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Eyes on the Prize

Eye Strike FishingTM owners, Ralph Phillips and Davis Fladd, upending the jighead fishing lure industry

There are few products that, with a little tweaking and ingenuity, revolutionize their prospective markets. Products like the Post-It Note, the Walkman, and the Band-Aid. Believe it or not, here in Summerville, two friends have developed such a product—one that has revolutionized an industry and taken the fishing world by storm.

The Trout Eye Jighead is game-changer. Ralph Phillips and David Fladd, co-founders of Eye Strike Fishing (formerly Ralph Phillips Inshore Productions) improved the traditional hook and lead jighead by adding a large eye to the lead. Armed with a keen sense of the parlay between predator and prey, Phillips (a businessman and avid recreational fisherman) and David Fladd (an engineer and angler) developed a jighead rooted in their observation that predatory fish strike the eye first. Building on this concept, they designed a jighead with an enticing 3D eye. The large eye summons the predator to strike. Astute, yet powerfully simplistic, this concept has revolutionized the angling market.

Their company started in 2014 with the manufacturing and marketing of their first lure, the Trout Eye Jighead. Designed for the challenges of fishing the inland waterways of the lowcountry, this trailblazing jighead set them on a trajectory few can only imagine, let alone accomplish. After designing, producing and marketing the prototype, Phillips and Fladd shared their innovation with local anglers and tackle shops. In an industry saturated with products, they began to make a name for themselves. Recognizing the demand for Trout Eye would exceed their production capacity, Phillips and Fladd faced a conundrum. They could relocate to a bigger space, purchase more equipment, hire more people, outsource production completely—or not.

The duo presented their products to North Charleston based company, Z-Man Fishing Products. After several fishing trips with the Z-Man pro staff, a partnership between the two companies was formed. Z-Man would manufacture, market, and distribute Trout Eye through its worldwide network. Phillips and Fladd would continue to design and develop new products.

The partnership with Z-Man was logical. Both companies are committed to customer service, innovation, and quality. It was a natural fit. Grateful and pragmatic, Phillips relays, “Eye Strike jigheads and Z-man plastics are a perfect combination to attract and catch most salt and freshwater species. They complement each other.” Their agreement not only solved the need for brick-and-mortar expansion, but it also catapulted them from the local arena to the global marketplace. Humble and astonished by their market reach, Fladd, recounts “The affirmation we were truly global, came when I saw a Facebook posting from India with two anglers touting their catch, showing the Trout Eye Jighead and singing its praises.”

Phillips and Fladd are emphatic that Z-Man’s collaboration and guidance was responsible for their being able to infiltrate the global marketplace at an accelerated pace. Local social media posts echo Phillips’ sentiment that Z-Man and Eye Strike Fishing Products work hand- in-hand, producing great results. Kevin Jackson shared a link on Eye Strike Fishing Artificials Facebook page exuberantly offering, “Get out there and try artificials this time of year for good numbers of speckled trout. They will strike your bait if you are throwing it in the right places! Especially if it’s an Eye Strike jighead matched with a Z-Man paddle tail.”

The positive results by anglers spawned imitation. No longer just a hook and lead, the large eye design morphed into a must-have for jigheads. To distinguish themselves from competition and drive home that they are the original big eye lure company, the company was renamed, becoming Eye Strike Fishing in 2017. The rebranding along with their winsome logo signifies Eye Strike Fishing’s uncompromising commitment to quality craftsmanship.

Eye Strike’s development staff relies heavily on feedback. They have a pro fishing team composed of members who loved and used their products before sponsorship was on the table. According to company’s website, “In other words, the love for our products preceded the sponsorship. This means that they are conservation-minded and concerned for the future of our fisheries. This is evidenced by their actions, not their words … Our team members create interesting and compelling content, last but not least, they are good people. We want people who we are proud to have represent us. Again, this is based on actions, not words.”

The Eye Strike Fishing Team represent Eye Strike Fishing in their prospective national markets. They relay their region’s fishing practices and obstacles to Phillips and Fladd. To date, the product line includesTroutEye,TexasEye,StriperEye, and Redfish Eye jigheads designed to be used with bait and lures. They are available in a variety of sizes and weights and can be purchased in most big-box outdoor retailers, local tackle shops and online at eyestrikefishing.com. With input and consumer feedback taken to heart, Phillips and Fladd continue to design lures that mimic Mother Nature’s perfection. Their design acumen transformed how anglers view the utilitarian jighead, making them fun to use and strikingly cool. AM

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