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Jointed Shad, Joint Custody

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SPRO head cheese Syd Rives, the boy wonder of the tackle industry, thought he had this supply and demand thing solved. He’s not that far removed from his college days, maybe he studied a little economics while he was on campus, but nothing in the halls of academia could have prepared him for ICAST 2008.

He left his Georgia home ready to unveil the new BBZ-1 Shad to the world.Sure, word had leaked out through Wired2Fish and other media outlets, but this would be the first in the flesh showing of what he knew would be a slam dunk hit. So his suitcase included 15 of each of the 12 SKUs of the lure.That’s 180 baits.

He came home with two.

It’s not like he was giving them out willy nilly, either. Maybe one or two of his pro staffers got one legitimately, but for the most part he tried to keep a tight hold on this precious commodity. Those baits were all he had.

“Every time I’d turn around, some more would be gone,” he said. That would be fine if he had a stockpile of them back in Georgia, but those 180 were all that existed.

“They take a long time to manufacture,” he explained. “It’s jointed in five different sections, so it’s really ten parts that have to be sealed and the tail is molded from a hard PVC urethane. They take a while.”

With a planned market release sometime in October 2008, Rives wouldn’t have been in a terrible position, except for the fact that anglers in general, and his staffers in particular, won’t leave him alone. He’s getting multiple calls and emails asking about its availability every day. And in case you think this is some sort of manufactured scarcity designed to ratchet up demand, you only need to listen to FLW Tour pro Scott Martin to understand how dire this has become.

“I’m in a big panic right now,” Martin said. “I’ve got a million dollars on the line next week (at the FLW Championship at Lake Murray) and I was having trouble getting some of these baits. During my practice at Murray and the fishing was real tough. I only had one of them and I was paranoid to throw it. I didn’t want to tear it up. I was terrified to throw it against a dock and mess it up.”

He enlisted the help of the lure’s designer, Bill Siemental, who agreed to loan a few to Martin, with one caveat – he’d need them back intermittently for his own tournaments. That would be easy if they lived near each other, but Martin is in Florida and his tournament is in South Carolina. Siemental is in California. That’s a distance on the order of 3,000 miles. So the baits have spent as much time on the plane and a UPS truck as they have in the water. “My UPS bill for this is around $300 already and I get a deal on shipping,” Rives said.

Martin is convinced that “the one I got is out of Kentaro’s safe,” referring to the owner of SPRO. His own personal obsession with the BBZ-1 would never have happened had he not been at ICAST filming his eponymous television show. “I saw seven or eight of them in the SPRO booth and when I came back to get one they were all gone. I was about ready to call the Nevada PD.Fortunately, Bill had one is his pocket that they couldn’t steal.”

This all harkens back almost 40 years to when Scott’s father, the legendary Roland Martin, was barnstorming the country with Ray Scott giving fishing seminars. He had one of the coveted Big-O crankbaits hand-carved by Fred Young. They were so hot at the time that anglers would rent them for the day and put down a substantial deposit to insure against loss. Roland put one on an overhead projector and then suddenly all of the power in the lecture hall went out. When the lights came back on, the bait was gone.

Scott has learned his lesson and will do whatever it takes to keep his baitssafe: “I would do just about anything to get one back,” he said. “I’d rent scuba gear if I had to. I’ve got my PADI card. I’ve already been so far under a dock to get it back that my buddy had to hold my feet.”

Has he considered just holding onto the lures, telling Siemental that they disappeared, or perhaps just throwing caution to the wind and telling Siemental that he ain’t getting them back? “No, Bill’s a big boy. I’m pretty sure he’d come on out here and we’d end up in an East-West fist fight.”

Come on, it can’t possibly be that much better than other lures in its class? Martin believes it is.

“It’s super-realistic and does a perfect job a representing a shad. There are three different sizes, all weighted just right, and the sinking models fall straight. They don’t lay on their side. And the tail is always moving.”

Martin added that at both the FLW Championship and the upcoming FLW Series event at Clarks Hill, blueback herring will be the dominant forage and he’s confident that a similarly colored BBZ-1 will be deadly.

Rives is glad SPRO continues to produce winners, and in this case the most talked-about lure in the current tackle universe, but he admitted that “it’s a mixed blessing.”

“I had no idea this many people knew about it,” Rives said. “Not just the pros but the average bass club guy, too. In some ways I’m glad that we’re at the end of the (tour) seasons. I’ve seen this bait come from a black of wood that Bill made swim to a beautiful shad bait that everyone wants. The pressure is on us to provide the bait and for it to be perfect. You only get one shot and we really want to put out a winner like we did with the(Bronzeye) frog.”

He and Siemental have put in long days and hundreds of hours to get the lure to this point, and while Rives would love for someone like Martin to win a major title with it, too much success will result in hundreds if not thousands more emails and phone calls, all with the same questions: “When is the bait coming out? Can you reserve some for me?” Too much success, too soon, and poor Syd could end up in a padded room.

The sweet price of success, all in a four inch package.