American Tackle lifts the lid and admits: “It’s all about the angler.”
American Tackle says it came as no surprise to its development team when the Tsuka 2 Complete Carbon Handle took home the Best of Category award in the ICAST New Product Showcase.
“The final product was exactly what was planned,” said Brook Oliva, President and COO of the Foundation Outdoor Group, American Tackle’s parent company. “But when the team won the coveted Best in Show Award, we were overwhelmed. It was the first time a fishing rod component had ever won ICAST’s top accolade.”
It wasn’t surprising given all the effort that was put into its development, but they were astonished to know that the Tsuka 2 was considered 2023’s top new product in the entire sportfishing industry.”
In 2023 American Tackle joined the Foundation Outdoor Group, the global leader in fishing rod and tackle crafting components, supplies, equipment, and instruction. In doing so, it was united with Mud Hole Custom Tackle, MHX, Custom Rod Builder (CRB) and ProProducts as the pre-eminent fishing rod component manufacturer in Foundation’s stable of brands.
At the heart of Foundation Outdoor Group’s interest in acquiring American Tackle was its history of creating innovative, award-winning rod components that perfectly align with customer needs – and perform. To date, American Tackle has garnered 15 industry awards from across the globe.
When it came to developing the Tsuka 2, it all started with the customer. “Designing the Tsuka 2 was all about the angler,” says Jordan McTee, Project Manager for Foundation Outdoor Group. “Based on consumer feedback, we sought to design a handle that’s extremely lightweight, incredibly strong, and feels great to fish all day.”
With the bass fishing audience being the biggest segment in the world’s largest rod component market, the United States, McTee and his team focused on what bass anglers, whether weekend warriors or tournament pros, are requesting – highly sensitive feel, reduced weight to avoid fatigue and the strength to provide confidence that they can land prized fish.
In addition, the team looked at the handles from a fishing rod construction perspective. How could a rod handle simplify the process – making it easier for custom builders or for large manufacturers to assemble? Lastly, how can you engineer rod components that meet these tangible, measurable needs while still appealing to the design aesthetics currently in the marketplace? How do you make a fishing rod handle sexy?
“American Tackle has a history of innovation, particularly in leveraging cutting-edge materials,” says McTee. “Carbon fibre continues to find new applications in a variety of products across major manufacturing industries due to two key properties – strength and weight reduction.”
American Tackle has been a leader in bringing carbon fibre to the forefront of fishing rod component design with a variety of products, including the G2 Tsuka Carbon Handle System Kits (winner of ICAST’s 2020 Best Fishing Accessory) and the HCC (Hand Crafted Carbon) reel seat.”
“Forged carbon is used by aerospace, biking and the automotive industries for its strength-to-weight ratio, moulding capabilities, and, of course, its stunning looks,” says Alex Heim, Foundation Purchasing & Logistics. “We’re bringing the fishing industry something significantly different, showcasing non-traditional manufacturing processes that improve our products.”
Using blow moulded carbon fibre allowed the team to meet all the needs of the design team and of the end consumer. It provides significantly lighter and stronger components than more common materials, such as graphite or aluminum, with the added benefit of increased vibration sensitivity.
The blow moulding process allows for single-piece handle construction, making for a powerful handle that is easily joined to the rod blank. It also allows you to design sleek, ergonomic components that provide comfort and control to the angler while appealing to the latest trends in fishing rod design.
Many iterations of the Tsuka 2 were developed and tested before bringing the final design to ICAST in 2023,” adds McTee. “Achieving the right feel requires trial and error. The length, shape, and diameters need to meet precise tolerances to ensure durability, balance and feel. And when designing fishing rod components, the product needs to be assembled onto a completed fishing rod for trial – and you need to catch fish!
“Fortunately, the team at Foundation Outdoor Group is comprised primarily of passionate anglers and professional rod builders. So, with the Tsuka 2’s development, testing was a labour of love for the team. After a variety of versions were tested, the final Tsuka 2 ticked all the boxes and was ready to be shared with the industry and the world in July 2023.”
Post-pandemic ICAST has been gaining steam each year and is truly the sportfishing industry’s most recognised and visited event. Achieving both Best of Category and Best of Show was a dream come true and an honour for the American Tackle design team and for the entire Foundation Outdoor Group organisation.