In this article, I want to give a brief story about the “Rod Floater” years. “TTI-Blakemore”, a fishing companies conglomerate took the product over from us through a licensing in 1996. We had received our full patent in 1992 and due to our having struggles getting the large orders filled that were coming in we decided to license it under a royalty agreement with them. When we manufactured the product in West Oklahoma, we did so under the Inc.-name “Low-Mac”. The “Low” part stood for the first half of my last name “Lowrance” and the “Mac” stood the first name of the man – “Mac A.” whose investment I secured, who paid all patent fees for our packaging plus product liability insurance in exchange for a significant percent ownership of the Rod Floater.
A promotion we involved the product in, when we still manufactured it under “Low-Mac, Inc.” was in 1992 as a promo-product giveaway that Kerr-McGree Oil Company entered into with us. They gave away a free Rod Floater in each case of their “Mystik Precision Blue Outboard Motor Oil” for the ’92 season. The over $9,500.00 check we were paid was for the initial order they made (paying full wholesale price) and they added another order, once they saw what their projected run of manufactured cases of the oil would be. The 2nd order was only a few 100 dollars’ worth. A Rod Floater give away sample was advertised via a case-insert card made and a notice on the oil containing boxes designed by Kerr McGee. This let potential buyers of their outboard motor oil know that a free single-unit product was in each case of oil. At the end of the promo they let us know that their sales of the oil increased by 7.5%.
This was our single largest order but we did have Bass Pro start-of-season orders that were over $4,000.00 and $6,000.00. At the same time we were supplying Cabela’s (both Bass Pro and Cabela’s still carry it) and the Academy Stores chain carried it for 20 years but decided it took up too much shelf space and took it out of their stores. However, the “Dick’s Sporting Goods” chain has since picked up the product (private labeled via agreement with TTI Blakemore), plus it is carried by a number of kayak chain stores, distributor warehouses and catalogs – the main one being Maurice Sporting Goods, Shorline division. The reason Low-Mac, Inc. gave it up 20 years ago (from year of this writing 2016) is because manufacturing became too large; we were also filling orders for a region of Wal-Mart Stores (for 5 years beginning in 1990). A few years after TTI-Blakemore took it over, my partners and I calculated over 600,000 Rod Floaters having been sold since 1990. I don’t know what that number is today but it hasn’t fizzled out yet and in fact is growing .
We were not allowed to add to our patent design a “retro-fitted” plus the detachable version of the product, which is the one we marketed. Now a couple of companies are manufacturing fishing rods with flotation material already on them! Additionally, Bass Pro Shops; the largest outlet that previously bought Rod Floaters, directly from TTI-Blakemore, is now having their own rod flotation device manufactured in China. I knew that day was coming! Before “provisional patents” came along, patenting was VERY EXPENSIVE. There are still 10s of millions of fishing rods out there, without retro-fitted flotation. Who knows, the detachable Rod Floater may have many years of sales life left in it. That certainly is our hope for TTI-Blakemore, who no longer has an obligation to Low-Mac, Inc. because the patent expired 10 years ago.
As a lone, former member of Low-Mac, Inc., I have my own limited-time, set royalty I receive from TTI-Blakemore. As part of my negotiation with them, I turned over a new product to them, that I obtained a provisional patent for. They may or may not market this other related product. So, as original owner of the invention and its related trademark, I made this deal with TTI-Blakemore, which ends in less than a 4 year countdown which began this mid-2016. Logically TTI-Blakemore should see many years of customers needing them for their existing non-flotation fishing rod combos. After less than 4 years, I will be out of the picture, so-to-speak, forever. I will however, still be cheering for TTI-Blakemore after that and wishing them continued success with it! They have always been great people to deal with and very fair when we were licensor to them for The Rod Floater!