He Just Wanted To Put More Fish In His Boat: The Story of 4x4 Bass Jigs
Editor: iBass360’s Ryan Said recently sat down with 4X4 Jigs founder Thomas Perry to discuss his company’s story, their products, his hopes and aspirations for the business and his take on the industry’s direction. 4X4 is located in northeast Alabama where Tom was born and raised. His home lake is Wilson and his favorite, Pickwick. When not fishing or designing jigs, Tom enjoys hunting and working with horses. Still on his bucket list is a trip to Okeechobee at that right time of year for a personal best. Visit www.4x4bassjigs.com or Facebook.com/4x4BassJigs
iBass360: To start off, thanks for taking the time to discuss 4X4 with the 360NATION. Let’s begin with how you got started making and marketing your own jigs.
Perry: Believe it or not, I started making baits when I was about six. I am 55 now so I guess that’s about forty-nine years making my own baits. I was born and raised in northern Alabama as part of a six generation fishing family. We lived on a creek, so, when I was real young, I would go down to the creek with a fishing rod made out of a stick. I used little squirrel tail jigs made by neighbor to catch bream, small bass and so on.
Like any fisherman, I lost a lot of jigs in rocks and trees and such. Needless to say, my neighbor got tired of making them for me, so he decided to show me how to make them. At first, it took me three days to make one bait! They were actually made with squirrel hair from squirrels we hunted and ate. I had to use the materials we had available for making the jig head, painting the head,and gluing and tying the hair, so it took a little time, but it was worth it. I caught a lot of fish on those squirrel tails and still have a whole bunch of them!
iBass360: So where did you take your fishing from there?
Perry: As a teenager I started bass fishing more regularly. I got a little frustrated when I got to the local tackle shop and all I found was the same old cookie cutter baits. Everything seemed to be the same. Recalling my early efforts, I again started making my own jigs. I had the opportunity to go to college and I was good enough to play some baseball. But fishing was my real game, and after I got out of college I purchased my own boat. This is when fishing got more serious.
I remember it like it was yesterday, One day when I was 21, I was out fishing on a well-known lake and there was a Red Man Tournament going on. I caught a glimpse of one of the competitors- a guy from California- wearing a shirt with logos on it. I had never seen a sponsored angler before. He saw me catching a bunch of fish on my jigs and came over and asked me how I was catching them. I cut the jig off my line and gave it to him. I gave him my phone number and it wasn’t long before he was calling me to make more jigs for him. Have to say I never expected to be shipping my jigs out to California for a sponsored angler and his buddies! That was the beginning, and I have been supplying pros with baits for years since.
iBass360: I guess a bit of good fortune put you on that lake that day.
Perry: That’s for sure. A lot of pros have told me I did it backwards. Most bait companies have to start out marketing to the average weekend angler, hoping to attract enough attention to bring on pros to represent them. I started supplying just to pros, who then spread the word to the local anglers. It was about ten years ago a number of my friends and fishing contacts finally convinced me to start my own company. I went to the bank and took out a $2,500 loan to get things set up, and I am happy to say I paid it back from the sales of the next couple of months.
My daughter and I came up with our logo. We brainstormed one day on a paper grocery bag with some markers and crayons, then I took the result of our father/daughter “design meeting” to a local designer who cleaned it up a bit. The first year was me working by myself then I had some investing interest from a family friend. We decided to split the business 50/50, and we’ve officially been 4x4 Bass Jigs for the last 11 years- a company built from the dreams of a six year old kid making squirrel tail jigs.
iBass360: So, at this point you had some California anglers onboard spreading the word, how did you leverage this to establish a presence for 4X4 in the broader marketplace?
Perry: Believe it or not, Ryan, pretty much everything I have done has been by word of mouth and the national tournament exposure I have gotten from the Pros. Some will say I am a bit
crazy, but I have only been to one tackle show in my whole life. My print advertising budget is $0, and it is not because I didn’t explore it. I did a little advertising early on, but we could not afford ads in Bassmaster and FLW magazines. Pretty soon though, enough pros were catching fish and winning tournaments with my baits that those media outlets were calling me to do articles! I’ll never forget when the editor of FLW, Curtis Niedermier, called and asked me for an interview and pictures of my baits!
As for distribution, I have had my baits in local stores around my house from the start. Most of the orders for tackle from other stores has been the result of pros taking my baits back to their hometowns and asking their local shops to order them. One other thing I did relatively early on was to sign one Randall Tharp. We designed a jig together and that was the first custom bait we offered. Randall has since had some other opportunities, and he has moved on, but we still carry that jig under the name “Signature Series Jig.”
iBass360: We’re a social media based market company so we have to ask you, how have you leveraged social media and the use of pro staff for 4X4?
Perry: I have a few guys running social media for us. Obviously I post on Facebook but no there are no intense marketing campaigns or anything. My posts are basically day to day updates of products and on-the-water action. I will say though that I have one guy doing YouTube videos with my new crappie jigs and it is amazing the response he is getting. He consistently outsells the bass stuff just through those YouTube videos. We also have a pro staff consisting of Boyd Duckett, Brandon McMillan, Chad Pipkens, and Joe Webster. These guys have direct influence on the design of our baits.
iBass360: Speaking of design, let’s talk about that process of creating baits. What inspires you when creating new lures?
Perry: It’s really two connected things. The first is to focus on solving fishing problems or situations. Sometimes it is me who identifies the problem, sometimes guys approach me with problems and we work together to solve them. The second thing may seem obvious but you have to know it works. It has to put fish in the boat under the situation or problem it was designed to address, and it really needs to be better than the previous solutions. I am inspired by tackle that