He also complimented Mustad and said, “The new Mustad hooks are bent right, and even have bait-holder barbs on them to help keep the crawler in place. What Gary and Mustad did are a big improvement over my original efforts.”
Spaid has been guiding for more than two decades, and has seven major tournament victories including four South Dakota Governor’s Cup titles. “My biggest pleasure is that I was able to come up with something that now works so well for everyone,” he said.
Chuck Reynolds with Scott Advertising, the agency for Mustad, said the pro staff was developed with people who could bring techniques and ideas to the party. “Product information is more vital to us than having someone wear a logo on a shirt,” he said. Of Gary Parsons, he said, “I can’t find anyone who is more a thinker and a tinkerer than Gary. We value his contributions, like those of our pro staff who are a constant source of product information.”
Chiming in on this theme, Pierce said, “We would put our pro staff up against any other tackle company. Their input is big for us. We have the same input in the bass world from Kevin Van Dam, who convinced us to market several new products. All are big hits.” Pierce likes the fact that the pros must produce under pressure, and they need to innovate to be successful. “When they do, it leads to new products and sales success,” he said.
Reynolds was skeptical at first, not at the fact Slow Death worked, but in the dramatic change in hook shape and the fact he would have to communicate how to rig it on packaging and promotional materials. Pierce said, “There is no other hook like it, and we worked with the factory to perfect it. We drastically underestimated demand. Cabela’s placed an initial order, called the next day and doubled the order, and called three days later to double that order,” he said.
As with any successful new product, anglers quickly experiment, and letters and photos coming to Mustad proved it really worked. “I didn’t realize how big this would be,” Pierce said. The next step is occurring right now. The Slow Death is expanding to other markets. The demand by trout anglers in eastern Canada resulted in a size six Slow Death hook. The British Columbia and Alberta trout anglers use it the same way the walleye anglers do, but run it for suspended fish. Currently, larger sizes to 5/0 are being looked at for soft plastics in the bass world. A size two hook has been introduced for fluke and flounder in the northeast (used with a small bloodworm). Smallmouth and lake trout anglers will soon see Slow Death hooks.
Both Reynolds and Pierce said that this product more than any other was such an immediate success due to grassroots efforts via the tournaments and word of mouth by anglers who used it. The internet and guys talking in tackle shops and on the water was the largest source of information on this hook, Reynolds said. Pierce said, “We heard from a Minnesota dealer who said this was the biggest explosion of any item they’ve seen.”
Parsons agreed and observed that the Slow Death was mysterious, and when word began trickling out that a product was out there that was easy to use by average anglers, it really took off. He said, “Word of mouth follows tournament success, and when the right product catches fish, it moves off the shelves.” He figures walleye catches with Slow Death are two to one over spinners.
“If this was a guide secret, it might still be a secret,” Parsons said, “But it was a tournament tactic that moved from the winner’s circle to the stores, and is a key reason tournaments are so important to tackle sales.” Parsons feels with seminars, word of mouth, comments and video tips on the internet, that a tournament-proven method can quickly become a household name. “If we can show them how to catch fish with the best tackle, they’ll buy it,” he concluded.
Mustad’s website has many news articles and product information about this and other hook designs (mustad.no/) as does the Next Bite website (thenextbite.com).
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In about 1996, I fished with Dave Spaid on Lake Oahe. We hit a mudline on a wind-blown point, and we jigged it. We did. Nothing. He then ran through with spinners and bouncers. We did. Missed two fish. He then explained Slow Death, which was the purpose of the excursion, and we rigged up. We caught 10 walleyes, including a couple nice ones in about an hour. Depth was 10 to 12 feet, and I learned much that day. Dave’s comment, “This always works.” Now it works for everyone who tries it.