There is something fishy going on in Leaside, but it’s not illegal or smelly. And it all happens at 42 Laird Drive, international headquarters for Lunkerhunt.
For anglers, a “lunker” is a very large game fish, especially a bass. Old, wily, hard to catch.
“Lunkerhunt” is an internationally famous brand of lures that fishermen can use to… well, hunt for lunkers. And Leaside is the pond where the company fishes.
Recreational fishing is big business in Ontario. There are 1.2 million anglers in the province and they spend $2.2 billion each year, or a little less than $1,900 a year per angler.
That is a market well worth reaching, but Lunkerhunt also draws customers from the U.S. and internationally, where the numbers are larger by several orders of magnitude.
For example, about 30 million Americans hold fishing licences; about 45 million reported taking at least one fishing trip per year; and annual sales of fishing equipment in the U.S. topped $50 billion. With a ‘B’.
Fishing is literally bigger than golf in terms of sales and participants, and Lunkerhunt, with strong eight-figure sales last year, has a significant piece of that action.
This all started as a part-time hobby for an avid – perhaps obsessive – sports fisherman named David MacDonald.
MacDonald says he’s got fishing in his blood; he comes from a long line of fishermen who trapped lobsters off the east coast of Canada. He caught his first bass at the age of four. “As a kid,” he says, “I’d be dropped off at the dock in the morning and my parents would drag me off it at night.”
He adds, “I started Lunkerhunt out of my house in 2001. I love fishing – any kind of fishing – but I couldn’t find products that I wanted or were specific to my needs, so I started making my own.
“Other anglers started buying them and soon local tackle stores began asking for them, and it kind of took on a life of its own.”
All of the design work is led by founder David MacDonald and carried out in Leaside. Product testing and on-the-water work take place at his home in Buckhorn, Ont.
In 2010, the company was acquired by BG Distribution and Marketing (BGDM), a much bigger multinational organization, which took the company to another level.
Jon Goldfarb, president of BGDM Group, says they manufacture many different fishing products including the famous soft and hard fresh water lures, ice lures, salt water lures, fishing accessories, and more recently rods and reels.
“Lunkerhunt prides itself on product innovation in a category that you don’t see much change in,” he offers.
“Our product knowledge and execution to bring to the market quality products that are unique but affordable is the driving force behind our growth. We’ve won four international best new lure awards for our Bento Baits, Lunker Frogs, Link, and most recently our Prop Series,” he adds.
Non-anglers – like me – may find this a little mystifying. Although I am not an angler, one of my neighbours in Muskoka is, and he gets really excited about Lunkerhunt lures.
“The soft-plastic frog is so lifelike in detail that the legs possess a kicking motion no self-respecting bass can resist, a lure that’s in a league of its own,” he told me.
Hundreds of thousands of fishermen around the world would agree. And there’s nothing fishy about that.