This project was planted in my mental ground back in 2011 while taking our daughter Sarah to the east coast to check into various colleges. Whenever we travel I take a rod or two at my wife Kathy’s insistance and so always take time to look over fishing regulations while obtaining my license. Our home base for this excurison was some friends in Duxbury, MA and while I was reading up on the fish and game laws I came across information on the Massachusetts ban on lead weights and lures under one ounce in fresh water. This piqued my interest and I began to explore the basis for such laws and how the market was responding to the angler’s need to switch over to lead free.
What I found out was that while the laws seemed necessary and effective* the market response was, in my mind, typical of first wave green solutions, not fully adequate and expensive too. The main thrust was simply changing one metal (lead) to others (steel, tin, bismuth, tungsten), fitting the solution to an established process and charging a lot more to do so. The manufacturers attested that the basic materials were more expensive which in many cases was true but I felt they were also profiting by marketing to a captive audience in the lead free states. While green solutions have to start somewhere I felt that much more needed to be done in terms of creativity and innovation to give the angler better lead free choices. What we needed to do was to create a situation where all anglers everywhere could get a fair chance to switch from lead tackle to lead free if they wanted to.
The truth of the matter is that we need all fishers to make the switch because the problem goes well beyond lead’s damaging affect on wildlife. Very conservatively figured our 48 million fishers (who average sixteen outings a year) loose well over 2,000 tons of lead into our rivers, lakes and coastal waters every fishing season. That’s over 150,000 tons of lead into our waters since these products began to be mass produced shortly after World War 2. It is a sobering statistic and becomes even more so when one considers that a particle of lead the size of a grain of salt can adversely affect the body and if that quantity is raised to two or three grains the affect becomes permanent and one may even begin to show symptoms. It also bears remembering that 17 million of our anglers are children who are way more susceptible to the affects of toxins than adults and also more prone to coming into accidental contact with poisonous substances as well.
Thus, what we see is that a market for lead free fishing products is emerging and has the potential to become huge. Laws are but one way to solve environmental problems. The free market can also create solutions without legislative promptings. With innovative designs and proper marketing we can meet (and increase) the rising demand for lead free fishing products, give outdoor lovers a way to contribute to positive change and do so profitably. That is our vision at Glasswater. People of good sense want a clean environment, parents want fishing to be as healthy and safe an experience as possible for their kids and there is an enormous interest in protecting our remaining wildlife resources as well. The question becomes how are we going to accomplish these goals. How do we compete with lead?
How to compete with lead on it’s terms? The answer is found in a simple question: If lead is toxic then why do we use it in the first place? In short, it ends up in fishing lures for three reasons; it’s cheap, it’s available and it’s easily craftable. If one is going to compete with lead then one must embrace these positive qualities that brought about its widespread use. In the time before we learned how damaging passive contact with lead could be it seemed a near perfect metal. It has numerous chemical qualities that caused it to be put in things like paint and gasoline and it is a wonderful metal for low temperature metallurgical applications, except that it is poisonous. So now we have taken it out of gasoline, paint, solder, shot shells and soon auto batteries. It is only common sense that it is going to be removed from fishing lures too, a historical necessity if you will, and innovation is what is going to make the change something all good anglers will embrace. However, we must give them what lead gave them, tackle at a fair price, tackle available on the store shelf and ways to make tackle at home. If lead is cheap, available and craftable then our solutions need be as well.
Our position at Glasswater is that most anglers are environmentally minded. And while fishers do not fish to save the environment, they fish to catch fish, the vast majority do have a love for the great outdoors and realize that a clean environment is not only a nicer place to be in terms of appearance but that healthy ecosystems make for more places to fish and more fish in those places. If we can provide anglers with lead free tackle that can compete with lead in terms of performance, price and availability then there will be no need to make laws banning lead because fishers will make the switch on their own.
In summer of 2015 an opportunity to change careers presented itself where upon Kathy and Sarah insisted I take all of my notes, molds, ideas and prototypes and form a company based on second generation lead free fishing solutions. For quite some time I struggled between projects trying to decide which one to develop first not having much money to begin with. I had all sorts of designs and prototypes involving glass, iron, brass, tin/bismuth alloy, stone, concrete and silicone. It was very challenging to chose the right product to back with our slim resources in order to bring a high level of interest to our company. I tested the feasibility of several ideas but none of them seemed like quite the right place to start until one unseasonably warm late winter morning…
Early one February morning in 2016 as I was emerging from sleep I got an idea for a lure. Quickly, I rushed downstairs to my workbench and crafted the bait I had in mind. As we were right in the middle of a winter thaw I was able to run down to our pond to test it out. Arriving at water’s edge I ran the bait back and forth in the shallows and was thrilled with the action and vibration that it produced. With trembling hands I made a cast toward the far bank and within three turns of the reel handle I felt a solid strike and caught a hefty, slab crappie over 15″. In that moment I knew Providence had spoken and my fish angels were singing in my ear. This was the product to develop and take all the way to the market.
What we wanted to do was to bring an excellent, fish catching sensation to a wide angling audience and make it lead free right from the start. While the problem of lead in fishing lures is something new to a lot of people an effective, fish catching lure is something all fishers can get their heads around and get excited about. The lure, henceforth named Angle King, seemed a perfect bridge between the familiar and the progressive. It is the type of lure that every fisher is going to want in their tackle box because it works very, very well. And like the Mepps or the Rapala it is destined to become a tackle box staple
Angle King is an amazing lure all by itself, a bait for beginner and expert alike, one that is effective in a variety of fishing situations for a variety of species. However, more than that it is the cornerstone of a growing foundation on which our other lead free designs will be buttressed. Our long term vision is to create a lead free fishing future for the USA and the world. Active endorsement of ideas like Angle King and it’s parent Glasswater Lead Free Lures is another positive action consumers can take on behalf of clean water, healthy wildlife, safer kids and a better world. Thank you for your interest, patronage and support.
*most of these laws were enacted for the conservation of loons a species that is particulary prone to ingesting small lead weights and lures. Now MA has ten times the nesting pairs of loons as it had before the lead ban took affect. NY and NH have also enacted similar laws for the same reason and both have seen an increase in loon nesting pairs. Bordering states have also seen an increase in loons. Other species that are particularly prone to picking up lead either as shot or fishing litter are swans, mergansers and puddle ducks. Bald eagles are prone to secondary lead poisoning from eating contaminated waterfowl. Over ten million animals, mostly birds and mammals, are lost to lead poisoning each year from ingesting lead shot, bullets and fishing tackle. The sad thing is lead contamination is entirely preventable (source: National Audubon Society).