First, full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Bill Buchanan, the president and CEO of the new Cousins Tackle Corp., for 30 years. In fact, I caught my first marlin with his help.
Meeting him many years ago was no coincidence, as the Buchanan family owned Sevenstrand, and one of Bill’s responsibilities was to market and promote the products, which included offshore trolling lures and leader wire. To prove how good the lures worked, he took this then-young fishing writer out to catch a marlin. I still have the pink Sevenstrand Goatfish Kona Clone that got the fish on that August day in 1985.
Fast forward to 2003. Sevenstrand was sold to Pure Fishing, and Buchanan successfully transitioned to the giant tackle company to manage the saltwater division. Yet, he had always dreamed of starting another business, but this time with his cousin, Wade Cunningham. Now, a decade later, that dream is becoming a reality.
Cunningham, vice president of Cousins Tackle, says working together is an experience they both wanted for a long time. “This is something we talked about since we were kids,” he said. With more than 30 years of rod designing and manufacturing expertise, Cunningham’s tackle-industry pedigree is impressive, having engineered sticks for companies such as Fenwick, Sage and Seeker. At Fenwick, which was producing 1,000 rods a day at the time and fairly dominated the rod market, Cunningham was instrumental in developing the first high-modulus graphite rods.
The cousins have established a 14,500-square-foot factory (with plans to expand soon) in Huntington Beach, California, and pulled together a staff of 25, including many of the people who they worked with previously, all with the goal of becoming one of the largest builders of premium fishing rods in the U.S.
“Although we can trace our roots to the Southern California saltwater fishing scene, today we are building rods for fishermen across the country,” says Buchanan. “Our line will include rods for trout to tuna, and everything in between, all crafted with pride in America.
“When an angler picks up any Cousins rod, he will immediately recognize the thought and expertise that went into its design and construction,” he adds. The rods will be sold through an exclusive network of independent tackle dealers across the country.
In addition to three saltwater rods lines and one freshwater series, Cousins has a separate production line making plastic skirts and skirted trolling lures, many based on the time-proven designs and colorization developed during the Sevenstrand lure days.
“Our plan is to revitalize what was once a storied tradition of fishing tackle innovation,” Buchanan says. “We want to be the new Fenwick.”
That’s a lofty goal, to be sure. Yet if any two entrepreneurs have the experience and vision to achieve that objective, it’s these cousins.