Faces of Innovation: Joseph Meehan
American Tackle Company is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to rod building components. TTW’s editor, John Watson, spoke to company president Joseph Meehan about how the firm adapts to changes to keep on developing quality components.
TTW - WHAT ARE THE MAIN DEVELOPMENTS IN THE TRADE THAT HAVE HELPED YOU TO COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS?
JOSEPH MEEHAN - There’re so many to list but one product we’re excited about only exists due to the advent of new resin systems in carbon pre-preg. These new Nano resins make a rod blank up to 50 per cent stronger, which has led to new, lighter and more durable high performance rods. This technology has allowed us to reduce blank diameters, lighten the blanks overall weight and dial in power and actions in select private brand rods and our very own Bushido blanks.
Our high-performance, slow -load blank utilises this Nano technology, that we call NanoPhene. It allows anglers to jig at great depths and still allow sensitivity that reduces fatigue due to its dramatic reduction in weight and more forgiving action. It’s a perfect product for an aging demographic, which needs anything that will reduce stress and strain on the body when bringing a fish on board with heavy equipment. Simply put, it has put the fun back in deep sea fishing.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS THAT TAKES PLACE FROM THE IDEA OF A PRODUCT FOR IT TO BE SOLD?
Process is a good word because it is a long one! You go from concept, to drawings, to prototyping, to building tooling, to manufacturing and then marketing. Depending on the product, you have to build moulds and tooling or even both. You have to work with a draftsman/ designer and come up with drawings and 3-D renderings from the concept and build prototypes before jumping into
permanent moulds and tooling, which are expensive. Prototypes are generally rough but it’ll give you a good idea of what the finish product will look like. At that point you may want to tweak it and change some things.
Once the changes are made, you build the moulds/tooling and manufacture the product. After testing the product in the field or at the lab thoroughly, you’re ready to go. You gather all the specs, descriptions and photos and get it up on your website, into your catalogue and build a marketing campaign behind it, utilising print and social media to get the word out. Some products take three months to make from concept to finish and then some take years because you can never get the right. It can be very frustrating.
WHAT INSPIRES IDEAS FOR NEW PRODUCTS? There are many things that inspire ideas. It can be new technology, solving a nagging problem, designing a product that makes life easier or more efficient or fulfilling a need. Th e real stroke of genius is when you fulfill a need the consumer never knew existed. Those are the ideas that come along once in a generation, unless you’re really talented. It does take special talent to come up with a game changer, like the Microwave guide.
THE MICROWAVE CONCEPT HAS TAKEN THE INDUSTRY BY STORM, WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND THAT?
Doug Hannon was one of the developers at Zebco who worked on the world-famous 202 reel. Th e 202 reel had a cone-shaped cover that funneled line off or on to the spool. It worked very well and very effi ciently. It was a simple design that revolutionised the reel industry at the time. Doug loved the idea of this funnel shape straightening line. Straightening line focuses energy if it’s done right. He thought it was a highly efficient way to cast. He simply took that concept and applied it to a line guide.
When you control a line’s gyrations coming off a reel you make it more efficient by straightening it. Reducing line slap on the blank or guide increases line speed, making your casts more efficient. You get a greater accuracy and distance while using less energy.
Th ere are so many benefits such as, less tangling, tighter retrieve on your spool, plus reduced weight with smaller guides which, incidentally, also allows the fisherman as well as your blank to perform more efficiently. It is truly one of the greatest innovations and rod design in 50 years.
WITH FIERCE COMPETITION IN THE ROD COMPONENT SECTOR, HOW DO YOU KEEP AHEAD OF THE GAME?
It is not easy. You have to take the time to think…and think outside the box.
You ask yourself, how do I make this product better, what products do we need to fulfill a need or want, what new materials can we use, what is going on in other industries that we can apply in our field, what new materials or technology can we use and how do we apply it?
This is where experience and knowledge pays off the most. I can’t tell you how many great ideas come to us from outside the company. Th e inventor is really excited until I tell him it’s impossible to manufacture or it won’t work because it’s too expensive to make.
You have to have a practical knowledge of not only the concept in the real world but also how manufacturing works. There’s this huge detach between concept in reality with lots of ‘inventors’.
LOOKING AHEAD TO ICAST 2019m WHAT INNOVATIONS WILL BE ON SHOW FOR THE VISITORS FROM AMERICAN TACKLE COMPANY?
We debuted four new models of Microwaves this year that cover just about every aspect of fishing, even fly... new reel seats, new guides, the Nanophene blanks and private brand rods. There’s lots of other products we’ve also been working on, too many to list really.
However, it will be an exciting show that we look forward to every year and this one is definitely no exception.