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Greek lure maker wants OEM customers in northern Europe


If there is one person who believes in the transformative power of trade shows, then it has to be Theo Ratzonis.

As the owner of Global Fishing Solutions (GFS), a specialist in handcrafted lures and jigs based in Greece, Ratzonis (left in main image) turned his business around over the course of a single ICAST show. And he will arrive at Angling International LIVE in September with a renewed focus on markets closer to home – and with a story to inspire any supplier seeking new paths to success.

Before the Covid pandemic, GFS had a successful business selling its baits in Greece and other Mediterranean markets. Ratzonis had combined his skills in carpentry with his education in agricultural science to create hand-made lures and environmentally safe baits. “We believe in protecting fish and protecting people,” he says today.

But then Covid hit… and hit hard. Because while other angling markets were enjoying a Covid boom, it was different in Greece. “We were the only nation to ban participation in fishing,“ says Ratzonis. It meant he was stuck at home, going crazy from inactivity. Worse, he had to divert the cash he had planned for tools and marketing and use it for household bills. Ratzonis, and GFS, was on the brink of disaster.

“But a Greek kneels for no man,” says Ratzonis as he remembers how, instead of giving up, he took dramatic and decisive action. “I thought of the one place where you could walk freely without masks, meet with strangers, shake their hands and do business. And that place was… Florida. So I packed a case, took a pile of business cards and headed to ICAST with my two cousins to sell my OEM services.”

What Ratzonis managed to achieve at ICAST is a lesson for anyone on how to make a trade show work as a complete unknown. “I needed to cover a lot of ground and I also needed to make an impression,” he remembers. “So I drew up a list of small lure brands and I spent two days walking up to their booths, handing over my business card, confidently announcing that I was going to be their next supplier… and then walking away.”

Ratzonis decided to offer no other explanation or details to any of those exhibitors. He would leave and go on to the next target. But why? “I figured it was the only way to cover the ground. Plus I would be remembered as that mysterious Greek guy that acted differently to everyone else.” And it worked. Within a month, Ratzonis had five big enquiries which he filtered down to the two most appropriate, one of which became a new long-term customer that GFS is still supplying with eco-friendly baits today.

GFS has six years of experience in eco-friendly silicone lures. It also makes bait enhancers and has become known for its unique Stardust powder paints. These powder coatings for jigheads, lures and other accessories remain crack-free and peel-free even when hit repeatedly with a hammer, says Ratzonis, and they are 98% eco-friendly. “Stardust can be applied in a wide range of fluorescent colours. It doesn’t need curing, takes only a few seconds to use and doesn’t crack or chip. It really is unbreakable.”

All GFS products will be on display at Angling International LIVE as Ratzonis goes in search for distributors and OEM partners in northern Europe. But what else sets GFS apart? Three things in particular, says Ratzonis: communication, transparency and flexible ordering.

“As the owner of the business, I feel deeply responsible towards my customers, especially other small businesses with similar challenges. So I make myself available 24/7 and I work long hours. If you need something done, you can contact me directly. Secondly, you can follow the progress of your project as closely as if you were in the workshop yourself. We hide nothing. And finally, we can deliver box by box, so there’s no waiting. European partners can expect fast and consistent deliveries.”

Ratzonis says success at Angling International LIVE will be defined by securing ‘one big new distributor in a northern market’. Given his achievement at ICAST as an unknown, who would bet against him? The question is, will you follow his lead and make that difference to your own business?

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