Grant Olguin of Black Dog Baits had to sneak out the back door at this year’s Bassmaster Classic Expo.
He wasn’t running away from creditors. Nor was he evading dissatisfied customers. In fact, the opposite was true – his customers were too satisfied. Standing in his designated space within the Tackle Warehouse booth, he was surrounded by people who wanted to buy his products. He couldn’t keep up with demand. Long before the show was over, he was out of baits.
“I’m glad that we went, though,” he said. “I really didn’t think our stuff would be that popular in the east, but I’m still sending stuff to guys who saw our baits there for the first time.”
The final straw was the hand-painted Tilapia colored Lunker Punker topwater he’d brought to South Carolina. It was a one-of-a-kind creation and he brought it as a showpiece, not to sell it, but the constant requests finally wore him down. An Elite Series pro, who shall remain nameless because he’s sponsored by another major producer of big baits, told him that he had to have it, that no price was too great, so Olguin disposed of it then and there.
At that point, it was exit, stage left.
If you’ve seen Olguin and partner Jeremy Andersen at any sort of trade show or bass expo, their posse stands out among all of the patch wearing bubbas.
They look more like, well…skateboarders.
“I guess that’s the way we come off,” Olguin said. “After all, we are from California.”
But not only do they skew left coast, they skew young, to a generation that might know more about the Swimbait Posse and Mike Iaconelli than Do Nothing Worms and Roland Martin. Whether they’re the future of the sport is debatable, but they’re injecting life into the game.
Olguin characterized Andersen as the “mad lure scientist” and joked that he has to “keep him in the garage.” So if Jeremy is not ready for prime time exposure, it falls upon Grant to be the corporate face of their partnership, taking care of all of the marketing and crunching the numbers. He’s not OLD, but among their crew he sometimes has to act as the adult, making sure all every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed before the real fun beings.
And real fun is high on their agenda, in the form of whacking double digit bass on their own creations. They’re probably best known for the Lunker Punker, a massive trout replica that seems to be owned not only by all of the Cali freak fish hunters, but also by many of the tour-level pros as well.
“Jeremy wanted to get a big topwater trout. He played around with different sizes, weighted the baits differently and then he ramped the chin,” Olguin said. “That’s what makes it glide, just like a trout. Those planter trout act stupid like that and the bass just unload on them. It has a big body, but it’s quiet. Most of the other big baits have rattles. Bass hadn’t seen anything like it before.”
For a while, it was a true underground lunker club phenomenon, but gradually word got out, demands came in, and they couldn’t hold back any longer.
But it seemed at the time like you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting another big trout bait, so they threw a bit of a curveball and brought their Shellcracker to market first.
“We knew we had the Punker, but nobody had a big waking bluegill. We started throwing it on the Delta and catching bigger than normal fish. Nothing smaller than three or four pounds. Even Dee Thomas was amazed.”
The Shellcracker is so pretty, it’s almost a shame to throw it, but worn off paint is the sign of a good investment, and it’s hard to keep the fish off this jointed panfish imitator. You can twitch it just right and it’ll do a 180, just like a dying baitfish. You can also twitch it back to the boat or deadstick it – the green fish will tell you which retrieve they want. The Black Dog crew uses it to whack toads on the Delta from February through November, and they especially favor it during the hottest part of the summer. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be afraid to throw it on your local waters just about any time.
In addition to the Punker and Shellcracker, Black Dog offers several other hard baits and just introduced their first soft plastic lure, the Weed Slinger. Rest assured, the mad scientist continues to work on more outlandish-but-effective baits as you read this article. They’re also adding more colors to their lineup, new hues like pearl white with red eyes, crappie and red craw.
“We also do custom baits for events like Bass-a-Thon and the Classic,”
Olguin said, reinforcing what one sheepish touring pro knows all too well.
One final question, Grant: What’s with the Black Dog moniker?
“Jeremy and I worked together at UPS. We’d work all night, get off work and go fish. Jeremy had a lab puppy named Mikey, but we just called him ‘Black Dog.’ We took him fishing with us, so when we got off work he’d just be sitting there in the window, ready to go, so it seemed like a good fit.
Besides, most fishermen have black dogs.”
From UPS to the Bassmaster Classic. As the fashion magazines might say, black seems to be the new brown.
Now their primary connection with mailing services like UPS is the hundreds of baits they send out each month, and more and more they’re headed not to tackle outlets in California, but to shops and individuals in the northeast, southeast and particularly in Texas. So far the biggest confirmed largemouth caught on one of their baits was a 14-09 brute, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Black Dog’s success, and most of their notoriety has come strictly through word-of-mouth. As Olguin said, “If you see the Punker, it sells itself.”
Some dogs bark a lot but don’t have much bite. The Punker, Shellcracker and their brethren seem to have the kind of teeth that will keep them around for a while.